• Landscape and "the Working Country": Food Justice and Landscape Ethics in California’s Central Valley
    Alison Hirsch

Alex Nuffer, Ploughed Field, 2018, Kings County, CA. Courtesy of the artist.

The proposed project considers Raymond Williams’ oft-cited claim that “A working country is hardly ever a landscape” through a close examination of California’s Great Central Valley, known as “the world’s food basket.” Focusing primarily on the lower San Joaquin Valley, the study considers the intersections of land, labor, transcultural settlement, and mobility, and agriculture to arrive at a landscape ethic for the “working country” and its connection to our global food system and its tenuous futures. It situates landscape architecture as a critical practice that has the capacity to lead this effort. Operating across scales through an emphasis on interpretive fieldwork of existing conditions and speculative visioning for the future of this working landscape, the study will provide long-range planning and design propositions for local justice initiatives in laboring communities in the Central Valley (mostly unincorporated areas without access to fresh food or potable water), as well as large-scale planning for the nation/world’s increasingly threatened food supply. The output will be an exhibition and catalogue that operate as a call-to-action.

Alison Hirsch is a landscape theorist and designer, and associate professor in the University of Southern California's School of Architecture. Her book on landscape architect Lawrence Halprin (City Choreographer, University of Minnesota Press, 2014) emerged out of her graduate work on his disappearing physical legacy. Hirsch coedited The Landscape Imagination (Princeton Architectural Press, 2014) and has published widely in international journals. Cofounder of the transdisciplinary practice, foreground design agency, Hirsch’s design interests focus on public histories and politics of settlement, which is the topic of her forthcoming book, The Performative Landscape. She was a 2017–18 Prince Charitable Trusts/Rolland Rome Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Rome.