Today I officially begin my Associate Professorship in landscape architecture at the Aarhus School of Architecture.
Together with my good colleagues at Platform Urbanism & Landscape I will be building, dreaming, drawing, talking, walking and writing (occasionally simultaneously!) landscapes of the past, present and future. But most importantly I am humbled by the fact that I get to stand on the shoulders and follow in the footsteps of brilliant teachers in landscape architecture before me. People that have shaped my understanding of landscape architecture as an aesthetically and ecologically grounded discipline in which the sensuous goes hand in hand with a fundamental care towards our common surroundings.
Most importantly my own teacher Preben Skaarup who is not only an incredibly gifted teacher and landscape architect, but also, during my own studies, gave me the most important advice of my career and to whom I am deeply grateful.
In her Fantasiens Have (1993) writer extra-ordinaire Malene Hauxner describes how the Nordic modern garden, in the talented hands and minds of G.N. Brandt, C.Th. Sørensen, T. Erstad, A. Andersen and more, offered:
[…] openness, resurrected sensuality fulfilling the wish for fellowship with animals and plants, and an anti-authoritarian life, which would leave room for individuality and imagination and thoughts unbound. The point was that nature, once brought into the garden, could be used not only to demonstrate something but to encourage users to think for themselves.
There are many good things in this small quote, but especially Malenes last point is important. It is, I think, a prerequisite of beauty: That it is open towards the possibility to invest one-self in it and that it makes room for engagement, imagination and participation.
It is, maybe more than ever, the responsibility of landscape architects, among others, to ensure this openness and thus to approach nature, in all its forms and variations, not only in terms of what nature can be used for – or what it is worth for us – but as some other thing in which we invest ourselves as a way of giving something back to our surroundings. In his Forests – the Shadow of Civilisation (1993) Robert Pogue Harrison reminds us ever so eloquently that nature, after all, is a profound part of what it means to be human in the first place.
Later today I will walk along Dead Creek and the urban habitat we are in the middle of developing. Everyone who wants to join me in my walk – despite the cold and snow – are more than welcome to meet up at Ormslevvej 55, 8000 Aarhus C at 2 pm!