Military Landscapes

Dumbarton Oaks Music Room
May 4  –  5, 2018
Garden and Landscape Studies Symposium

Among various human interventions in the landscape, war has left one of the most lasting and eloquent records, literally inscribed in the face of the earth. Military landscapes can assume different forms and functions: vertical, as the Great Wall of China, or horizontal, as the Federal Interstate Highway System; overground and geometrically controlled, as the earthworks of the Renaissance trace italienne, or sunken and disguised by local topography, as the trenches of the First World War. They can be high-security sites, as the Pentagon, or tourist attractions, as Himeji Castle in Japan; curated, as the Gettysburg Battlefield, or neglected, as the outskirts of the Savannah River nuclear reservation site. In their most familiar form, they are national memorials as sites of remembrance and commemoration, which continue to have powerful emotional, political, and cultural resonance as places where historical memory is translated into myth.

This symposium aims to reevaluate the role of war as a fundamental form of human interaction with the land and a decisive factor in the ongoing transformation of the natural environment. What are the challenges and theoretical implications of understanding military infrastructure as a landscape from the disciplinary perspectives of cultural geography, architectural history, and environmental studies? And what is the role of the practice of landscape architecture in shaping, curating, and giving meaning to such landscapes?


  • Anatole Tchikine, Dumbarton Oaks
  • John Davis, Harvard Graduate School of Design


  • John Davis, Harvard Graduate School of Design, "Olmsted in the South, Olmsted at War"
  • Astrid M. Eckert, Emory University, "Transboundary Natures: The Consequences of the Iron Curtain for Landscape"
  • Gert Gröning, Berlin University of the Arts, and Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn, Leibniz University, Hannover, "On the Defense Landscape ("Wehrlandschaft") Concept in National Socialist Landscape Planning"
  • Kenneth Helphand, University of Oregon, and Henk Wildschut, Amsterdam, "Displaced Persons Gardens"
  • John Dixon Hunt, University of Pennsylvania, "The Fortifications of Uncle Toby & other peaceful uses of military landscapes"
  • Patrick Jennings, National Museum of the United States Army, "Smashed to the Earth: Documenting, Remembering & Returning to the 9/11 World Trade Center Attack Site"
  • Zhang Jie, Tsinghua University, "The Ancient Regional Defense System in Fenghuang, China"
  • Scott Kirsch, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, "War on landscape"
  • Pamela McElwee, Rutgers University, "An Environmental History of the Ho Chi Minh Trail"
  • Chandra Mukerji, University of California, San Diego, "The Wars of Religion and the Canal du Midi"
  • Finola O’Kane Crimmins, University College Dublin, "Military Landscapes at the Edge of Empire; Design Strategies for the Irish Borderlands"
  • Antoine Picon, Harvard Graduate School of Design, "Military Landscapes: Landscapes of Events"
  • Christine Ruane, University of Tulsa, "Kitchen Gardening in World War I Russia"
  • Daniel Volmar, Harvard University, “Bureaucracy and the Bomb: In Search of America’s Nuclear Battlefield”

Image: Albrecht Dürer, Landscape with a Large Cannon, 1518. Image courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Registration for this event will open in early March. Email Garden and Landscape Studies to be added to the mailing list; please include your name and affiliation.

This event has been approved for 12 LA CES.


Awards for Students:   Deadline: March 25, 2018