RSE Landscape was started in 2006 by Rosetta S. Elkin. Since then, academic pursuits, research projects and scholarly publications have contributed to a shift in our relationship to plant life. The question of how this extends to our practices is registered as we progress from a time of predictability and control to one of collaboration and respect. Extant practices are also rendered extinct in a time of planetary extinction and climatic change. And so we need to keep practicing.
Landscape is a field of borrowed reference. Design advances by leaning on adjacent fields—architecture, art history, gardening, social theory—in order to articulate our own terms. The appropriation unfolds in much the same way as landscape can borrow a view, steal time and lend itself to more formal standards. On a disciplinary level, the term ‘landscape’ resonates in relation to its modifier: landscape architecture, landscape ecology, landscape planning, landscape gardening, and more recently landscape urbanism. The field relies on its modifier for definition. Each modifier alludes to the scale of the discipline with a distinct assumption that complexity emerges in the consideration of larger and more expansive lands. Such delineation has helped refine specialties, as designers imagine ‘landscape’ as stable enough to form the foundations of scalar analysis. Abridged as it sounds, such modifiers have contoured landscape as a creative discipline without any sensible inclusion of what might unfold if stability itself started to fall apart.
Rosetta S. Elkin is a landscape architect, principal of RSE Landscape, Associate Professor at McGill University and Associate at Harvard Arnold Arboretum. Her research and teaching consider living environments with a particular focus on plants in ecology, horticulture and human affairs more broadly. She is committed to design as a means to address the risk, injustice, and instability brought about by the shifts in our shared climate. Elkin’s practice prioritizes public exhibitions, open access publishing, and collaborative research to promote a more thoughtful and accountable design agenda. She is the recipient of the 2018 Garden Club of America Rome Prize in landscape architecture and author of Tiny Taxonomy (Actar 2017), a publication that reflects on the scale of individual plants in practice through a reading of three design installations.
Elkin’s work suggests that the role of plants is generally overlooked in the study of climate change. As a result, projects are positioned to heighten the awareness of plant life. For instance, an upcoming monograph publication about the geo-political ambitions of continental tree planting programs entitled, Dryland: Afforestation and the Politics of Tree Planting describes the assumptions of greening strategies and disaster response. A commission from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation regarding climate adaptation on Captiva Island, Florida works with plants to establish diversity and increase public awareness of species composition. Elkin is also completing a manuscript The Landscape of Retreat with the support of a Harvard Climate Change grant for her current fieldwork into the land that is left behind in relocation schemes. Elkin’s work has been exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Les Jardins de Metis, Chelsea Festival, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and featured in publications including Journal of Landscape Architecture, New Geographies, Harvard Design Magazine and Lotus International. Before joining McGill, Elkin was an Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at Harvard Graduate School of Design and a Senior Designer and Project Manager at Inside/Outside in Amsterdam, where she also taught landscape at the Academie Bouwkunst and the Gerrit Rietveld Academy.
Project Manager, Designer