Master’s Degree in Landscape Architecture and Water :

Landscape Architecture and Water: Crisis from Droughts to Floods

Learning from Crisis between Environmental Ethic and Aesthetic Experience.

Man is the craftsman of the transformation of the world we inhabit; our actions are aimed at finding solutions to inhabit it, and from this, we often gain substantial profit. Over millennia, humanity has constructed landscapes to cultivate them, to tame them, to make them more useful for its survival. In doing so, it has acquired knowledge to intervene in watercourses, altering their courses to reclaim fertile soils and yield fruits even where the soils were challenging. This action, founded on the ‘exploitation’ of Earth’s resources for the benefit of men and women, has always included the theme of risk.

In the challenging conditions of the present, for multiple reasons, the theme of crisis is responsive to complex situations (environmental, hydraulic, geological, seismic, climatic, loss of cultural heritage and biodiversity…). However, it is essential to understand how it can transform into an opportunity through landscape design. We know that our country offers geomorphological conditions highly susceptible to significant vulnerability due to its specific physical nature, further aggravated by ineffective resource and soil management. In fact, we observe the rising sea levels with coastal flooding, experience difficulties in managing stormwater and urban drainage systems with immediate effects on river systems and slope stability. Meanwhile, progressively polluted and impermeable soils reduce groundwater recharge, resulting in aridity for older tree specimens.

The contents of the Master’s program base their effectiveness on the ability of landscape design to transform open space in response to the ongoing crisis, anticipating and addressing needs not only from a reparative perspective but, by interpreting the Earth’s resource processes, in a preventive direction. Approaching the topic through the centrality of landscape design with various knowledge domains enhances the spaces of life. This is because the experience of our present reveals that the outcome of a specialized sectoral vision not correlated transversely to the landscape, biological, and social dimensions of places has sometimes led to the realization of major projects that, having fulfilled the primary objective of responding to an emergency, have generated unintended and unassessed effects, both in the planning and execution phases (ecosystem alterations, incomplete projects, population displacement, loss of the memory of places, management and maintenance difficulties, not to mention their rapid obsolescence…).

Indeed, the theme of risk is an intrinsic characteristic of the landscape and Earth’s resources. This condition represents an opportunity to be innovative through design, promoting a cross-cutting process of adaptation and inclusion. An original effort is made to find solutions to the challenges of the present, while this proposal fills a gap and anticipates important and urgent needs, placing full trust in the centrality of landscape design and its ability to develop outcomes and strategies.

In practice, design experiments observe and understand “the culture of risk” to evolve it into “the culture of forecasting and management” while anticipating critical issues and interacting with the reality of places. Experimental research through landscape design profoundly changes the hierarchy of vision. The background becomes the figure and modifies some foundational parameters of our thinking. Man is no longer at the center, the only omniscient and omnipotent living being. Instead, landscape design, moving between reality and abstraction, tangible elements, and vital aspirations, can enhance the quality of spaces for inhabitants and the vital dimension of ecosystems, weaving relationships to generate new life.

Landscape design repairs places, increases biodiversity and the quality of spaces and forms through processes of environmental ethics, constructing a conscious aesthetic experience of space necessary for man’s full existence.

Possible study areas for the three design workshops are the UNESCO MAB Zones of the Po River and the renaturation of the Po River.

Educational Objectives

  • Enhance the relationship between Life Sciences and landscape design.
  • Promote education through interconnected knowledge.
  • Offer advanced postgraduate training tools to address the transformation of space in relation to the finite availability of resources.
  • Refine knowledge regarding the transformation of landscape design materials, namely Earth’s resources: soil, water, and vegetation.
  • Increase understanding of landscape design project management tools.
  • Improve the adaptive specificity of landscape design concerning Earth’s resources.
  • Enhance the adaptive specificity of landscape design in the context of climate change.
  • Make landscape design capable of generating meaningful forms and increasing environmental quality.
  • Enable landscape design to enhance biodiversity, even in urban areas.
  • Recognize the specific knowledge required to work in a team.

The main professional profiles pertain to experts who, through open space design, intervene to reinterpret places, enhance their cultural dimension, and improve ecosystems while increasing the ability to manage the resources that constitute the living material of the landscape.

Teaching Method

The Master’s course is structured through a combination of classroom teaching and project-based workshops. It provides:

  • The acquisition of interdisciplinary skills for landscape design.
  • Knowledge of transformative processes of resources such as water, soil, and vegetation in shaping space.
  • The ability to develop a project that responds to both the scientific knowledge and cultural interpretive dimensions.
  • The interpretation of natural processes rather than replicating their forms.
  • The promotion of the relationship between places, ecosystems, and people.
  • The introduction of evaluative tools to define project quality over time.
  • The introduction of project management strategies.
  • The ability to incorporate maintenance processes into the design.

The content is delivered through both classroom teaching and thematic workshops, structured in three thematic laboratories composed of multiple courses that actively participate in defining design experiments. The laboratories will emphasize the centrality of landscape design through the intersection of various knowledge domains and will be supported by the presence of prominent contributors to contemporary landscape paradigms, such as Studio MVVA – Michael van Valkenburgh Associates, the French landscape studio Mosbach Paysagistes, and Kongjian Yu, the Dean of Peking University College of Architecture and Landscape, President of Turenscape, and an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In addition to the instructional modules, there is also an internship program with professional studios and external organizations involved in landscape design at various scales. At the end of the Master’s program, students are expected to present a project-based thesis on topics related to the transformation of open space, emphasizing the aesthetic experience and environmental ethics.

Documents with master’s information and application