[The Nazca Lines of southern Peru; the band of patterned fields running just on the other side of the ridge was initially created by the Nazca and enabled by their sophisticated hydraulic engineering; the modern day Pan-American Highway cuts through the center of the fields and lines toward the top of the image]
Landscapes can be understood as cultural artifacts actively produced by historical processes that are material and spatial. In the Americas these are of a particular breed: defined by an expansive and varied geography, long separated from the other habitable continents, the site of slow genocide and ecological rewilding on a continental scale, and home to heterogeneous, post-colonial societies with massive wealth and income disparities. For this class we will consider urbanism as a particular kind of landscape relating directly to the city and its productive and consumptive processes. The equally tricky term Latin America is taken as a historical and nebulous entity, less a geographic reality or culturally homogenous region than an instrument for studying certain landscapes and urbanisms in ways that transcend political borders and geophysical topographies. It does not solely describe the American nations south of the United States; the central square of New Orleans, community gardens in New York City, and the urban fabric of Los Angeles will also be understood as Latin American landscapes.
This seminar will explore Latin American landscapes and urbanisms as a hemispheric condition. That is, we’ll draw from the field of hemispheric studies to understand projects, theories, and site histories within the broader context of the Americas. This seminar will introduce and critically examine theories and methods that enable us to study and understand Latin American landscapes and forms of urbanism on their own terms.
The content is organized thematically and typologically allowing for an expansive geographic and chronological survey while also enabling detailed examination of specific landscapes and urban projects that are particularly instructive. Themes such as wilderness, frontiers, and mobility will be developed as we investigate historical precedents, drawing from academic texts and source documents, as well as popular culture.
The course is open to graduate students in departments of Landscape Architecture, Architecture, Latin American Studies, History, Anthropology, and City and Regional Planning. It is offered as a seminar for 3 credits, or as a research seminar for 4 credits. Students in the seminar will be expected to situate and synthesize concepts from diverse fields related to landscape studies by producing a lexicon that critically examines key terms, and through an essay that develops a unique intellectual position in relation to concepts from class material through a comparative analysis of real landscapes. Students in the research seminar will meet for one additional hour per week with the professor, and will be tasked with producing new knowledge through mapping and diagramming for a comparative analysis of Latin American landscapes, in addition to a lexicon of key terms. Expectations, assignments and learning outcomes for each option are described below. Interested students who are unsure which option might best suit their interests and fulfill requirements are encouraged to speak with the instructor.
course objectives and learning outcomes
Course content is delivered through lectures, readings, and discussions and will provide a cross-section of projects, practices, histories and theories of landscape-making and urbanism in Latin America over the last one thousand years. It is structured thematically and typologically through 14 lectures divided among 6 main sections. Each section presents a theoretical and thematic framework for investigating relevant historical types of urbanism and landscape such as plazas, canals, municipal parks, ports, infrastructure, reducciones, slums, or geoglyphs. The course concludes with student presentations on specific Latin American urban landscapes.
Objectives for the seminar are three-fold:
1. Survey key historical models, practices and precedents of Latin American landscape-making and urbanism.
2. Reposition Latin America as particularly instructive with regard to landscape-making and urbanism in the contemporary United States.
3. Introduce the conceptual tools to necessary to revise Eurocentric theories, methods, and paradigms that have been historically used to construe and construct landscape throughout the Americas.
There are two additional objectives of the research seminar:
1. Identify and index a set of historically significant Latin American urban landscapes.
2. Examine mapping precedents and cartographic theories relevant to studying Latin American landscapes.
Learning outcomes for both the seminar and the research seminar are related directly to the objectives stated above. For the seminar, learning outcomes include:
1. Apply a comparative transnational research framework that is specific to the Latin American condition, allowing for comparative analysis and synthesis across national and regional borders in the Americas.
2. Demonstrate a critical stance toward Eurocentric theories of landscape and develop a more grounded, comparative method for analyzing and understanding landscapes in the Americas.
For the research seminar, learning outcomes include those noted above for the seminar, as well as the following:
1. Produce new cartographic knowledge through research and representation focused on a set of specific Latin American urban landscapes. These mappings will work as a spatial, analytical instrument of cultural relevance to ongoing landscape and urban studies in the United States.
2. Situate this new cartographic knowledge in relation to existing analytical landscape projects through technical comparison and theory.