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Illuminating the position of landscape planning today: Decline and potential rebirth

Mary Margaret Bryant, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Landscape planning is an approach to planning land use based on analysis of physical, biological, cultural, and aesthetic resources. Its aim is creative resolution of land use conflicts through the development of physical plans. These plans result from synthesis of scientific analyses produced by specialists from multiple disciplines and from reconciliation of the interests of different user groups. Landscape planning developed primarily as a specialty area within landscape architecture in the 1960s and 1970s. Its most recognized practitioner was Ian McHarg, author of the influential book Design With Nature (1969). Thirty years ago, landscape planners were on the cutting edge of environmental research. Their work led to methods for implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the development of geographic information systems (GIS). Bridging the cultures of scientific research and professional planning practice was the aim of the first scholarly journal in the field, Landscape Planning, and it is a sentiment that characterized landscape planners quite well. In recent years, the profile of landscape planning has diminished considerably. Those who might have called themselves landscape planners in the past now identify themselves as ecological modelers, landscape ecologists, or environmental planners. Is it possible that the mission of classic landscape planning has been subsumed by these newer specialty areas? Or does landscape planning still have a role to play in the resolution of today's environmental and land use problems? These are the questions that this research addresses. To understand the evolution of landscape planning, its history is placed in context with the histories of city planning, ecology, and landscape architecture. To document the current status of the field, scholarly literature is analyzed through journal network analysis and content analysis of the last five years of landscape planning articles. This research sheds light on the complex relationships between disciplines engaged in environmental problem solving. Results suggest that there is still a need for landscape planning today, but that weaknesses must be overcome to make the field more effective. A new model of landscape planning is proposed to address the problems and yet still retain the strengths of the classic model.

Subject Area

Urban planning|Area planning & development|Landscaping

Recommended Citation

Bryant, Mary Margaret, "Illuminating the position of landscape planning today: Decline and potential rebirth" (2001). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3012117.