Greater Indignities

The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. They have greatly increased the life-expectancy of those of us who live in “advanced” countries, but they have destabilized society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities, have led to widespread psychological suffering (in the Third World to physical suffering as well) and have inflicted severe damage on the natural world. The continued development of technology will worsen the situation. It will certainly subject human beings to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world, it will probably lead to greater social disruption and psychological suffering, and it may lead to increased physical suffering even in “advanced” countries. 

Ted Kaczynski, Unabomber’s Manifesto (1995)




Every Way

The Landscape comes at us from every direction. It comes at us in every way. It rushes at our eyes, hurtling toward the retina… at the speed of the light. It batters at our ears, rattling down our ear canal… at the speed of sound. Inhale, and within a quarter of a second the landscape is at our olfactory bulb. Sometimes we have the feeling that the landscape is … out there, but it is not; it is in our eyes and ears, up our nose and down our throat. It rubs our feet and caresses our cheeks. When things are just right, it plays with our hair, tickles the back of our neck, sends shivers running up and down our spine. It is not out there anywhere; it is rigth here, in our face.

Denis Wood, The Spell of the Land (1995)

Andrei Tarkovsky, Stalker (1979)


Concern for Children

The concept of the junk playground was invented by a Danish landscape architect, Carl Theodor Sorensen, whose lifetime project was to transform the status of the park from an object of aesthetic contemplation into a site of active and participatory recreation. Following his observation that children were attracted to construction sites and junk yards, he proposed to enclose a space, supply it with building materials, discarded objects and tools, and allow the children to build the playground according to their own ideas and for their own pleasure.

Sorensen’s idea was first tested in 1943 during the German occupation, as part of a social housing project in Emdrup, Copenhagen. Play was seen as preventive in two ways: firstly, it prevented the so-called rough and difficult children from drifting into marginality by occupying them in constructive play. Secondly, there was an agreement that the occupation gave rise to delinquency because it created an atmosphere of moral confusion and blurred the distinction between sabotage and asocial behavior. To reinstate a sense of community, play was designed to encourage communal solidarity through the democratic practice of self-government. Although the housing estate management employed a play supervisor, he refrained from assuming a position of authority. Everyday dilemmas such as what to build and what to demolish, the sharing of tools and building materials, how to resolve disagreements and fights peacefully, were up to the participants themselves. Bertlesen, Emdrup’s first play leader, declared that ‘the initiative must come from the children themselves… I cannot, and indeed will not, teach the children anything.’ Hence they developed their own building projects, demolished them after they got tired of them, and began anew. Thus Sorensen commented that of all the landscapes he designed, the junk playground was by far the ugliest, but also the best, because of the kind of experience and pleasure it made possible, rather than its aesthetic contribution to the city.

Roy Kozlovsky, The Junk Playground: creative destruction as antidote to delinquency (2006)


The most artistic and no doubt the most inspiring project for allotment gardens was designed at Naerum Vaenge by Professor Sørensen in the 1950’s. He proposed individual oval-shaped gardens surrounded by different types of hedges, mainly of soft fruits, with summer houses set within the perimeter hedge. In practice, the allotments were surrounded with clipped hawthorn hedges, and the summer houses were placed inside the oval gardens, but this improved the concept rather than detracting from it. Although the layout of adjoining oval shaped gardens rather than detracting from it. Although the layout of adjoining oval shaped gardens appears to waste a lot of space, the remaining areas of mown grass were intended for use as a labyrinthine playground. It was his great concern for children that has characterized so much of Sørensen’s work.

 Jan Woudstra, Danish Landscape Design in the Modern Era  (1995)


Carl Theodor Sørensen, Oval Allotment Gardens in Nærum (1952)



Despite their common interest in landscape, artists, writers, planners, landscape architects, and geographers can never share the same definition of the term, nor will they always reach a full agreement within their own domain. Landscape serves a different purpose for each group, and each profession or discipline is unique in terms of its focus, objectives, scales of analysis, epistemologies, and methodologies. Nevertheless, each would benefit immensely from understanding the others’ conception of landscape.

Eugene J. Palka, Coming to grips with the concept of landscape (1995)


David Hockney, Pearblossom Highway (1986)

David Hockney, A Lawn Being Sprinkled (1967)


Percy Adlon, Bagdad Cafe (1987)

Ordinary Walkers

The word itself tells us much. It entered the English language, along with herring and bleached linen, as a Dutch import at the end of the sixteenth century. And landschap, like its Germanic root, Landschaft, signified a unit of human occupation, indeed a jurisdiction, as much as anything that might be a pleasant object of depiction. So it was surely not accidental that in the Netherlandish flood-fields, itself the site of formidable human engineering, a community developed the idea of a landschap, which in the colloquial English of the time became a landskip. Its Italian equivalents, the pastoral idyll of brooks and wheat-gold hills, were known as parerga, and were the auxiliary settings for the familiar motifs of classical myth and sacred scripture. But in the Netherlands, the human design and use of the landscape -implied by the fishermen, cattle drovers, and ordinary walkers and riders who dotted the painting of Esaias van de Velde, for example- was the story, startlingly sufficient unto itself.

Simon Shama, Landscape and Memory (1995)

Strootman Landschapsarchitecten, Belvederes Drentsche Aa (2010)

FIND IT on the map

Times of Invention

In this domain, to distinguish between the natural and the artificial is not as simple as we ́d think at first sight ́ because the chosen natural site has in effect already had human intervention, even so, the so-called natural waterfalls have been polluted from certain angles with unwanted vegetation growing etc. The natural is in fact, in today ́s terms, is what has been least modified. But such a definition doesn’t take under consideration of the effects of human waste which affect the review of these natural sites, simply because we perceive them by identifying objects that are artificial.

Bernard Lassus, L’obligation de l’invention: du paysage aux ambiances successives (1995)

We live in a period of conservation, in opposition to times of invention. We must overcome being worried to have desire, to make birth to new visions. We do not work on natural site but on territories already strongly artificialized. And we lack scientific proof to act on the durable. We have not fallen into sustainable development while our cities were being built is because we didn’t intervene to oppose the appropriate global legislation. And our practices on project suffer from the absence of rigorous scientific work on which we could go further.

Michel Desvigne, Le Plateau de Saclay: Ancrage Geographique (2012)

Michel Desvigne, Île Seguin Gardens (2010)


Discovery and Revision

Each vision of a landscape is in reality a discovery and a revision or a landscape it is never complete and comes to us after many readings to head another incomplete series.

We could say: “He also thought to identify planted trees that he would not be able to name, because of his direct knowledge of the campaign was glutted inferior to his knowledge and nostalgic and literary“.

The landscape appears like a field of tensions between individuals and collective aspirations, like a place that generates an, alphabet to express and where to find a point of view. For some, landscape only existed and exists in paintings, the photographies or texts that taught them how to represent it. However, the beauty of landscape in some way is redundant for having something unforgettable; it melts unconsciously in the collective and individual memory.

Rosa Barba i Casanovas, Arguments for the Landscape Project (1995)

Jordi Bellmunt + Agata Buscemi + B2B Arq, Salou Long Beach (2001)


Layers of Desires, Wills, and Actions

The landscapes are built by layers of desires, wills, and actions: and fight to stay, between the wear and tear from the weather and the momentum of major catastrophes and minor ones though this memory that legitimates them in images. That is why each landscape has the imprint of the one who has preceded it and leaves for the future the signs of the cultures that have gone through it or have appropriated it. Somehow, each project responds to a previous spatial structure that “walks”, and that predictably behaves with its own autonomy, with limited reaction capacity.

Gustav Lange, Mauerpark (1994)


Place Memory

“We all come to know each other by asking for accounts. by giving accounts and by believing or disbelieving stories about each other’: pests and identities.” writes Paul Connerton in How Societies Remember. Social memory relies on story-telling, but what specialists call place memory can be used to help trigger social memory through the urban landscape. “Place memory” is philosopher Edward S. Casey’s formulation: “It is the stabilizing persistence of place as a container of experiences that contributes so powerfully to its intrinsic memorability. An alert and alive memory connects spontaneously with place. Ending in it features that favor and parallel its own activities. We might even any that memory is naturally place-oriented or at least place—supported.” Place memory encapsulates the human ability to connect with both the built and natural environments that are entwined in the cultural landscape. It is the key to the power of historic places to help citizens define their public pasts: places trigger memories for insiders, who have shared a common past and at the same time place often can represent shared pasts to outsiders who might be interested in knowing about them in the present.

Place memory is so strong that many different cultures have used “memory palaces” —sequences of imaginary spaces within an imaginary landscape or building or series of buildings— as mnemonic devices.

Dolores Hayden, The Power of Place (1995)





 WES Landscape Architecture, Esterwegen Memorial (2011)



The focus of this paper has been deliberately narrow; it has examined Geoffrey Jellicoe’s ideas far more closely than it has examined the body of his design work. Many would judge Jellicoe to be an outstanding designer, but my contention is simply that being an outstanding designer does not make him an outstanding philosopher. I am willing to concede that it is rather harsh to judge theories presented in talks and articles written over a lifetime as if they were rigorously argued in a journal of philosophical aestehtics. Nevertheless, it should be said that Jellicoe’s ideas are seriously flawed. In particular he is wrong to make the communication of subconscious contents a necessary condition for creating works of art. Nor can such communication be regarded as supplying a sufficient condition.

Jellicoe’s ideas are wrong, but they are not pernicious. They are unlikely to cause any harm in the world, and have served him well enough in his own art. Seen as a personal philosophy rather than a general theory in philosophical aesthetics, they have value. It is naive to expect great artists, whether they be composers, poets or landscape architects, to be profound or consistent thinkers.

Second, though Jellicoe’s theories do not make complete sense, and in some respects are plainly wrong, he is surely right to maintain that landscape architecture can produce works of art. My purpose in this paper has not been to evaluate Jellicoe’s landscape designs, butI would notdisagree with the view that many ofhis own designs would count asart.

Third, we will never find a single criterion against which to judge those things that aspire to be works of art, and we are mistaken to look for one. It will probably benefit landscape architecture if at least some of its products are considered to merit the appellation “work of art”. To this extent its status is more than an academic question. There is not, however, one right or guaranteed way of producing such work. Some will see that as a problem, others as a liberation. Which schemes are works of art, which are not, and which lie on the borderline, will always remain matters of judgement and debate.

Ian Thompson, Can a Landscape be a Work of Art?: an examination of Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe’s theory of aesthetics (1995)

Sir Geoffrey Allan Jellicoe, Sutton Place Gardens (1983)