Celebrate Aesthetics

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    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    “Celebrate Aesthetics “, this should be the mantra that ASLA puts out every day. What is up with our profession? We seem to be so afraid of this with a need to justify everything we do as having a greater social or environmental impact than what makes a huge difference in the daily lives of all of us – aesthetics!


    I just looked at an article about green roofed dog houses. It makes me wonder at which point we are fooling ourselves.


    Roof top gardens are nice outdoor spaces for peope to enjoy. Adding some vegetation to the urban environment on top of ten floors of 800 recessed light bulbs on each  while the other half of the roof is covered with AC units as an environmental statement is a bit of a joke, isn’t it? Why can’t we be joyous in creating these spaces for what they really are? – places for humans to enjoy?


    Why can’t we enjoy ourselves as Landscape Architects for contributing to the aesthetics of the world? It is almost like we have to justify everything we do as having any other environmental or social benefit over riding aesthetics as if it is something to be ashamed of.


    Celebrate aesthetics! Add to that some environmental and other societal benefits, but stop under estimating and under valuing the benefits that aesthetics have everywhere you turn.


    Aesthetics bring joy. Why does it now seem like we need to be embarassed for bringing joy into people’s lives?


    If I should ever design a roof top garden, I can assure you and myself that I’m doing it for the aesthetic benefit of the people who will use it or see it. If it has environmental benefits that are significant, that is great, but is that the real reason that it is being built for? Honestly? Why can’t we be honest about it?


    I’ll stand up and say that the primary reason that I am a landscape architect is to create and enhance the aesthetic quality of whatever I’m working on. Will anyone else join me on admitting that? I don’t feel vain or ashamed by that. Do some of you? It seems that we are being programed to feel that way.


    This might be the root cause of our profession seeming so adrift and without identity. Why does our profession seem to want to disclaim aesthetics and scramble for every other reason that we do what we do? If that is the case, there is no wonder that many of us don’t know our own identity never mind what the general public thinks.


    Clear your heads. It is simple. Celebrate aesthetics. Celebrate your ability to enhance people’s lives through aesthetics. Have no shame. Bring joy to people’s lives. They’ll love you for it …. probably respect your integrity more than if you tell them that you are saving the planet by putting salad on a dog house roof.. Seriously! We think people are going to respect our profession more with BS like this?


    Don’t under estimate the value everyday people have for aesthetics. I am certain that there is more appreciation and respect for the creation of an enjoyable space on a roof top than there is for some idiot trying to tell you that he is saving the environment by putting a small garden on a roof. Why hide from it?

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I’m not the Andrew who runs Land8. I’m just a fequent visitor.

    Sorry for using an example near and dear to you.

    I have no arguement of whether green rooftops are beneficial to the environment or not. I just used it as an introduction to the subject of what I feel is a strange phenomena in Landscape Architecture – the need to come up with a higher justification of what we do and a need to distance ourselves from being perceived as decorators.


    I don’t mean to discredit the many other benefits of what we do, but just to ask why many of us seem to try to run away from celebrating the aesthetics as though it makes us insignificant.


    My point is that aesthetics are meaningful and valuable contributions on their own and that we should be proud to be associated with them. The dog house looks cool. Used plywood is not a bigger deal than the fact that it looks cool.Dumpster diving is not a higher calling than creating beauty in my opnion. Why do we go so often go far out of our way to make it so?





    Ive always thought of aesthetic value as a means of fulfilling the innate human desire to ‘anthropmorphize’ our environment and the objects and spaces we occupy everyday. We do this in order to make sense of our world, establish a sense of comfort, and familiarity as well as for more practical reasons like wayfinding, landmarking.

    This all ties in to the health, safety, and welfare thing too. I shutter to think what our world would be devoid of a diversity of aesthetic character. I heard an architect explain aesthetics in an exceptionally practical way as well– aesthetics of a given building component, such as a culumn, should speak the language of its function. You can interpret this virtually an infinite number of ways, but they all point to our innate desire to humanize the world around us and the things we create. Its too bad that more ‘laypeople’ dont realize the value, though it affects us a great deal.

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