1st Edition

Designed Forests A Cultural History

By Dan Handel Copyright 2025
    208 Pages 41 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    208 Pages 41 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Designed Forests: A Cultural History explores the unique kinship that exists between forests and spatial design; the forest’s influence on architectural culture and practice; and the potentials and pitfalls of “forest thinking” for more sustainable and ethical ways of doing architecture today. It tackles these subjects by focusing on architecture’s own dispositions, which stem from an ecology of metaphor that surrounds its encounters with the forest and undergird ideas about Nature and natural systems. The book weaves together global narratives and chapters explore a range of topics such as: the invention of forest plans in colonial India, the war waged on the jungles of Vietnam; economic land use concepts in rural Germany, precolonial ecological pasts in Manhattan, and technologically saturated forests in California. This book is essential for landscape architects, urbanists, architects, forestry experts, and everyone concerned with larger environmental contexts and the ever-evolving relationship between nature and culture.

    Preface  Introduction  1. Engineered Forests  2. Jungle  3. The Thousand-Year Forest  4. Ecological Havens  5. Ubiquitous Intelligence


    Dan Handel is an architect and curator whose work focuses on underexplored ideas, figures, and practices that shape contemporary built environments. Over the past fifteen years, he has been studying the links between scientists, forest managers, and spatial designers, resulting in various exhibitions and publications on the subject.

    “Forests cover over four billion hectares of our planet earth. In his brilliant book, Dan Handel reminds us that our forests project a powerful image of nature even though they are constructed, man-made and totally designed. Handel skillfully weaves together a riveting narrative inextricably linking forest to culture, geography, and our human condition.”

    Professor Brigitte Shim, Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, University of Toronto

    "In the process of asking questions about how forests are rationalized culturally, Handel advances the political control of reforestation, which ultimately reveals that making or conserving forests is a design project. Outside of the current environmental crisis, what this book offers is a richly illustrated account of the global movement to create, protect and plant forests, while provoking artists, designers and planners to consider their role in the affair."

    Rosetta Elkin, Academic Director, Master in Landscape Architecture Program, Pratt Institute

    “Handel’s book establishes a parallel between two forms of cognition: ‘thinking machines’ and ‘thinking forests.’ This parallel has important implications for built and natural environments, particularly in relation to developments in artificial intelligence and discoveries about tree communication.”

    Phu Huang, Head of Architecture, Knowlton School, Ohio State University