NOT a Frivolous Endeavor

The other day in public radio, can't recall the exact interview, I heard a scholar depicting Landscape Design as a frivolous endeavor, one that can only be pursued in places like the US, among a short list of wealthy countries. "Third-world countries do not have the luxury of graduating students in landscape design; we are in need of young professionals with knowledge in engineering and similar, more practical fields of study." 

Since when did it become a crime to pursue beauty? It think too often we forget that beauty in the built environment is key to functioning urban developments, the same way preventive care is key to human health. This article from The Garden magazine, illustrates the simple yet powerful healing that can come from beautiful gardens in war-stricken Afghanistan. 

 Mohammad Kabir (age 105) posing in front of his garden at Darul Aman Palace, which translates as ‘abode of peace’; in Kabul, Afganistan. Photo credits to Lalage Snow.

Mohammad Kabir (age 105) posing in front of his garden at Darul Aman Palace, which translates as ‘abode of peace’; in Kabul, Afganistan. Photo credits to Lalage Snow.

Amidst war and destruction, gardens provide a healing oasis of new life and continue to flourish, inspiring new beginnings even under the most unthinkable conditions. Yet for us who have spent most of our lives removed from these hardships, have we forgotten the value of such simple things?

I’m a poor man, but can live without food as long as I am surrounded by greenery and flowers.
— Mohammad Kabir

Beautiful, smart, landscapes can heal the soil, preserve native ecosystems, reduce pollution, prevent local flooding events, and perhaps more importantly, they feed new life into each of us. Many studies have shown having direct visual contact to the outdoors on a daily basis can lower absenteeism rates and improve individual worker productivity by up to 18%.

Could it be a sign that we on some level still seek these seemingly unquantifiable benefits, when the majority of 'innovative' landscaping solutions are rooftop gardens, living walls, among other shoehorned retrofits? If only for a moment we could mitigate our zeal for 'efficiency', we might come to understand how sometimes a straight line is not the most direct path.