A Holistic Approach to Building in Landscapes in Architecture Studio

November 16, 2023
Jane Whitman
Jane Whitman
United Kingdom
Sustainable Architecture
Dr. Jane Whitman is a renowned expert in the field of architecture. She specializes in sustainable architecture and community-centered design, with a focus on creating spaces that not only harmonize with their natural surroundings but also serve the needs of the community.

Architecture is the art of creating spaces that not only fulfill functional requirements but also harmonize with their natural surroundings. In this blog, we will explore the concept of "Building in Landscapes" and how it plays a pivotal role in architectural education and practice. Additionally, we'll discuss how this approach can help with your Sustainable Architecture assignment. We will also delve into the key topics from a sample student calendar, showing how each event and assignment contributes to the holistic understanding of this approach.

Building in Landscapes - An Introduction

Building in landscapes is a fundamental architectural philosophy that transcends the mere construction of structures. It is rooted in the belief that architecture should not be an intrusive imposition on the natural landscape but, rather, an organic extension of it. This approach strives for a harmonious integration of built structures with their natural surroundings, promoting a profound connection between the man-made and the environment. Let's delve deeper into this concept and understand why it is a cornerstone of responsible and innovative architectural practice.

A Holistic Approach to Design

At its core, building in landscapes is about viewing architecture as an integral part of the environment rather than a separate entity. It recognizes that the spaces we design and build have a direct impact on the world they inhabit. Instead of creating stark, alien structures that stand in stark contrast to the natural beauty of their surroundings, this philosophy encourages architects to design with a deep respect for the environment.

This approach is characterized by several key principles:

Building in Landscapes in Architecture Studio
  1. Seamless Integration: Building in landscapes is about making the built environment seamlessly blend with the natural world. It seeks to create structures that look as if they belong to the landscape, enhancing, rather than disrupting, its beauty.
  2. Sustainability: Sustainable architecture is a vital component of building in landscapes. It focuses on using environmentally friendly materials, energy-efficient design, and sustainable construction techniques to minimize the ecological footprint of the built environment.
  3. Respecting the Ecosystem: Building in landscapes prioritizes the preservation of the natural ecosystem. It involves careful site analysis to understand how the local flora and fauna interact with the land. This knowledge informs design decisions that protect and nurture the local ecosystem.
  4. Functional Harmony: While aesthetics play a crucial role, building in landscapes also emphasizes the functional harmony of structures with the environment. This means that the designed spaces should not disrupt natural processes and should contribute positively to the local community.

Field Visit to Quarry - Connecting with Materials

The importance of understanding the materials used in architecture cannot be overstated. A field visit to a quarry is an event that may appear as a simple outing but holds immense significance. It is a foundational component of comprehending how buildings come to life, and it embodies the essence of building in landscapes.

During this visit, students witness the origins of construction materials. They see the raw, natural resources that will eventually transform into the bricks, stones, and aggregates used in their architectural designs. But this visit goes beyond the mere extraction of materials; it is a lesson in responsible material sourcing.

Students learn that the choices they make regarding building materials have a direct impact on the landscape. Irresponsible material sourcing can result in environmental degradation, habitat disruption, and resource depletion. By understanding the source of their materials, students gain an appreciation for the importance of using resources in an ethical and sustainable manner.

In the context of building in landscapes, the quarry visit becomes a tangible illustration of how architects should approach the materials they use. It's a reminder that responsible architecture isn't just about designing aesthetically pleasing structures but also about making ethical choices throughout the construction process.

Talk by Joslin and Wampler - Gaining Perspective

A talk by seasoned architects like Joslin and Wampler is a pivotal event in any architectural program. It serves as a window into the real world of architectural practice, offering students insights, experiences, and the potential challenges they might encounter in their careers. Such talks expand students' horizons, enabling them to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application.

In the context of building in landscapes, experienced architects like Joslin and Wampler can provide valuable perspectives on how this architectural philosophy influences their work.

They may emphasize:

  1. Design Philosophy: How they approach designs with the goal of seamlessly integrating structures with the landscape while preserving its beauty.
  2. Sustainability: The importance of incorporating sustainable practices and materials into their projects to minimize their impact on the environment.
  3. Challenges: Any challenges they've faced in adhering to these principles and how they overcame them, providing real-world examples of how to balance design aspirations with environmental responsibility.
  4. Inspiration: The sources of inspiration that have driven them to create architectural marvels that respect and harmonize with their surroundings.

Joslin and Wampler's insights can serve as an inspirational guide for students, helping them appreciate the significance of building in landscapes and encouraging them to embrace this philosophy in their future careers.

Building in landscapes is an architectural philosophy that stands at the intersection of art, ecology, and functionality. It reminds us that architecture isn't just about designing structures; it's about designing relationships between humans, the built environment, and the natural world. Whether through the responsible use of materials or through the wisdom imparted by experienced architects, this philosophy shapes the architects of the future who are dedicated to creating spaces that are not only functional and beautiful but also respectful of the landscapes they inhabit.

Designing for Community and Compassion

Architecture is more than just a means of constructing visually appealing structures; it's a powerful tool for addressing the social and humanitarian needs of our communities. Within the context of the Architecture Studio's calendar, the inclusion of specific events and assignments reflects the social responsibility inherent to the field of architecture.

"Homeless Shelter Place" - Community-Centered Design

In Assignment 2, titled "Homeless Shelter Place," students are presented with an extraordinary challenge. Instead of focusing solely on aesthetics, this assignment encourages them to apply their architectural skills to create spaces that offer shelter, dignity, and hope to the homeless. This task exemplifies the deeply compassionate aspect of architectural design.

  1. Shelter: Homelessness is a pressing social issue, and this assignment acknowledges the need for practical, safe, and comfortable spaces for those experiencing homelessness. It highlights the fundamental role of architecture in providing basic human needs.
  2. Dignity: The design of a homeless shelter should not compromise the dignity of its occupants. This requirement underscores the idea that architecture can be a tool for restoring dignity to those who have lost it due to unfortunate circumstances.
  3. Hope: By designing spaces that promote comfort and a sense of belonging, students are contributing to instilling hope in the homeless individuals they serve. Architecture can be a source of inspiration and transformation.

The "Homeless Shelter Place" assignment is a poignant reminder that architecture has the potential to address the societal issues of our time. Building in landscapes, in this case, extends beyond the physical environment and encompasses building for a better society. It underscores the responsibility architects have to create spaces that enhance the well-being of communities, particularly those in need.

Talk by Len Thomas - The Social Impact of Architecture

The calendar also features a talk by Len Thomas, the Director of the Cambridge Multi Service Center. This talk can shed light on the profound role architects play in addressing societal issues and the impact their work has on the community.

  1. Essential Services: One aspect of the social impact of architecture is providing essential services. Architects have the opportunity to design facilities that address basic human needs, such as shelters for the homeless, healthcare centers, and community centers. These structures become lifelines for underserved populations.
  2. Support and Empowerment: Architecture can empower communities by creating spaces that support education, job training, and social services. The physical environment can foster a sense of community and encourage self-improvement.
  3. Inclusivity: The design of spaces can be tailored to be inclusive, accommodating people with diverse abilities and needs. This promotes equality and accessibility, ensuring that no one is left behind.
  4. Environmental Impact: The social impact of architecture also extends to the environment. Sustainable architecture can improve the quality of life by reducing pollution, conserving resources, and minimizing energy consumption.

In the context of building in landscapes, this talk by Len Thomas emphasizes that architecture is not just about designing structures that blend with the natural environment; it's about designing structures that support and uplift the community. It's a holistic approach that recognizes the interconnectedness of the built environment and the well-being of its inhabitants.

Designing for community and compassion is a fundamental aspect of architecture. The "Homeless Shelter Place" assignment and the insights shared by Len Thomas underscore the social responsibility architects bear. Building in landscapes, within this context, goes beyond aesthetics and sustainability; it becomes a means to address societal issues, provide essential services, and offer hope and dignity to those who need it most. It reflects the belief that architecture is a powerful force for positive change and the betterment of society.

Exploring History and Learning from the Masters

To become proficient architects, students need a solid foundation in architectural history. This knowledge informs their designs and gives them the wisdom of the past to draw upon.

"Individual Place" Research History of Small Houses - Learning from Tradition

In Week 11, students delve into the history of small houses. This research serves as a reference for their design work. Understanding the historical evolution of small house architecture teaches students that building in landscapes is not a new concept; it has been practiced throughout architectural history. They can draw inspiration from past designs that seamlessly merged with their natural surroundings.

Visit to Frank Lloyd Wright House and Walter Gropius House - Learning from the Masters

Visiting iconic houses designed by architectural legends like Frank Lloyd Wright and Walter Gropius is a unique educational opportunity. These architects were pioneers in harmonizing their structures with nature. The lessons from these field trips extend beyond theory to practical application. Students can see firsthand how the work of these masters respects and interacts with the landscape.

Embracing Sustainability and Environmental Responsibility

A critical aspect of building in landscapes is sustainability. The calendar includes events that highlight this crucial dimension of architecture.

Talk by Les Norford - Sustainable Design Principles

Les Norford's talk on ventilation, sustainability, light, and shade underscores the importance of designing buildings that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also environmentally responsible. Sustainable architecture is inherently about building in landscapes, as it requires a deep understanding of how buildings interact with their surroundings while minimizing environmental impact.


The Architecture Studio's calendar is a journey that encapsulates the multifaceted nature of architecture. Building in landscapes is not just about aesthetics or functionality; it's about a harmonious relationship between built structures and the environment. Students in this program are exposed to the importance of responsible material sourcing, social responsibility, historical wisdom, and sustainability.

As they progress through assignments and engage with experts in the field, they learn that architecture is not just a profession; it's a responsibility. It's about creating spaces that not only stand as functional entities but also contribute positively to the landscape and society. This holistic approach prepares them to be architects who understand the profound connection between their designs and the world around them.

In the end, this studio program isn't just about designing buildings; it's about shaping a future where architecture coexists harmoniously with landscapes and makes a positive impact on the world.

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