What is a landscape machine?

by Sophia Molpheta and Karim van Wonderen
birdseye view of a saline crop landscape machine

The ‘Landscape Machine – Design Laboratory’ was founded in 2012 in the Netherlands by landscape architect Paul Roncken and part of a PhD thesis on the aesthetics of the sublime. It is the result of continuous student interest at the Wageningen University in designing and conceptualizing living landscapes with productive qualities. Products range from classical agrarian products to new energy harvesting and pollution solutions. The students are working at their final Msc Thesis projects in landscape architecture. The team has regular meetings in which we discuss the design aspects of the landscape and the scientific aspects of the living machine. We cooperate with scientific fields such as fish breeding, renewable energy, aquatic ecology and climate studies. As landscape architects we also cooperate with artists, product designers and entrepreneurs that dare to invest in future environments and will inspire future generations and generate new biotopes.

By Alexander Herrebout 2011
By Alexander Herrebout 2011

Figure 1: Conceptual visualization of the functional components of a Landscape Machine.

Why a Landscape Machine?

Landscapes need not be designed at all if they are to reflect the potential of wildernesses. Despite the autonomy of landscape development, human imagination inspires to create an organized functionality and lush diversity of biotopes. Human imagination is central and essential in the development of additional types of living systems that proof that humans contribute to life cycles in extraordinary manners. Landscapes are thus not only places to comfort and satisfy human needs, they are places that are proof of human imagination and technical competences. Additionally, designed landscapes are environments to enhance dormant potentials of the abundance of energy that is present on an everyday basis.


Landscape Machines are technically complex designs that serve to clean and produce all that humans use and need for themselves and simultaneously adhere to the abundance principle of living systems. The composition of landscape machines is dynamic because of the continuous interchange of expansion and diminishment of living system components. A landscape machine is deliberately kept on the verge of imbalance because of the continuous yield of food, energy and resources that put stress on natural resilience. The design effort to create the appropriate type of imbalance is the main challenge when designing a landscape machine.



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