‘I like the sound of falling water, it’s calming’: Engineering sensory experiences through landscape architecture

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Post-industrial wastelands have been given increased attention by landscape architects since the late 1990s. Through their redesign, landscape architects argue that the sensory qualities of wild nature benefit people’s health and well-being and improve the urban ecosystem. In this article, I argue that such landscape designs mark a shift from designing nature as such to designing the sensation of nature. By following discussions within cultural geography on landscape design, affect and emotion, I scrutinise how landscape design orchestrates the sensation of nature. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in two recent landscape designs – the ‘High Line’ in New York City and the Copenhagen plaza ‘Under the Crystal’ – I show how the landscapes orchestrate sounds, smells, tactilities and views by accommodating seasonal change, succession and local weather conditions and by staging elements such as plants, water, fauna and sky. The engineering of such natural processes and sensory qualities is argued to complicate the ways landscape design mediates sensory experiences and performative practices in the city. I therefore call for geographers to pay greater attention to the subtleties that lie in such orchestration in order to better account for the ways that landscapes come to produce their affects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-455
Number of pages15
Journalcultural geographies
Issue number3
Early online date6 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017

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