I consider the contemporary instruction of landscape architecture to be a position of significant responsibility. Consequently, this responsibility provides the inspiration to teaching. My instruction balances exploratory research and experimentation with critical professional design practices. At the center of my instruction is a concern that students must be equipped for the diverse range of practice types and design strategies that emerge from the complex challenges found within the Anthropocene landscape. My instruction (and research) gravitates to the intersection of emerging applied environmental science, environmental humanities theory and project-based design inquiry. The physical milieu of my instruction typically considers new typologies of “sites” alongside the programmatic milieu of new park typologies within complex, site-scale projects that express a deep legacy of socio-environmental justice issues.
Teaching future landscape architects to be design leaders in response to the pressing socio-ecological imperatives of the Anthropocene is central to my work. I believe that the future landscape architect has the opportunity to advance the discipline through a critical design practice that is situated among the emerging, post-environmentalism discourse and pressing socio-ecological challenges across project scale and type. These wicked challenges require the creative and collaborative capacities of landscape architecture in order to reframe, ideate and communicate new potential futures. To be successfully engaged in exploring these new futures, I believe today’s landscape architecture students must demonstrate increasingly facile capacities for strong divergent thinking skills to properly analyze and situate previously unknown project challenges - for which there is no template or precedent. Such unknowns resist formulaic or dogmatic ideological responses; rather, these unknowns require our students to be confident within an iterative and rigorous design process that asks new questions of the post-natural landscape.
But design alone is not enough to achieve leadership to pressing socio-ecological issues. Our students must also be provided opportunities to cultivate an acumen for design advocacy, political savvy and project leadership so as to cultivate the necessary agency to advance the new definitions, concepts and forms of landscape architecture projects that they conceive. It is with this in mind that I strive to balance my instruction between the speculative and experimental potential of critical inquiry and the pragmatism of applied design-based research. The role of landscape architecture as a leader and catalyst for socio-ecological change is also a significant opportunity to explore and advance new landscape architectural discourses on the global stage while re-shaping the boundaries and potential of our discipline. This approach to teaching is a role that I welcome.