Vittoria Di Palma (University of Southern California) and Tim Waterman (Bartlett School of Architecture): ‘Waste and Frugality’

  • 5.15pm

  • Online

Vittoria Di Palma
University of Southern California
Author of ‘Wasteland’

In the beginning, waste was a place.  Later on, it became a judgement of value.  Since early modern times, the word “waste” has signified “to neglect to use”, and “to use up”: both meanings invoke and refute an idea of appropriate use.  When “waste” is prefixed to the word “land,” the two original meanings join into one: “wasteland” is a place inimical to human civilization and its attempts to improve, control, exploit, define, or enjoy.  “Wasteland” is now used to refer to land like a desert and to land like an abandoned industrial site.  On the one hand culture’s antithesis, on the other its product, wasteland occupies a liminal place in the history of our ideas about the value of human industry. 


Vittoria Di Palma is Associate Professor of Architecture and of Art History at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Her research addresses early modern and modern architectural history and theory, the history and theory of landscape and land use, and questions of perception and representation. Her publications include Wasteland, A History (Yale University Press, 2014; Chinese translation Yilin Press: 2021) and Intimate Metropolis: Urban Subjects in the Modern City, co-edited with Diana Periton and Marina Lathouri (Routledge: 2009). Her current book project examines intersections between environmental theory, early modern medicine, and aesthetics.


Tim Waterman
Bartlett School of Architecture
Author of ‘The Landscape of Utopia’

The apple tree is pruned hard and its fruit is thinned. This economy of management (or management of economy) is a fruitful practice, ensuring the largest, healthiest, sweetest fruit in the future. Frugality is thus an apt simile for utopian methods in landscape and urban design that seek to create places for human, environmental, and ecological flourishing. Utopianism is here an orientation toward the future coloured with hope and expectation, and one that learns from the past and requires action in the present, often collective action. Sustainability in design can thus be recast, in this economic model, as a form of delayed gratification and sensible (sensual) management rather than abstinence or forbearance, bearing fruit abundantly and deliciously in the future.


Tim Waterman is Associate Professor of Landscape Theory at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. His research addresses imaginaries: moral, political, social, ecological, radical, and utopian. This forms the basis for explorations of power and democracy and their shaping of public space and public life; taste, etiquette, belief and ritual; and foodways in community and civic life and landscape. His collection, edited with Jane Wolff and Ed Wall, Landscape Citizenships, is out this May and he has recently edited two others: Landscape and Agency: Critical Essays with Ed Wall and the Routledge Handbook of Landscape and Food with Joshua Zeunert. A collection of his essays, The Landscape of Utopia, is also forthcoming from Routledge.

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