This essay discusses two different, yet complementary, aspects of history in landscape architectural nostalgia that help articulate its changing relevance to the field of landscape design. On one hand, history can be called upon for the construction of identity: in some such cases a nostalgia for a specific place and time may be fruitful, as it was at the beginning of the twentieth century, when American designers and critics engaged in a provocative debate about the merits of foreign historical landscape styles, and the legitimacy of their imitation on American soil. But in some circumstances nostalgia for the past may be sterile or harmful, as in the years of fascist Italy, when the past was manipulated and tradition invented to meet certain ideological political goals. On the other hand, history can also be construed as memory, whose traces are preserved through design processes and their outcomes. In this latter instance, a more edifying and even instructive nostalgia is at work, one that is useful to the extent in which it helps transform and improve the present, as the projects of Bernard Lassus, Kathryn Gustafson, and Neil Porter demonstrate.
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Image: Site plan, Hadiqat As-Samah (Garden of Forgiveness), Beirut Central District, Beirut, Lebanon. (Gustafson Porter Ltd.)