Gardening, Radicalised!

Mid-life crises come in many forms. Some people buy a new car, an expensive watch or, God forbid, a jet-ski. Others might go on a holiday or change careers. Landscape architect and principal of Terremoto, David Godshall’s self-identified mid-life crisis has just begun. And its roots are in the garden.

‘I would say it was subliminally, subconsciously brewing in 2020 when George Floyd was murdered and then there were riots all over our country. COVID was at its peak. We had a few heart-to-hearts as an office where we were, like, how do we be landscape architects in all of this madness? And how is it that we improve and evolve and adapt to a world that’s rapidly changing?’ He says.

David and Terremoto – a landscape architecture studio with over 20 staff and offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco – got busy, developing a framework for a new landscape architectural vision: Radical Gardens of Love and Interconnectedness – a practice-wide transition to making gardens that respond in meaningful ways to the complexities of the world we are living in.

I will be speaking with David Godshall and Story Wiggins from Terremoto about Radical Gardens of Love and Interconnectedness in a special online event on December 9, 2021.

100% of proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to Groundswell Giving, Wonderground Issue Two Community Partner.

Come along, and find out more about the principles and how to apply them in your own practice, your own backyard.

‘We want to make gardens that are anti-fragile, intellectually rich, fair and just in their physical creation, and generous and kind in their ongoing ecological existences’, David says. ‘To make gardens that are rigorously empathetic at levels both macro and micro.

Museum Way Garden. A Radical Garden of Love and Interconnectedness by Terremoto. Photo: Caitlin Atkinson
Museum Way Garden. A Radical Garden of Love and Interconnectedness by Terremoto. Photo: Caitlin Atkinson

There are those who believe that gardens are only decoration, that they’re not connected to the bigger stories and issues of our time. That their smallness as intimate and often domestic spaces means they’re excluded somehow from deeper thought and interrogation. But our gardens mirror our societies, and as we’re currently seeing, the more complex and disconnected the systems that comprise our society become – food, finance, politics and justice to name a few – the easier they are to break. This extends to the garden.

‘Climate change is here’, says David. ‘We need to look in the mirror as practitioners, and acknowledge that we’ve built our cities and our nations and our gardens wrong… We’ve built all these incredibly fragile landscapes and the moment there’s a jolt to the system – like a heatwave, or the irrigation turns off – they immediately fail. And I’d offer that that failure speaks to poor design and, as designers, we need to improve.’

‘Landscape Architecture with a capital L and a capital A has almost turned landscapes into machines. And machines break.’

Radical Gardens of Love and Interconnectedness is a kind of ‘living manifesto’, according to David. ‘It’s a trajectory; a north star for Terremoto to evolve towards. We’re hopeful others might too.’

What it means, in practice, is an evolving set of principles that projects are tested against. Touching on all elements of the garden – from land acknowledgement to banning filter fabric – the principals are constantly evolving. Of course. ‘The moment you declare you know something with certainty or that this is your set of beliefs, you’re stuck’, David says.

As someone who believes deeply in the importance of the garden as the ground-plane for new thinking about how best to be in the world, I see Radical Gardens as some of the most exciting thinking in landscape architecture and garden-making today. Whilst this time of transformation is challenging and uneasy and often confronting, it’s also an opportunity. ‘We, as a civilization, have never been more perfectly poised for the emergence of a whole new epoch of design, you know what I mean?’ says David. ‘Our building, design and labour practices need to radically change now, so what a fucking time to be alive!’

Read more about Terremoto’s new direction in Wonderground Issue Two.


David Godshall. Photo: Daniel Shipp