Forum on Fieldwork

Jacques Abelman has recently been invited to join an international collaborative of landscape architecture educators and activists: Forum on Fieldwork.

Forum on Fieldwork is an international collaborative devoted to exploring fieldwork methods and methodology in environmental design teaching. This website is intended to serve as a virtual setting where a fieldwork agenda for design education can be collectively shaped by sharing experiences, ideas, and resources across disciplines, institutions, and countries.

The Forum has emerged from our shared concern about the state of fieldwork in professional design programs today. In a world where students are confronted by ever-growing volumes of information delivered at ever-greater speeds, we believe that sustained, unmediated encounter with real places and people remains the cornerstone of design teaching and learning. The methods and methodology of this encounter must therefore be placed—or replaced—at the center of the environmental design curriculum.

These methods are not easy. As anyone who has spent time doing it knows, fieldwork is more than just feeling, somehow, the ‘genius of the place’ (Norberg-Schulz 1980). It is a systematic, rigorous, and intentional form of thinking through doing, one that requires considerable discipline, focus, and organization if it is to catalyze design thinking later. Yet we hold that only by mastering these methods—by learning to ‘land’ (Girot 1999) in a world that is, finally, irreducible to any model we might make of it—can the design students of today develop the creativity and confidence necessary to become the reflective design practitioners of tomorrow. The ultimate beneficiary of fieldwork teaching, in other words, will be the environmental design disciplines themselves.

Forum on Fieldwork is curated by the landscape architects Thomas Oles and Paula Horrigan. To see a complete list of contributors and collaborators, or to join the forum, see