SCI-Arc’s EDGE Postgraduate Programs Chair David Ruy introduces the MS Synthetic Landscapes postgraduate program at SCI-Arc. The Master of Science in Synthetic Landscapes is a one-year, three-semester program focused on advancing knowledge and developing expertise in the emerging topics of landscape architecture. Climate change is now an existential drama that is unfolding at a planetary scale. It may very well be the single greatest challenge of our time. For the future designers of landscapes, the importance of this event cannot be understated. Landscape design, the often-overlooked counterpart to building design, is increasingly becoming a primary arena for the development of ecological awareness and innovation. The program examines how artificial and natural systems can come together to form new synthetic relationships during a difficult era of climate change and pursues new forms of engagement and innovative models of landscape practice. In contrast to traditional landscape design programs that focus on the stewardship of nature and traditional western cultural values associated with picturesque or sublime images of nature, this program emphasizes a global perspective where the coevolution of natural and artificial systems is shaping an ever more synthetic world.
In addition to a robust theoretical framework, the curriculum will incorporate the development of skills and technical knowledge integral to a landscape architecture practice today. Traditional fields of knowledge such as botany, horticulture, soil engineering, and land use policy will be studied in conjunction with new areas of expertise such as geographic information systems, data analysis, and advanced representational technologies. Synthetic Landscapes seeks to challenge the status quo in contemporary landscape design and move beyond the historical traditions that govern representations of nature within the built environment. The program takes a critical stance towards the increasing environmental melancholy of contemporary culture and seeks to imagine a synthetic future that is abundant and imbued with new forms of beauty.
The Synthetic Landscapes program is coordinated by Helen Kongsgaard, a landscape architect with expertise on arid landscapes. Joining the program as visiting faculty is one of the most important voices in ecological thought today, Timothy Morton. Currently the Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English at Rice University, Morton is the author of more than twenty-two books whose work has been translated into ten languages.