[photo by Paul Virilio highlighting the beautiful militarization of landscape; image source]
In the 19th century military engineer Egbert Viele produced a magnificent survey of the island of Manhattan, an effort which landed him the post as the chief engineer of Central Park, and very nearly won him the design commission for the new public landscape. Architect and landscape designer auto-didact Thomas Jefferson was even more ambitious 80 years earlier, conceiving of a great abstract grid divided into townships 6 miles square and strewn orthogonally across the American continent. This vision was codified in the Federal Land Ordinance of 1785 and replicated hundreds of times across the continent (and evident today in our nation’s political boundaries west of the Appalachian Mountains). With its capacity to generate forms based on local cultural and environmental variation within a given and abstract set of parameters, we today might be tempted to envision this as an early analogue parametric design. But a historical view would trace it back to Gunter’s Chain.
[Egbert Viele's survey of Manhattan Island; with a name like Egbert, he was never going to win the design commission...]
[a 6 mile by 6 mile abstract town plan in the Federal Land Ordinance of 1785; the numbers correspond to specific town uses- to make up an instance, 21 is always a school, 11 is always a church and so on]
[Gunter's Chain, the great conquistador of the North American continent]
This general trend toward militarization of space is something that we find ourselves advocating for with the push for landscape projects as tactical interventions enabled by field manuals. Some of the first and still most highly developed field manuals have been developed by military institutions. These can be seen as nothing more than another evolution in the militarization of public space, one consistent with the dromological theories of Paul Virilio.
[Virilio would love Ft. Tilden and its Nike Missil bunkers shoved into the dunes of a NYC park]
In our next post on the topic, we’ll look into the idea of productive landscapes and landscapes of extraction, especially in terms of performance and what we’ll argue is the generative capacity of the landscape. We also hope to consider the landscape architect alongside the civil engineer and the ecologist. We welcome any observations, criticisms or questions which could blow apart our position here, or help focus it over the next week.
[landscape architects/border patrol guards in the Indian Paramilitary regime]