Sh*tscapes – 100 Mistakes in Landscape Architecture

In an age of glossy architectural visualizations and slick photography, today’s media is saturated with images of projects mummified in their ideal, untouched, and unused state. Every design and technical publication on landscape architecture tries to teach us how to do things based on best practices. Rarely do we see a landscape project that has been in use for five or even ten years. To counterbalance this status quo, it is time to review and scrutinize the Sh*tscapes: typical mistakes in the design of our public realm. This publication is a compendium of a hundred failures made in the design, construction, or maintenance processes of urban landscapes. Looking at these unsuccessful examples, the authors propose simple and practical solutions aimed at preventing common mistakes, predicting future scenarios, and averting or accepting failures.

Sh*tscapes takes a pragmatic look at what has been built so far. It offers practical solutions to recurring problems which appear across our cities around the world. Started in 2019 and based on case studies in London, this project surveys 100 common issues and draws universal conclusions meant to assist planners, urban designers, architects, landscape architects and contractors in their endeavours. In other words, the publication is a compendium of failures and mistakes to watch out for during a project’s planning, design, construction and maintenance stages.

Aggravated by the advent of the internet and social media, the architecture world is hyper-focused on glossy images and flawlessly built projects. Rarely do we see a building’s delivery process or how it stands the test of time. Ironically, the time-based discipline of landscape architecture follows this trend as well. Sh*tscapes makes the argument for learning from our failures. This book purposefully showcases a mixture of established and recently built projects to reveal design and construction mistakes and uncover the more subtle imperfections appearing after long-term use.

Unlike buildings and large infrastructure projects, our streets, squares and green spaces are relatively simple to build. Sadly, urban design and landscape architecture publications tend to focus on extraordinary projects, often documented shortly after completion and without a focus on detail, making it hard for students and young professionals to understand how things are built.

To bridge the gap, Sh*tscapes covers mostly standard design details, construction and maintenance practices. To this end, the book is structured as a checklist covering the basic elements that typically make up a public space: paving, edges, drainage, furniture, trees and planting. And although not exhaustive, it is intended as a reminder of all the things that could go wrong throughout the life of a project.

We hope to encourage our readers to study their environment and practice their observational skills to expand the sh*tscapes library.

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Sh*tscapes is a 160-page book by London-based landscape architects Vladimir Guculak and Paul Bourel. They are also founders of studio gb, landscape architecture and design studio focused on the integration of nature into the city.


Published on May 3, 2024

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