- Editors’ Introduction
RESEARCH IN LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE, 2.0
In our introduction to Landscape Journal 33:1 we discussed a number of environmental and social changes underway that will most certainly influence research in landscape architecture. In our editorial comments at the beginning of LJ 33:2, we laid out a series of research non- negotiables—those important factors that define research and, if missing, undermine the reliability, validity, and utility of our work in promoting new understandings regarding the questions we are examining. In this essay, we once again proclaim the surety of rapid change and ask how should landscape architectural research respond in future? We believe design research will increase in relevance and importance in the years to come.
Historical Case for Landscape Architectural Research
In order to gaze into the future of design research, we set the stage with a little history. From the mid- 1960s through the early- 1980s, landscape architecture’s quest to redefine and better understand itself led to two important documents now considered historic: Albert Fein’s 1972 report entitled A Study of the Profession of Landscape Architecture: Technical Report (commonly referred to as the “Fein Report”), and the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture 1980 Conference Proceedings: Research in Landscape Architecture. Both documents highlighted the need to bolster the profession’s stature and effectiveness by building interdisciplinary partnerships. Fein commented on a significant knowledge gap within the natural and social sciences about landscape architecture and its capacity to offer solutions to the pressing challenges of the age (1972, 79). In his opening address to CELA 1980, held at the University of Wisconsin, Professor Ervin H. Zube stated, “It rapidly became clear . . . that the intuitive approach to problem solving was not adequate unto itself to convince others of the efficacy and veracity of the landscape architectural contribution” (1981, 7). Although Ian McHarg and others gained respect by developing analysis methods to better incorporate scientific information, the state of landscape architectural research at that time offered little assurance to other disciplines that the profession had developed a theoretical and intellectual core. Zube noted that landscape architecture fell short of the criteria associated with all mature and credible professions that “a profession [must be] learned and based on knowledge.” His goal was to substantially increase the quality and quantity of our scholarship because he firmly believed that “the profession of landscape architecture will never realize its natural potential without a strong and firm commitment to research” (1981, 8).
The Central Purpose Remains the Same
Although those initial discussions took place 35 years ago, we continue to ask: Why is research important to landscape architecture? To answer that question, as editors of Landscape Journal, we believe it essential to reemphasize Zube’s foundational argument.1 We do not engage in research only to promote and tenure faculty—although we recognize that the mentoring of young scholars of landscape architecture is a critical function of Landscape Journal as the flagship journal in landscape architecture. We do not seek sponsored research only as a means of replenishing academic coffers—though programs around the world could use the economic boost. We conduct research to help the profession achieve intellectual maturity and contribute to a growing knowledge base, which increases the profession’s capacity to join other professions in solving complex problems through design, planning, and management of the land.
What About Design?
The future of research in landscape architecture cannot ignore design because the practice of design is at the heart of what the profession offers. Professor Zube [End Page iv] suggested that design is “ideographic”; focused on images rather than words or numbers and is frequently “unique to the situation and the individual” (1980, 2). In most cases designers are not clear about the hypotheses they are examining and offer little upon which to build future research agendas. While Zube’s comparison of design and scientific methods holds true today, over the years landscape architects have broadened their approach to research beyond his nearly unilateral focus on the scientific method. Comparative examinations of multiple case studies, art historical methods, grounded theory, phenomenology, typology, and other methods are frequently applied today by those scholars who submit manuscripts to Landscape Journal...