A quick perusal of any design journal or blog will yield literally tens of variations of the word ‘landscape’. In the sophisticated Germanic tradition of taking two dissimilar words and slamming them together to make a new word , our design lexicon is now blessed with delights such as ‘city-scape’, ‘road-scape’, ‘wall-scape‘, ‘waterscape’, ‘winterscape‘, and the always curious ‘dross-scape‘. We also have rural such as peculiarities as ‘farm-scape’ and ‘porch-scape‘.
There is even an entire European journal named ‘scape, claiming to be “the new international magazine for landscape architecture, city planning, and urban design”.

Now, this seemed like a good idea back when MVRDV was writing about data-scapes and the emergence of 21st century hedonistic urban culture going global. If not brilliant- and those guys usually are brilliant- it was at least a clever way of communicating an idea. However, this word game has become nothing more than a parlor trick, a cheap marketing gimmick to sell an otherwise also-ran design idea.

We cannot admit this, of course. When writing for peers or presenting to clients, we must beam at them- gleefully and smugly- and bellow ‘I have conceived of this space as a series of certain space-scapes’, for we are all Dante, inventing our own language because the ones we know are simply too banal for our brilliant ideas.

Therefore, inspired by the recent birthday of the USA (and the clouds blanketing the northeastern US for the last two weeks) it is with much smugness that I want to talk about the greatest ‘scape of all- SKYSCAPES! As beautiful as trees and buildings can be, they don’t really compare to:

the aurora lights

A thousand square miles of billowy nimbus clouds

A pollutant-infused sunset

Or a million-dollar fireworks display for whatever reason
I am humbled.
Nothing is more visceral, more ephemeral, more fantastic and more overwhelming than a skyscape. Verily, this is the apex of contemporary ‘scape design. Of course, the sky is always a part of any environment on the earth‘s surface, and its cycles and conditions should always be considered. But they usually aren’t. No matter, all I need to do is say the word, err… make up the word, then say it, and claim it as my own original idea. A not-so-new new level of complexity! My clients and peers will be quite willing to pat me on the back for that.
And if not, I can always pat myself on the back. As usual.

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