Landscape Architecture News

We are just passing the mid-semester mark this week and the fall season is starting to show signs of change. I have the feeling that I blinked a few too many times this semester and a lot has flown by me. Everyone is working very hard to overcome the online distance between us, but the novelty of our situation has long ago lost its luster. Conceptually, this new online condition has collapsed space and time, but the reality of the expressionless faces staring back at me on my Zoom screen tell me that the level of engagement is far less than the in-person experience. The Nebraska landscape is one of subtlety, so I should have already attuned myself to reading much from a little, but then I can see the richness of this environment by immersing myself in it on my weekend walks. This may read like a melancholy reflection on the current state of affairs facing the education community, but I don’t mean it to be the case. Instead I am trying to make myself hyper conscious to the ‘site’ that I am examining, so that my designed response will transform the banality of the computer screen into the rich space of exploration and discovery. I remember the first time I experienced the built environment related to me in the slides of a history lecture. It was a revelatory moment, not just because I was actually there in person, but rather it was the realization of all the insight that had been related to me in those history lectures. Our classes have always been portals to the real world beyond, not an end in themselves. I like to relate the teaching activity as one of designing a spring board for the student to feel confident to run up to and use it to jump across the abyss of ignorance to a new place of understanding on the other side. It is important to make sure that the leap was not too easy, so the student failed to appreciate their accomplishment and not too far so they fail to risk the jump. The notion of framing and taking action, the creation of possibility and the making of something, seems at the heart of my reflection today. It is not enough to be a spectator. You have to be a participant. In the times in which we live this was never been truer than it is today. Our ambition should be to educate a community of participants, especially as we find ourselves in isolation. These are interesting times and how we can make the most of this moment is of great interest as I am reflecting today.

Mark Hoistad