the book: landscape architecture in canada
Landscape has been a powerful influence on Canadian life and thought. The book provides a detailed panorama of the landscape traditions and impacts of Canada’s first peoples, its early colonists and later immigrant communities, the remarkable landscape innovations of nineteenth-century industrial cities, as well as the evolution of agricultural landscapes and of the protected natural landscapes of the national parks. I have also tried to showcase stimulating new ideas from recent decades that have expanded the field of landscape architecture, opening the door to projects that embody a specific Canadian approach, that reflect the diversity of contemporary society, and that respond to the social and environmental challenges facing today’s Canada.
It took some fourteen years to write the book in both of our national languages and, while I necessarily relied on a vast panoply of documentary resources, I adopted from the outset the dictum of John Brinckerhoff Jackson, the dean of American work in this field: in landscape studies, the primary source is the landscape itself. I visited almost all of the places and projects cited in the book, throughout the country’s many provinces and territories. I found that viewing a man-made landscape in its full natural and human context often makes clear why its authors, famous or obscure, designed it in a particular way. These voyages were a major endeavour - what started as a series of research visits quickly became a personal journey of discovery, a grand adventure, and an almost obsessive pilgrimage. Every family or personal trip, for whatever purpose, was also a field trip helping me fill out my knowledge and understanding of Canadian landscapes. I must express my appreciation to my wife, Sachi Williams, and to my family and friends for their great patience and forbearance throughout the many years during which I was preoccupied with this project.
I believe that it was a worthwhile object. Landscapes are important; as the largest, most visible, and most pervasive things that people make, landscapes express what we are, our values, beliefs, and thoughts about the Universe, the essential character of our civilisations. The landscapes that we live in become invested with meaning and significance for us; they become “paysages identitaires” that are a part of us and contribute to our identity. I hope the reader will see landscape architecture as both a social art, focussing on creating places for people to experience their various activities, both workaday and recreational, in enriching surroundings; and an environmental art, aimed at the careful stewardship of our natural and cultural milieu.
Note: J.B. Jackson, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, New Haven, CT; Yale University Press 1984, x-xi.