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)