Objective As the working scope of landscape architecture expands and urban problems become more complicated, the comprehensive discipline of landscape architecture is compelled to integrate diverse knowledge and theories from other disciplines, such as aesthetics, geography, and ecology. However, this integration also results in the generalization of the discipline’s knowledge, posing a challenge to its independence. Furthermore, the diversity and complexity of knowledge sources make it more difficult to construct a theoretical system. Indeed, it is crucial to elucidate the process by which the knowledge system is shaped and constructed in the development of the discipline to establish a robust theoretical framework. In view of this, this research mainly aims to address the following questions. 1) How has the current production of knowledge in landscape architecture evolved and developed since its inception? 2) How does the formation of knowledge in landscape architecture relate to other disciplines, and what are its characteristics? 3) What factors have influenced the development of the knowledge system of the landscape architecture discipline, and what challenges does the discipline face?
Methods Utilizing an archaeological approach, this research reviews the development process of the theoretical knowledge system of landscape architecture across three dimensions: humanities and arts disciplines, natural sciences, and social sciences. Meanwhile, it succinctly outlines the evolution characteristics of the theoretical knowledge system and the underlying factors. The application of the archaeological approach serves dual purposes. Firstly, it offers ideas and clear methods for tracing the origins of knowledge elements, such as concepts, practical subjects, media, and objects within the knowledge system of landscape architecture. Secondly, it aids in exploring deep-seated factors concealed beneath the manifestations of knowledge, thereby revealing the mechanisms of formation and internal evolution of knowledge in landscape architecture.
Results The knowledge development within landscape architecture is reviewed through three fundamental knowledge systems. 1) Regarding the overall evolution of knowledge, the development of the knowledge system of landscape architecture proves to be flexible and dynamic. Its evolution gradually traverses the humanities and arts disciplines, intersecting diversely with natural and social sciences. The boundaries of knowledge continually expand, adjust, and update in alignment with the evolving times and societal needs. 2) The development of knowledge in landscape architecture, viewed from distinct perspectives, exhibits unique characteristics. Essentially, it reflects changes in aesthetic, natural, and equitable considerations. Under humanities and arts disciplines, knowledge production has progressed from “regional aesthetics” to “critical regional aesthetics”. In the realm of natural sciences, it has shifted from a “simple view of nature” to a “pluralistic ecological view”. In the domain of social sciences, the progression is evident from an “elitist equity view” to a “public equity view”. 3) The evolution of knowledge within the discipline has been steered by varying factors across different periods. In the early stage of garden development, aesthetics plays a predominant role, driving the development of material and formal theories. However, in modern times, aesthetics no longer satisfies the complex functional needs of cities. Consequently, visually-driven factors have shifted toward the physiological, psychological, and social needs of people in spaces. This shift prompts the discipline to incorporate knowledge from ecology, psychology, and sociology, giving birth to theories such as urban open space, healthy city, and community design. Additionally, computer technology, facilitating the scientific and quantitative exploration of the relationship between human and environmental elements, has swiftly found its place in the discipline, contributing to the understanding of human perception and experience in space.
Conclusion 1) Establishing awareness for the development of an independent knowledge system in landscape architecture is crucial for addressing various environmental, social, cultural, and aesthetic challenges. Although scholars in this field have consistently recognized the mission to pursue an independent knowledge system since the inception of the landscape architecture discipline, it has often been perceived stereotypically as lacking such a system. However, with the current development and prosperity of landscape architecture, scientific research in the discipline has significantly narrowed the gap with other disciplines. The research in landscape architecture has become increasingly intertwined with global and national challenges in the development and practice of human settlement environment. Consequently, the construction of an independent knowledge system has reached a critical stage of both necessity and possibility. 2) Identifying the logical fundamentals of the independent knowledge system in landscape architecture is essential. Relevant knowledge within the landscape architecture discipline is an accumulation of understanding, opinions, and experience derived from past practice in addressing the contradictions between human society and the environment. The theorization and systematization of landscape architecture knowledge must emanate from various forms of practice. Only a knowledge system grounded in the historical construction of landscape architecture practice can overcome the longstanding perception of being in an “apprentice” or “imitation” stage. 3) Establishing a flexible and dynamic mechanism for adjusting and updating the knowledge system is crucial. On one hand, landscape architecture should integrate interventions from multiple disciplines to incorporate corresponding disciplinary knowledge, and should refine new concepts, categories, and expressions that are easily understood and accepted by both society and the industry to guide academic research and discussion; on the other hand, educators, as the main contributors to the development of disciplinary knowledge, should emphasize the establishment and improvement of the theoretical knowledge system of landscape architecture.