Home / Events / Niall Kirkwood: The Poetics of Landscape Detail: Seeing, Judging, Thinking

The lecture explored design detail in landscape architecture as it relates to conceptual ideas, development and making in landscape architecture and the accompanying practices of seeing, judging and thinking by the individual designer. It examined the theories, conditions, forms and styles that inform contemporary built design and implementation practices. The thesis to be presented is that a landscape design and detail design is worked out—conceived, developed and made tangible—within the formal structures and technical practices of a 'poetics of construction.' The manipulation of the medium gives birth to and shapes ideas in the contemporary practice of landscape architecture. The lecture explored the concerns of ecology, place and genus loci, style, design inspiration and referencing in landscape detail as well as the pragmatic issues of materials, material combinations and detail design language and identity. Reference was made to current teaching at the GSD, research and a book project titled 'The Poetics of Landscape Construction.'

Niall Gordon Kirkwood DSc. FASLA 
Professor of Landscape Architecture and Technology 
Founder and Director, Center for Technology and Environment (CTE)
Graduate School of Design, Harvard University.

Niall G. Kirkwood is a tenured professor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, where he has taught full time since 1992. He held the position of Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture at the GSD (2003-2009), the oldest such program in North America founded in 1901 by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. and Arthur Shurcliff as well as Program Director (1998-2003, 2005-2008) and Advisor, Master of Design Studies Environment Track (1999-2003).

Kirkwood also holds the Dr. Gerard O'Hare Visiting Chair at the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, and currently holds other faculty appointments at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China; Korea University, Seoul, and until this year he was on the Advisory Council and External Examiner of the Landscape Architecture Program, School of Architecture, University of Hong Kong. He teaches, carries out research and publishes on a range of topics related to landscape architecture, the built environment and technology as it relates to landscape design. His publications include The Art of Landscape Detail, 1998, (John Wiley- English and Chinese Versions), Manufactured Sites: Rethinking the Post-Industrial Landscape, 2001 (Taylor Francis/Routledge), Weathering and Durability in Landscape Architecture, 2004 (John Wiley English and Chinese Versions), Principles of Brownfield Regeneration, 2010 (Island Press- English, Chinese and Korean Versions) and PHYTO: Principles and Resources for Site Remediation and Landscape Design (Taylor Francis/Routledge) publication date: January 2015.

Prior to joining the GSD faculty he was a registered and licensed architect and landscape architect with 16 years of experience in the private sector carrying out landscape architectural, architectural and urban development projects in Scotland, the European Mainland, the Middle East and the United States. He holds degrees from the University of Manchester (UK), University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA and from Harvard University. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Science from the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland in 2009 for his international contribution to brownfield regeneration practice and education. He has given keynote lectures internationally in the last five years in Korea, China, Japan, Thailand, Mexico, Ireland, Germany, Russia including the keynote speech for the 2010 IFLA Annual Conference (Suzhou, China) and 2008 IFLA Annual Europe Conference (St. Petersburg, Russia) as well as lectures and seminars in North America. He is a faculty member of the Harvard Medical School Center for Health and the Global Environment, the Harvard University Center for the Environment and a member of the faculty steering committee of Harvard Institute for Global Health.

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