Teaching to Care

Keywords understanding, respect, connecting, learning, inspiring

Background and Definition
Every landscape has a story, and in order for people to connect with a place they need to understand or be a part of that story. Stewardship is “the activity or job of protecting and being responsible for something” (Merriam Webster Online Dictionary 2015). The goal of this impact is to promote an understanding that will encourage people to care and want to take the responsibility of protecting and preserving a place.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries public interest in the environment began to spread (LAR 322 Environmental Ethics Lecture 2014). After WWII, in 1948 the Modern Environmental Movement began. The first piece of legislation dealing with regulating water quality, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) was passed in 1948. Since then, the movement has been spurred along by events that are continuously reviving public interest in the environment (PBS 2015). Today, landscape architects continue to push this movement forward. Through designed landscapes they can help educate the public and renew interest in caring for and protecting the environment.

There are two main approaches for teaching people to care: didactic and autodidactic. A didactic landscape is one that is “trying to teach something (such as proper or moral behavior) in an obvious manner” (Merriam Webster Online Dictionary 2015). In a didactic landscape the message is more literal. For example, signage is a very literal way of communicating information. If people want to understand why a certain environment attracts certain animals, they could learn this by reading a sign. People can learn of an environment’s significance without actually witnessing an event.  The second method of teaching is autodidactic, meaning “self-taught” (Oxford English Dictionary 2014). In an autodidactic landscape the message of a landscape is less immediately apparent. An autodidactic landscape allows a person to learn through experiencing and making connections. An autodidactic landscape can lead to curiosity, then understanding, then the love and care of that space or environment. Many designed landscapes can employ both of these strategies in order to promote awareness and stewardship.


How does a landscape inspire people to care?

How do you promote people to think critically and make connections to a “bigger picture” or larger context, than just the area they’re in?


The Yards Park
Client: Federal General Services Administration (GSA), the District of Columbia, and Forest City Washington
Year of Completion: First Phase was completed in 2010, and park was opened to the public
Project Location: Washington, DC, United States
Site Area: 5.7 acres
Landscape Architects: M. Paul Friedberg and Partners (Lobo 2013)

The Yards Park contains a variety of different outdoor spaces for people to enjoy along the Anacostia River. This precedent uses a combination of didactic and autodidactic methods to allow people to connect to the river. Different areas allow different levels of interaction with water. The riverwalk, located along the southern edge of the site, allows people to get close to the river. In other areas the river is not the main focus, but the emphasis still seems to be on the element of water. In one of the primary entry spaces a large fountain element can be found. People are allowed to play in this water feature which is not only fun but allows people to establish a bond with the site. This helps people connect with the space and draws attention toward the river. One of the more didactic elements of the park is signage located on the west side of the park. These signs explain the history of the site, which was once a highly industrialized area. Other signs explain DC’s water infrastructure and the move to clean up the river. Here people can learn about the site’s past and connect it to the present day efforts to clean the river.


SizedWIRimage5.1 Figure 5.1


The High Line
Client: Friends of the High Line
Year of Completion: Phase 1: 2009, Phase 2: 2011, Phase 3: 2014
Project Location: New York City, New York, USA
Site Area: 395 acres
Landscape Architects: James Corner with Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Piet Oudolf (Friends of the High Line 2015)

The High Line in New York City is an example of landscape stewardship and awareness because the public saw the project site as an opportunity rather than a nuisance. This project was funded almost completely through private donations and the non-profit organization, Friends of the High Line. Now, the very popular site has become a place both locals and tourists visit every day, and it has been well maintained because of its popularity by the Friends of the High Line organization and many volunteers. People have fallen in love with this project and are constantly putting in money and time into its care.

SizedWIRimage5.2 Figure 5.2


Gas Works Park
Client: City of Seattle, WA
Year of Completion: 1975
Project Location: Seattle, Washington, USA
Site Area: 20 acres
Landscape Architects: Richard Haag Associates (The Cultural Landscape Foundation 2012)

Designed by Richard Haag Associates, this park emphasizes environmental and cultural aspects of landscape awareness and stewardship. The plant was a major part of Seattle’s history and culture that the city wanted to preserve and reimagine as a public space. The major part of this project is the reclamation of an industrial site where soils are being neutralized after years of industry polluting them by natural processes of bioremediation. There are still some pollutant problems with the site today, and because the city of Seattle cares so much about this park that they have the Washington State Department of Ecology putting continuous research into cleaning the soils of the park (Washington State Department of Ecology n.d.)


Full page photo Figure 5.3


Friends of the High Line. n.d. “About the High Line | Friends of the High Line.” Accessed          February 2, 2015.

“autodidactic, adj.”. OED Online. December 2014. Oxford University Press. (accessed February 13, 2015).

“Awareness.” Wikipedia. Accessed February 2, 2015.

“didactic, adj.” Merriam-WebsterOnline . Accessed February 2, 2015.

“Gas Works Park | The Cultural Landscape Foundation,” November 19, 2012. Accessed February 2, 2015,

“INTERVIEW: Landscape Architect James Corner On NYC’s High Line Park.” Accessed February 1, 2015.

“landscape+definition- Google Search.” Landscape+ definition. Google, n.d. Web. Accessed February 1, 2015.

“Stewardship.” Merriam-Webster. Accessed February 2, 2015.

“Timeline: The Modern Environmental Movement.” PBS. Accessed February 2, 2015.

Washington State Department of Ecology. “Site Information.” Site Information. Accessed February 1, 2015

Figure References
Figure 5.1 Haley Armstrong. The Yard Park. Photo. March 14, 2014.

Figure 5.2 “The High Line park NYC- Manhattan- New York City.” July 9, 2011. Digital photograph taken by David Berkowitz. Accessed February 22, 2015. Reproduced from flickr, no changes made,

Figure 5.3 “Gas Works Park.” July 23, 2014. Digital photograph by Kathiresan, Ramanathan. Accessed February 2, 2015. Reproduced from flickr, no changes made,


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