Blackness and the History of Landscape Design

Quadrant: Design, Architecture, and Culture

The field of garden and designed landscape studies is broad, interdisciplinary, and encompasses much of the world, past and present. Yet landscapes designed by and for Sub- Saharan Africans have been, and still are, strikingly absent from comprehensive histories of landscape architecture and from the field as a whole. Indeed, for almost three hundred years black Africans and descendants in the Diaspora have comprised a comparative baseline that continues to underwrite the value ascribed to European, Asian, and Amerindian landscape aesthetics and technologies. In order to change this situation and reframe the history of landscape design, we need to understand how it arose and why it endures. We also need to recognize what Africans and descendants in the Diaspora have achieved on their own terms as well as in the context of global and local land-shaping practices. My project contributes to this process by investigating the history and politics of exclusion from the eighteenth century to the present. It also aims to show some of the ways that diverse African philosophies and approaches to landscape design can benefit today’s engagement with sustainability and community-based design.

University of Minnesota