Miroslava Benes
Research Interests

History of Landscape Architecture; Renaissance Architectural and Landscape History; History of Landscape Architecture, Antiquity to the Present; Italian Renaissance and Baroque Architecture, especially the City of Rome; Vernacular Landscapes and Agriculture; Landscape Representation, Painting, and Cartography; Historiography and Methodologies

I am currently working on a book titled "Passages from Vernacular Vigne to Elite Villas: Society, Memory and Transformation in the Gardens and Landscapes of Rome, 1550-1700." It treats the important but neglected landscape architectural designs of the villa and garden in a seminal period, and for the first time contextualizes their study by considering the full range of gardens produced by Rome's social hierarchy—from the grand gardens of elite popes, cardinals and aristocrats to small kitchen gardens and vineyards ("vigne": vineyards and orchards) of artisans and builders. To date, only high-style Italian and Roman gardens have been studied and only from the viewpoint of their elite owners. I especially study the passages from vernacular to elite gardens (and the reverse). My study contextualizes this material—from physical design to histories of society, landowning, medicine, urban agriculture, arboriculture, landscape painting, emotional experience, and gender.

In recent years, in my teaching in the School of Architecture, I have deliberately pushed myself out of my comfort zone (on the early modern world, 1400-1750) and to a new and particular approach which focuses on the contemporary: since 2014, I have invented several new graduate seminar courses, open to undergraduates as well, which focus on highly relevant themes for the design student today, for example “Representing Landscape/Architecture, 1500-2015” and “Hybridity in Landscape/Architecture.” My contribution in these seminars is to help students map key areas of their professional discipline and its history. I thereby have revitalized and expanded my teaching, nourished my scholarship, and brought both to bear on the professional training of our students. My "hybridity" seminar helps students map the extremely hybridic fields pertaining to design today, from concepts of merging indoors and outdoors, re-conceptualizing threshold and boundary at project and at urban scale, dealing with the ambiguities of ground, to the ancient and very modern notions of changing meanings when materials, designs, and ornament are recycled. My research and teaching are highly interwoven: for example I am preparing long-term a book that maps hybridity in landscape architecture, from Roman antiquity to today.

Countries of Academic Interest