Brian Sabri Larch 361w Contemporary Issues in Landscape Architecture Towards Postmodernism Stanley Grenz explains a new social trend which rejects the modern movement. He explains that people are no longer seeking truth through greater knowledge. Truth is relative, meaning it can only be seen through the community in which we participate. There is no longer a single correct solution; there are several solutions with many different circumstances. Designer, George Hargreaves, explains it as “. . . synthesis rather than analysis. It is style-free and free-style. Playful and full of doubt, it denies nothing.” Elizabeth Meyer, a landscape architect, is also catching on to this drastically different shift in philosophy. She explains that scholars are moving from narrow minded binary thinking to seeing in a complex web of interrelationships. Grenz explains that in order to understand this movement one must view it through the context of the modern world. Both designers see this sudden shift in ideology and truly believe that the shift from modernism to postmodernism is leading to greater discovery. Grenz states that the arts have undergone a profound transition. He explains that postmodernist art rejects the dominance of rationality; it undermines the power authority through multiple styles (21). The body of both Hargreaves’ and Meyer’s essays discusses the multiple possibilities created through the postmodern movement. They both believe that postmodernist works are successful because they do not call attention upon itself, but they “orient to the external world” (Hargreaves 60). In the beginning of her essay Meyer expressed her disgust for “binary” philosophy. She refers to modern philosophy where things were either black or white; architecture was the masculine positive object while the landscape was the effeminate negative. This modernist ideology is illustrated in le Corbusier’s idealistic city where the landscape is reduced to only a frame in which to view the powerful sky scrapers. Since then, philosophy has changed and has become more complex with more emphasis on interrelationships. Hargreaves mentions a pivotal work in landscape architecture that orients toward the external world, The Gasworks in Seattle. This design by Richard Hagg has many postmodernist qualities. It is site specific, refers to the site’s history, and it remediates the toxic soils. The design highlights industry while it also accommodates recreation for many people. The Gasworks does not even seem like a design, it is rather a reference, or an artifact to which people can react, and interact. The future of Postmodernism has many possibilities. Society is beginning to discover the more things we have learned and solved, the more we realize how much we don’t know. Instead of searching for a single right solution to design, postmodernism acknowledges that
there is no one solution to a problem. Modernism’s related binary thinking gives design a very limited vocabulary. A design may appear to be pure and very functional, but it usually lacks the aspects of culture, history, and playfulness that people need in order to relate to their environment. We need more human spaces that have the relationships that Meyer advocates. These relationships are what expand our profession during this time of great social change. The modernist language of power may still be present, but landscape architects can keep the power in check by empowering the masses through designs that explore new hybrid languages, embrace diversity, and give cultures identity.
Works Cited Grenz, Stanley. J. 1996. Star Trek and the Postmodern Generation and The Postmodern Ethos. A Primeron Postmodernism. Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans Publishing. Hargreaves, George. “Postmodernism Looks Beyond Itself,” Landscape Architecture Magazine. July/September 1983. v. 73. n. 4. 60-65. Meyer, Elizabeth K. 1997. The Expanded Field of Landscape Architecture. Ecological Design and Planning, Thompson, George F. and Steiner, Frederick R., eds, New York: John Wiley and Sons. [pp 45 – 79]
This is a short analysis of readings in a writing course, Contemporary Issues in Landscape Architecture.