rse landscape was started in 2006 by Rosetta S. Elkin. Since then, academic pursuits such as 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 (Canadian, American) is Principal of rse landscape, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, and Faculty Associate at Harvard Arnold Arboretum. Her work examines plant life at the intersection of art, design and ecology. In particular, Elkinattends to biological complexity as a neglected aspect of ecosystem integrity and recovery by exploring concealed the characteristics of non-human behavior. Her practice prioritizes public exhibitions, open access publishing, and collaborative research to promote a more thoughtful and accountable design agenda. As a designer and a scholar, her work experiments with the ways in which we compose our worlds, blurring the traditional boundaries between research and practice.
Elkin is the author of Tiny Taxonomy (Actar 2017), a publication which reflects on the scale of individual plants in practice through a reading of three design installations. With support from the Graham Foundation, Dutch Fonds BKVB, and Canada Council for the Arts, she is currently working on a monograph publication The Politics of Plant Life which describes the geo-political ambitions of tree planting programs. 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. Current projects include the study of root systems in coastal defense strategies, an investigation of state-scale ecological transformation in Rhode Island, and design research for sea-level adaptation on barrier islands in Florida. RSE Landscape is also currently working on a commission from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation concerning landscape adaptation on Captiva Island, Florida, she was recently the recipient of the 2018 Garden Club of America Rome Prize in landscape architecture and is currently developing a Harvard Climate Change Fund-supported project entitled The Landscape of Retreat that documents climate-induced withdrawal from vulnerable land.
Project Manager, Designer