272 pages, $50.00
Toward a Manufestograph
Manufestograph: this is how SCAPE playfully refers to its new book. Those familiar with landscape architecture and urban design today are no doubt already aware of the originality of this practice and would likely expect this book—part manual, part manifesto, and part monograph—to follow suit. The book’s ambition is nothing short of reconceiving urban landscape design as a form of activism. Informed by her experience practicing landscape architecture and urban design in the context of global crises affecting climate, water, food, and housing, Orff issues an urgent call-to-arms: “What is the agency of the urban designer?” she asks. “How do we not just make landscapes, buildings and public spaces, but make change?” (7).
What follows is an innovatively structured, image rich, and convincingly argued design publication that leaves the reader energized and, more importantly, empowered. The book is organized into four chapters. The titles of the first three—“Revive,” “Cohabit,” and “Engage”—describe both the principles of and framework for the work contained therein; the final chapter, “Scale,” integrates each of the prior ones. All of the chapters are similarly structured. For example, “Cohabit” (which argues for the need to design for both human and non-human species) begins with a short essay articulating the theme, followed by its comprehensive examination as it manifests in one of SCAPE’s projects, presented through plan drawings, perspectival images, maps, and photographs (in this case, Oyster-tecture, the firm’s widely known and much discussed project to reintroduce oysters to Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal, Red Hook, and Manhattan’s Governors Island). The chapter’s theme is then amplified through analyses of other projects, and brilliantly augmented and advanced through interviews with various experts, community members, and collaborators. Each chapter concludes with a brief essay, authored by a colleague, which theoretically contextualizes the theme more broadly within the discipline.
The question here becomes, how does the book achieve each of these format aspirations? Who is their audience, and most importantly, what agency might they have in realizing the book’s overarching ambition to catalyze change?