Rob Holmes, Bickham Chair Lecture, February 18th

Operative Terrain

Rob Holmes, 2013 Bickham Chair Lecture

Monday, February 18th, 12:30 – 1:30pm, COAD 301

A Target, a Books-a-Million, a movie theater, a Starbucks, and a sea of parking; a switching yard filled with double-stacked railcars; a right-of-way, a shoulder, four lanes, a median, four lanes, a shoulder, and another right-of-way; a coal-fired power plant, ash ponds, dikes, sluices, diversion channels, and drying cells (fly ash slurry safely confined, it seems). Such landscapes constitute the bulk of contemporary urbanized territory and, given the regimes of resource extraction and flows of material and goods that mark even nominally rural landscapes, linking cities to distant hinterlands, it might be argued that most territory is urbanized. These landscapes are not so much designed as they are formatted by economic and logistical imperatives. Particularly notable among them are territories that are being actively formatted by industrial, infrastructural, and logistical operations: dredge containment facilities, waste reservoirs, exurban warehouse districts. This operative terrain is essential to the economies of urban systems, hosting and channelling the various material and energetic flows that enable urbanization, yet it also often generates a host of undesirable consequences, and may also–more optimistically–harbor unrealized potential. What is the role of landscape architecture within this terrain?