Exchange with the Audience

In other words, the form of the artwork is in the exchange with the audience. In these terms, the artist becomes more a mediator, a person who fosters and provides situations of exchange, than a creator of objects. For Bourriaud, these art practices establish particular social relations for particular people; the artist tries to keep a personal contact with the public that participates in the exchange, fostering what he calls a “friendship culture”, in contraposition to the impersonal, mass production of the culture industries. (…)

It looks like the “friendship culture” of these artworks is not necessarily based on a premise of absolute equality between artist and public, and even less the cancellation of the distinction of one and the other, art and everyday life, but rather a play between them. Still, as we will see, this does not necessarily question the utility of notions of the gift and the distributed person to describe these practices; anthropological theories of the gift are not a celebration of egalitarianism and community-building, but they also underscore the aspects of hierarchy and the relations of power that these practices may entail.

Roger Sansi, Art, Anthropology and the Gift (2015)

ASPECT Studios, Metcalfe Park (2015)

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Natural Capital

The city is a landscape; its soils and geology define its fundamental character. Our work and interests stem from understanding time and territory, the geology and wider landscape patterns, the river catchment with propositions for water sensitive urban design, the urban forest with how liveable the city is and how resilient the urban dweller feels. Our work ranges from strategic planning to forensic analysis of the below-ground condition, considering the soil’s biological complexity and its capacity for yield and absorption. Collaborations enable our practice to reach widely into the marginal territories that inform our work; the poetry and science of soils; the sound of geology; the value of shared grass roots knowledge; the biomimetics of spider sheet webs. Our profession concerns that which makes land a landscape, the people who inhabit it and the resilience of the environment and the individual that together create city communities in all their density and diversity. We seek an archaeological narrative and creative ways of how to stimulate the stewardship of the city’s natural capital.

Johanna Gibbons, Interview (2015)

Johanna Gibbons & J+L Gibbons + Muf Architecture – Art, Dalston Eastern Curve Gardens (2009)

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Misuse

The sly and the clever creatively misuse words and torture “landscape” in particular. Cityscape, townscape, streetscape, brainscape, hairscape, cloudscape, airscape, hardscape, bedscape, and other nonce words exist because “landscape” is now a promiscuous word indeed. Its progeny confuse anyone looking around thoughtfully, even at the ocean. In art history circles, seascape designates a concept and image type older than “landscape,” something even young children seem to know when asked which is older, the sea or the fland. They look up from their pails and shovels, away from their castles and embankments, walls and gateways, gaze seaward and instinctively know the great  age of the sea and the comparative newness of the land. Variable, moody, implacable, unstable, the sea endures beyond shovels and shaping. The built fabric inland from the beach and dunes appears stable, and so beguiles and reassures the thoughtless. It lends itself to advertising hype, to word-making about making and shaping, to expressions like moral landscape and financial landscape, phrases designating things not subject to sudden sea change. Its complexity occludes the very words intended to name its components and facilitate understanding, especially the basic, old words children learn before they learn to read.

 

John Stilgoe, What is Landscape? (2015)

 

Mayslits Kassif Architects, Tel Aviv Port Public Space Regeneration (2008)

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Tripled War

Floods. Droughts. Cyclones (hurricanes and typhoons). Tornados. Tsunamis. Wildfires. Volcanic eruptions. Landslides. Earthquakes. World news brings the calamities of natural disasters from all corners of the planet close to home via newspapers, television, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Meanwhile, the travesties of outright man-made disasters through armed conflict continue to flare across continents and threaten global security. Both are devastating, bring death and wreak havoc on the built and natural environment. The Norwegian Refugee Council Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC-IDMC) reported that in 2013, 22 million people were driven from their homes through a combination of mega and small natural disasters_three times more than through war and conflict in the same period. The risk of such disasters is also rising, outpacing population growth and even rapid urbanization. Global population has doubled since the 1970s and urban concentrations have tripled since that time, particularly in vulnerable countries. IDMC director, Alfredo Zamudio, claimed that ‘most disasters are as much man-made as they are natural. Better urban planning, flood defenses, and building standards could mitigate much of their impact’. (…)

Clearly, the profession has an increasingly important role to play. Preparedness for impending disasters and the reduction of environmental risk is well within the purview of design. Landscape architects can work across scales to build resilience into landscapes and territories before disasters can happen, and develop various projects that mitigate risks and adapt to vulnerability and exposure.

Kelly Shannon, Preemptive design opportunities to mitigate disasters (2015)

Martin Knuijt + OKRA, Katwijt Coastal Defence (2008- )

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Inflexible

Traditionally, for example in French formal gardens of the Baroque era, landscape architects intended to control and tame nature or to enhance its beauty by manipulating temporal qualities and slowing change. ln contrast, in the nineteenth century, as Frederick Law Olmsted and H. W. S. Cleveland were defining the emerging practice of landscape architecture, they often took a different stance, acknowledging and working with characteristics of time and change. This work was furthered by designers into the early twentieth century. However, by the mid-century, such approaches were viewed with less enthusiasm as modernism and issues of professionalism sought to read landscape design as a form of architectural design. This approach discounted the ephemeral and dynamic nature of the landscape medium, instead describing projects as formally determined, rigid spatial scenarios.
Inflexible, expensive, and maintenance-intensive solutions designed to withstand time resulted. (…) [T]he Parterre Garden at the Kempinski Airport Hotel in Munich, Germany, designed by Peter Walker and Partners in collaboration with the local Rainer Schmidt Landscape Architecture firm, and built in the mid-1990s. This public garden, characterized by two overlapping orthogonal grid systems and the use of highly manicured elements, represents a contemporary, yet traditionally designed, formally-determined and static high-maintenance project. Such a landscape type, conceived to remain static over time, fails to balance placemaking and the visual-spatial with processuality.
Emphasizing a common problem with such stable and artistic approaches to landscape design, the landscape architect Anne Whiston Spirn stresses that “[a]rchitects and landscape architects tend to focus not on process, but on form and material; when designs fail to be substantiated in the real world, it is ohen because designers ignore the processes that shape them during and after construction”. (…)
A strong focus on indeterminacy and adaptability can work against the creation of well-crafted, usable landscapes. Thus, the key question at hand is: how much process is too much process? How do we as designers strike a project-appropriate balance between the potentially conflicting design goals of process and placemaking?
First, let us briefly examine the dimension of time. Many elements in natural and designed landscapes mark time in space. Sundials are the most literal example of such a materialization of time. Time itself however, is invisible to humans-we cannot sense it. Since antiquity, philosophers, artists, and scientists have worked to explain the interrelated concepts of space and time. Barbara Adam, a British expert in the area of socio-environmental time, notes that “[n]ature, the environment and sustainability… are not merely matters of space but fundamentally temporal realms, processes and concepts. Their temporality… is far from simple and singular”.
Similarly, in “The Temporality of` the Landscape,” social anthropologist Tim Ingold reminds us of a key characteristic of the medium we work with. He insists that “the landscape is never complete: neither ‘built’ nor ‘unbuilt,’ it is perpetually under construction”.

Judith Stilgenbauer, Processcapes: Dynamic Placemaking (2015)

Peter Walker + PWP Landscape Architecture, Hilton Hotel (former Kempinski) Gardens (1994)

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Shapely City

In a 1958 editorial of the journal Landscape Architecture, the journalist Grady Clay observed that ‘more men […] than ever before are working to shape our urban landscape according to principles of design’. Clay’s editorial was entitled ‘Shapely Women and Cities: What’s the Urban Equivalent of “38–24–34”?’ In sexist lingo common at the time, he compared the formal and aesthetic qualities of the city to the customary figures used to describe the beauty of the ideal female body. He noted that ‘few influences more subtly repel our advances or more surely arouse us than the spatial qualities of our cities’. Clay was writing when the American city was subject to white flight, disinvestment in the urban core, and large urban reconstruction projects characterized by postwar modernism. Jane Jacobs was criticizing what she considered socially alienating urban renewal schemes, while Kevin Lynch and his colleagues at MIT were conducting studies into the visual perception of cities. In a speech held in 1960, Clay deplored the unordered growth of cities and argued that a new urban environment had to be created that was ‘not only workable but beautiful’. He disagreed with what he considered a pervasive argument at the time, that ‘any concern with the final, visible results of this filling-up process i.e. urban growth is sissified, European, and possibly un-American’. Clay’s plea revealed the residue of the conflicted nineteenth-century gendered discourse revolving around the city, both in Europe and the United States. It also shows that he was primarily addressing men, despite the fact that women had been active in shaping the city for a while. One of the means women had been using to assert themselves as activists, reformers, and design professionals in the public realm was the planting of street trees. 

By focusing on the role that North American women have played in the efforts of greening the city, in particular street tree planting, this article argues that female landscape architects, as well as social and environmental activists, embraced street trees as a means and symbol of empowerment, emancipation, and even resistance. The women transgressed the separation of private and public spheres, and the binary of male-coded architecture and female-coded nature by initiating and playing a role in the planting, management, maintenance, and care of street trees. The trees themselves were both living nature, and architectural, structural elements in the modern public urban landscape and, therefore, provided an ideal material for this transgression. Street trees were an aid for female designers and activists to embrace their own otherness and they were a means of empowerment to ‘conquer’, reimagine, and construct relationships with the city.

 

Sonja Dümpelmann, Designing the ‘shapely city’: women, trees, and the city (2015)

Gabrielle Kiefer + Büro Kiefer, Johannisthal-Adlershof Landscape Park (2005)

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Resilience

Long-term sustainability necessitates an inherent and essential capacity for resilience – the ability to recover from disturbance, to accommodate change, and to function in a state of health. In this sense, sustainability typically means the dynamic balance between social-cultural, economic and ecological domains of human behavior necessary for humankind’s long-term surviving and thriving. As such, long-term sustainability sits squarely in the domain of human intention and activity – and thus – design; it should not be confused with the ultimately impossible realm of managing “the environment” as an object separate from human action. Instead, the challenge of sustainability is very much one for design, and specifically, design for resilience.

A growing response to the increasing prevalence of major storm events has been the development of political rhetoric around the need for long-term sustainability, and in particular, its prerequisite of resilience in the face of vulnerability. As an emerging policy concept, resilience refers generally to the ability of an ecosystem to with- stand and absorb change to prevailing environmental conditions; in an empirical sense, resilience is the amount of change or disruption an ecosystem can absorb and, following these change events, return to a recognizable steady state in which the system retains most of its structures, functions and feedbacks. In both contexts, resilience is a well-established concept in complex ecological systems research, with a history in resource management, governance and strategic planning. Yet despite more than two decades of this research, the development of policy strategies and design applications related to resilience is relatively recent. While there was a significant political call for (implied) resilience planning following New York’s Superstorm Sandy in 2011 and the ice storm of 2013 in Toronto and the North- Eastern US, there is still a widespread lack of coordinated governance, established benchmarks, implemented policy applications, tangible design strategies, and few (if any) empirical measures of success related to climate change adaptation. There has been too little critical analysis and reflection on the need to understand, unpack and cultivate resilience beyond the rhetoric and to develop specific tactics for design. Design for resilience would benefit from an evidence-based approach that contributes to adaptive and ecologically responsive design in the face of complexity, uncertainty and vulnerability. Put simply: What does a resilient world look like, how does it behave and how do we design for resilience?

Nina-Marie Lister,  Resilience. Designing the new sustainability (2015)

Landslag, Anti Avalanche structure for Siglufjördur (2011)

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