Dumbarton Oaks Symposium in May

May 8th and 9th Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, DC is hosting their Spring symposium entitled:

The Interlacing of Words and Things in Gardens and Landscapes: Beyond Nature and CulturePhoto; courtesy of Dumbarton Oaks

There is a lot of talk in the opening description about how this idea of nature an culture have been discussed by a lot of different folks in their own context, but never together in the discussion of designed spaces.

. . . . by proposing new modes for the description and understanding of gardens, whether in the context of history or in the present – as they have been, or are, experienced by those who make and use them across many different areas of the world.

Maybe it’s just me wanting to go to something that has as much to do with philosophy and history as it has to do with the design of Gardens. The course description certainly reads quite academic, well it’s a bit more meaty than the latest petunia, or what’s hot for pots this year, or 6 new ways to use conifers.

. . . The papers in this symposium cover in equal measure western and non-western traditions, and range from individual case studies to analyses of long-term historical developments.

The aim is to show how garden and landscape studies illuminate the many different modalities of transforming the world in which we live and act.

Some of the topics and speakers:

  • Stephen Bann, History of Art, University of Bristol
    ‘Little fields Long horizons’: the Poetic Prelude to Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Gardens
  • Yves Abrioux, Université de Paris 8
    Natural History of Language, or, What Happens to Words in the Garden
  • Xin Wu, Dumbarton Oaks
    Landscape and Garden, History and Identity in a Neo-Confucian Academy (12th -18th century)
  • Stanislaus Fung, Faculty of the Built Environment, University of New South Wales
    The Animation of Buildings and Rocks: Rhetorical Order and Design Thinking in Four Chinese Texts
    on Gardens

Not the usual lineup for a Symposium. Too academic, not enough real World? Does it relate or is it relatable to the work the typical designer does?

I’m not sure.

I’m at the point where I’ve heard enough talks about bacteria, or native vs non-native, or pea gravel for drainage. Nor do I need to attend talks about changing careers and becoming a Gentrified Nurseryman . . . or some such thing.

Will I go? Not sure, especially the idea of several academics reading papers-but these are topics I find extremely interesting and worthwhile to study . . . we’ll see.

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