For Any Common Hands

I’m at it again in Decem­ber 2021’s Land­scape Archi­tec­ture Mag­a­zine, this time offer­ing my take on Piet Oudolf and LOLA’s new Land­scape Works pub­li­ca­tion. The most fun you can have as a review­er is in sus­pend­ing togeth­er high praise and deep dis­dain, and this book is the per­fect occasion.

Out­side of an hour on the High Line fif­teen years ago, I can’t speak to what Oudolf has done first­hand, but his host of pri­or pub­li­ca­tions has me con­vinced that he gets some­thing about what is pos­si­ble with land­scape aes­thet­ics that very few land­scape archi­tects do. That some­thing, lush and full and strange, is dri­ven by labor, hand labor and head labor, plan­ning labor and car­ing labor, coali­tions of labor that can all find some­thing worth work­ing on in the land­scapes that bear his sig­na­ture. (Like any oth­er designed land­scape, the sig­na­ture is only main­tained through con­stant work, being rewrit­ten over itself again and again). Land­scape Works might not be the best place to dive into how an Oudolf is made, or what it looks like, but it does give some inter­est­ing clues as to how those coali­tions around them come togeth­er. I get a weird sat­is­fac­tion in see­ing that while aes­thet­ics is not the only fac­tor in mak­ing these coali­tions hap­pen, it is cer­tain­ly the major one. All the bet­ter that Oudolf’s aes­thet­ic is its own kind of unprece­dent­ed: what else might be accom­plished by bring­ing togeth­er a new kind of com­mu­ni­ty around a new kind of landscape?

(December 2021)