An ontology of landscape design

Authored by: Susan Herrington

The Routledge Companion to Landscape Studies

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  February  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415684606
eBook ISBN: 9780203096925
Adobe ISBN: 9781136220609


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What makes something a landscape design? Answering this ontological question reveals an auspicious moment in the history of landscape architecture and Western aesthetics. During the eighteenth century key features of landscape design emerged – that it was a category of artistic practice in its own right (not to be confused with architecture or manual gardening), it demanded creative vision beyond practical skills, and that it was conceived through drawing or other representational means. In part this development can be attributed to philosophers in Germany, France, and England who included landscapes and gardens in their speculations on the nature of art. In fact, in 1790 Immanuel Kant added the practice of landscape gardening to the modern system of arts, a genealogy of the fine arts that philosophers and art critics struggled to define between 1680 and 1830 (Shiner 2001, 148). Kant’s division of the fine arts sought to distinguish art from craft by classifying it as a product of imaginative genius, elevated from the acts of manual labour, and with a purpose to spark our aesthetic appreciation.

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