Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session


MIT students were required to obtain permission of the instructors.

Course Description

The word landscape always implies a subject position. Unlike the categories of “nature,” “wilderness,” or “ecology,” landscape is something experienced (or observed, or represented, or cultivated) by human agents. We are interested precisely in that agency.

This seminar explores “land” as a genre, theme, and medium of art and architecture of the last five decades. A major opportunity afforded by the course is an optional field trip to visit major works of land art in Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas during the summer preceding the term. Focusing largely on work within the boundaries of the United States, the course seeks to understand how the use of land in art and architecture is bound into complicated entanglements of property and power, the inheritances of non‐U.S. traditions, and the violence of colonial ambitions. The term “landscape” is variously deployed in the service of a range of political and philosophical positions. The work of artists,  architects, and writers on art and architectural theory can offer rich insights into the tangled nexus of phenomenology, pilgrimage, and property development that has been conjured by landscape, in history and at present.

A final research paper or project equivalent is the capstone of the course.

Course Requirements

To learn the material covered in this class, you will be expected to complete the reading, attend field trips during the term, and participate in discussion; you will deliver one or two in-class presentations, and you must prepare a final project or final paper. The pre-term August field trip is optional but highly recommended; there will be weeks during the term in which those who have done the field trip will have a lighter work load than those who have not, in recognition of hours already invested in the material. Students will participate in public presentations as part of the MIT List Visual Art Center's Lavine lecture series (see below), and will prepare presentations of the weekly readings. 

1) In-Class Presentations

Students will each be assigned specific weeks in which they work as a team to present a guiding question or questions that tie together the assigned readings, and orient class disussion. These are brief instigations, not lectures. 

2) Lavine Lecture Presentations

This year, the List Visual Arts Center annual Lavine Lecture will be programmed in explicit connection with our subject. Art historian James Nisbet (see Field Trip Readings and Bibliography) and conservator Francesca Esmay will be conducting a public discussion on issues of land art, ecology, and conservation theory and praxis. In an introductory segment of this public event, students from our course will present a field trip travelogue, explicitly oriented to address the Lecture's conservation and ecology thematic. The format will be curated by the Teaching Assistant for this subject; we will work together to create one well-rehearsed, visually dynamic presentation not to exceed 10 minutes in total. Research and production for this Lecture presentation are a mandatory assignment for field trip participants; those who did not participate in the August field trip will be provided with other roles to play in this event. 

3) Final Project

Your final project will be a long-term, meaningful engagement with the course material, focused on a research or production theme that you will choose in consultation with the instructors. Drawing on your own disciplinary interests, produce a creative or scholarly project that examines some aspect of "Landscape Experience" as it has been negotiated and interrogated in this class. The final product can be materialized as a research paper, architectural project, conservation plan, artwork (installation performance, video, land or earth work) or other format agreed upon by the instructors in advance. Studio presentations will be curated by the Teaching Assistant. Periodic benchmarks for the final project are outlined in the Student Projects section.


  • 25% on participation (includes in-seminar presentations/Lavine lecture presentations)
  • 75% on term project (proposal, in-class presentation, final write-up)


Support for the course was provided by the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST) and the MIT Alumni Class Funds, as well as through partnerships with MIT List Visual Arts Center and the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University.