Mick Atha

Mick Atha
12:45 pm - 2:00 pm
Room 622, Knowles Building, The University of Hong Kong,
Pokfulam Road, , Hong Kong
Designed for Life?
Why a Landscape Approach Matters in Studies of Human-Environment Interaction
Mick Atha
Department of Anthropology,
Chinese University of Hong Kong


The long story of human inhabitation of the Earth is nothing if not a story of people’s ceaseless struggles to carve out lives and livings from the physical environments in which they have found themselves. Everyone needs to feel that they belong somewhere and nothing, arguably in the entire history of human existence, has happened nowhere. Humans, therefore—seemingly driven by a deep psychological need—are compulsive place-makers. And that place-making process occurs on a human scale of experience, is reproduced and sedimented through cultural praxis, and is fundamentally constitutive of social life and social landscapes.

By acknowledging the significance of that process and its outcomes, we are led to reflect on landscape itself, its value as an approach to humanistic studies, how it is conceived and understood in different cultural, disciplinary and practical settings and, crucially in my opinion, how it provides a means of simultaneously embracing the tangible and intangible dimensions of heritage. I will illustrate my talk with examples from Hong Kong that highlight not only how an absence of landscape awareness has resulted in a continual process of loss, but also how a landscape approach could be both positively and meaningfully deployed in future.

About the Speaker

Mick Atha is an archaeologist with a sciences background, humanities present and long-standing interest in interdisciplinary landscape research. He teaches archaeology and landscape studies at CUHK while also running an editing and archaeological consultancy firm. Mick’s research interests include Bronze Age craft specialization and the emergence of social complexity, Han to Tang coastal societies in the context of a developing imperial maritime economy, and historic landscape research.

His co-authored book, Piecing Together Sha Po: Archaeological Investigations and Landscape Reconstruction (Atha & Yip 2016), was just published in Chinese by HKU Press, and he is co-editor of The Routledge Companion to Landscape Studies (2nd Ed.), which will also be published this year. He is an International Editorial Advisory Board Member for the journal Landscape Research.

The DLA Research Seminar Series provides a platform to discuss scholarly research on the built environment that is interdisciplinary in nature. The series aims to identify common research threads from landscape architecture, architecture, planning, urban design, and conservation, and by doing so instigates critical reflections on the different approaches to the study of landscapes and cities. For the list of seminar topics, see

All are welcome. For enquiries, call: 3917 7699