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July 3rd, 2021

I am nominally a landscape architect. What does this mean?

Landscape comes from 'landschap' a 16th Century Dutch term originally applied to paintings of rural scenery.  Landscape is a term that suggests superficial decoration of spaces around buildings - American colleagues call this misinterpretation of our trade 'the parsley around the pig'.

I have other words that I like better, to try to describe what we do at erz. My favourite is conviviality.

Con – with / share / together

Vivere – to live / to breathe

Many years ago, with my partner Rolf, I saw the philosopher Ivan Illych speak about his book “Tools for Conviviality”. He had a massive impact on our work together because of his explanation of the word conviviality. I use this word so much at work and it is more and more the focus of my intentions.

Conviviality means shared life, but also, in Latin, a convivium was a feast – conviviality suggests sustenance, the food of life. Conviviality is essential to humanity and can be intentionally designed into places or carelessly designed out. Outdoor places should be a tool for conviviality, from the nursery garden mudkitchens we are lovingly crafting in Edinburgh, to the outdoor bedroom terraces at the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice in Glasgow, hidden inner-city oases such as the Greyfriar's Growing Space or the social-distance gardens of the HALO Project.

At its best landscape architecture is about creating this necessary sustenance -  communal delight, interconnectedness - a big celebration of life.  As we emerge from the isolation of Covid restrictions what comes into sharp focus is what landscape architects have always known: life flows most vigorously in the spaces between buildings.

Landscape refers to (amongst many other things) the earth beneath our feet, the spaces and buildings around us, the air we breathe, our cultural context, the political setting, and the stars above our heads.The advantage of the word landscape here, in a blog, is as an excuse to write about anything and everything, with a focus on things that are happening outdoors.

(Tools for Conviviality by Illich Ivan ISBN 9781842300114)

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