What is Land-Based?


In our third installment of Questions & Answers, we look into the meaning of land-based.

We know resilience comes from being place-based
and adaptable to uncertainty.
We call this resilient infrastructure

(from manifesto)

Question: This idea of place-based and/or land-based… these are interesting phrases. I am wondering what it means to be place-based. How does resilience grow out of it?

[CT] Place-based and land-based, from a designer’s point of view, are interchangeable.

These terms simply define the constituents which must be considered in the design and planning process. For me they also describe the foundations of my ethical compass and how I see myself relating to the world around me.

The closer I feel to the land I’m in, the better supported I feel and the more resilient I find myself in the face of adversity — but also the more joy I find.

I’ve had these sensations both in deep wilderness as well as in cities.

[AH] And I would say, place-based and land-based are almost interchangeable.

Things that are land-based are inherently place-based, but not everything that is place-based is land-based; land-base incorporates a great deal more than I feel place-based generally implies.

A land-base includes all the individuals and their interactions that reside in a place (people); all the understandings, ideas, beliefs, and values that form the culture of a community (knowledge); and all of the physical things - from the strata under our feet to the thin skies above us - that defines the character and composition of a space (place).


What is different about a land-base is that it is also defined by its interconnections across different scales of interaction. The land-base isn’t just how we describe a place, but rather it is that place and how it reaches into and across other places.

Q: Let's get back to the idea of "aliveness."

To be alive: not just the carcass
But the spark.
— Gregory Orr

(From, "To Be Alive" in
Concerning the Book That Is the Body Of the Beloved.)

[CT] Aliveness would be how I’d summarize a good supportive land-base, be it urban, rural-developed, or wild.

[AH] I like this notion of aliveness. I think there is a really strong correlation between things we deem resilient and how alive they are. This aliveness suggests a thing is responsive, adaptive, and somehow aware.

Whatever it is that makes a place alive — we need to find and build those things.

[CT] Resiliency would be the ability of a situational land-base to return to Aliveness following a stochastic interlude.


Stochastic: randomly determined; having a random probability distribution or pattern that may be analyzed statistically but may not be predicted precisely.

Interlude: an intervening period of time.

[... CT] After an industrial fiesta of which the manifest outcome is a whole lot of un-alive human habitat, not to mention a lot less habitat for others, we have a planet that is far less resilient.

[AH] It’s going to be hard to build aliveness. I think we should all be upfront about that and begin that work with the understanding of the energy, patience, awareness, and rebuilding of relationships that it will take to get there, to reinvigorate the networks of exchange that actually make something alive.

Chris mentioned something that I think is really important to keep coming back to, and is something that I keep neglecting as I think about how to make the notion of land-based development accessible to more and more people.

We need to include non-human aliveness as well. Perhaps that is actually the main focus of all of this work.

[CT] I’m still confident, despite the mounting evidence to the contrary, that the process of design can be broadened to encompass increasingly broad constituents and lead to habitats predisposed to resilience.

[AH] I think of the mounting evidence only as a false negative — a byproduct of a myopic lens through which globalization has taken place.

There are so many examples of different forms or visions for interactions, they just have a really hard time climbing the mountain of inertia that is moving the world toward baselessness — an unrooted existence with nothing to anchor to.