Fuller Center for Productive Landscapes

University of Oregon – Department of Landscape Architecture


Our ability to implement sustainability across cultures, geographies, and time depends on how we imagine, value, protect and regenerate the landscapes that provide necessary materials and ecosystems services. In the past, these productive landscapes were often shunted to the periphery of design. The Fuller Center for Productive Landscapes engages these landscapes – of food, forests, energy, or waste – and brings them into the discourse of landscape architecture and environmental design.

The Fuller Center seminar is a two-credit course, meeting once a week in the spring term. The course is open to all students in the University of Oregon, and is required preparation for the summer Overlook Field School. Through guest speakers, field visits, and art-based projects, students explore the Fuller Center annual theme:

2020: Experiment

Scientists have created many experimental landscapes as they move from the controlled environment of the laboratory to the complexity of the world.  We have experimental forests and ranges, farms and nurseries, even experimental waterways.  Landscape architects frequently draw from this research, but it often must be translated to match our particular design applications.  How does the practice of experimentation relate to the design process? What is a design experiment – and what is experimental design?  For the 2020 Overlook Field School we will collaborate with artist David Buckley Borden to interrogate these questions as they apply to landscape, which has no clearly defined laboratory boundary, and the discipline of landscape architecture, which typically relies on experience, simulation, and abductive reasoning to develop design proposition.

2019: Difficult Landscapes

Difficult landscapes are those intractable spaces that challenge our faculties; that we struggle to see, understand, manage, and design.  Controversy often follows our loss of control as competing interpretations seek to explain what has happened and how we should act.  These landscapes can be opportunities for landscape architects but are often outside of traditional practice, particularly when they fall outside of traditional landscape typologies.  For the 2019 Overlook Field School we will investigate the difficult landscapes found at the Fuller Center – the barren, the bog and the blighted forest – to explore their meanings and how alternative modes of practice might allow us to engage new territories of landscape architecture.

2018: Maintenance

Maintenance. The word connotes manual labor, banality, mechanism… landscaping. But what do we really mean when we apply the word to landscape? We work with a dynamic and ephemeral medium: plants grow, die back, and change with the seasons; earth compacts, erodes and is deposited; water falls and washes its way down. It is the job of the landscape architect to take these materials and design a space, anticipating its future growth, entropy, and use. The principal way we mediate these processes is through maintenance, when we are confronted with the dissonance between our expectations and the material reality at hand. Defining the essence of maintenance as care, we will investigate the technology, operational logic and effects of this maligned practice to better understand its generative capacity and potential as a design instrument in landscape architecture.

2017: Landscapes of Waste

This seminar examined the concept of waste through the lens of landscape architecture. Through readings, field trips, research, and art, student explored the relationship between material culture, material flows, and the environment we create – wittingly or no – for ourselves and other species. Through the seminar, students understood the impact of our consumer culture on the landscape – the extraction, transportation, and disposal of goods, and the wastelands that result. In doing so, students considered landscape architects as form-makers, place-makers and ecosystem engineers; and questioned our role and capacity as designers to explore, expose, and impact these waste lands.

2016: Animals as Landscape Agents of Change

beaverThis seminar will examine the role animals play in shaping the current and future landscape at multiple scales, from puddles to forests. We will seek to understand the world as an animal perceives it; our demands on animals as co-inhabitants and co-creators of landscapes; and the conflicts and unintended consequences of our relationship with animals as we design and steward landscapes. In doing so, we will consider landscape architects as form-makers, place-makers and ecosystem engineers; and question our role and capacity as design collaborators with other organisms.

2015: Watershed Moment

“Water has become a commodity. Like other commodities, it now divides us between the haves and have-nots. Clean water and sanitation will further define us as nations, in how we carry forward our abilities to care for our peoples and our respect for the community of nations.” -The Very Reverend Dr. James A. Kowalski

This seminar will examine the design of waterscapes at multiple scales, from parks and gardens to follies and fountains. We will explore water as a spatial and territorial agent of change, a matrix for design intervention; as a phenomenological and evocative material, a design medium; and as a cultural lodestone, poetry and myth.

2014: Landscapes of Power

The goal of the seminar is to engage energy in ways that are resourceful, efficient, and poetic. We will focus on how environmental designers and planners can meaningfully contribute to the conversation about the sustainability, aesthetics, and ethical use of land in the process of power generation, distribution, and use. We will study current and emerging practices of power generation in the Pacific Northwest, including hydroelectricity, wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. Through readings, site visits, graphic analysis, and design, we will explore the disconnect between people and infrastructure. So many of the systems we rely on are invisible: water flows when we turn the tap and lights glow when we flip a switch. This disconnect between system design and resource use generates indifference and ignorance; we cannot care about that which we do not see. This seminar reveals the infrastructure and potential of power.

2013: Out of the Woods

Out of the Woods will be critically investigating sustainable forestry at the spatial scale of small woodlands and family forests (10-999 acres) and the temporal scale of old growth forests. This investigation will touch on current practices of environmental design, such as in public perception and participation in the decision-making process concerning forest management policy and practices; land planning for forest ecosystems that straddles human needs, such as recreation, hunting, timber, and spiritual renewal, with the needs of other species and the intrinsic values of the forest; visualization across spatially and temporally distant landscapes and events; and expansion of environmental literacy and stewardship through community outreach and education.

The subject matter concerning forest history, management, ecologies, restoration, and ethics is vast. What we can hope to accomplish in this quarter is to provide a nuanced overview of where or how forest issues may intersect with environmental design, as seen through the work and insights of experts in an array of disciplines.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.

Skip to toolbar