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Title:Grounding Techne
Author(s):Blondell, Evan A
Advisor(s):Hays, David L
Department / Program:Landscape Architecture
Discipline:Landscape Architecture
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Landscape Technology
Landscape Tools
Abstract:Technê is the ancient Greek word for "both a practical skill and for the systematic knowledge or experience which underlies it" (Aristotle and Tarán, 2000). Landscape architects have delegated the tool-making aspects of the technê of landscape design to others. By not taking full responsibility for the technê of practice, landscape architecture's unique professional identity is jeopardized, landscape architects do not have full control of their craft, and the knowledge required to innovate in response to the ever-changing demands on design is not inherent to the discipline. This lack of engagement may have been caused by historical rifts between landscape architects and tools at the inception of the discipline. Landscape gardeners, the predecessors of the discipline, worked in a society that viewed nature and technology as fundamentally opposed forces and were commissioned to design idealized versions of nature that intentionally masked the use of technology in their creation. Furthermore, the very division of labor that formed the discipline severed landscape architects from the tools required to realize built landscapes. Rectifying landscape architecture's separation from the creation of tools provides many opportunities, as tools extend the capabilities of their user. However, tools can also lead the user astray. Understanding and evaluating tools is crucial to be able to exploit their opportunities while avoiding pitfalls. A better understanding of human perception provides a framework for interpreting two sensory tools that had opposing effects on landscape architecture: the Claude Glass, which narrowed and subjectivized the vision of the designer to the point of blinding, and the Earth Observation Satellite, which overwhelmed the designer with raw objective information and encouraged distanced observation of sites. The ideal sensory tools for the landscape architect's toolkit would combine subjective and objective observation, allowing the user to gather objective information while immersed in the site. These tools are so inherently specific to practice that they must be created within the discipline. As Maker culture and wearable technologies have become mainstream phenomena, landscape architects have ready access to the tools and skills they need to tinker their own tools. I tested this idea by developing a series of tinkering projects or "physical sketches" of new tools for landscape architects: a Small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS), the Digital Nerve, the Haptic Surveyor, and the Baro-Receiver. I found that tinkering can produce new tools that beget new opportunities and design outcomes for landscape architecture. If approached as a new directive, tinkering new tools for a design technê wholly formed by landscape architects has potential to revolutionize the discipline.
Issue Date:2016-04-08
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 Evan Blondell
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-07-07
Date Deposited:2016-05

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