Islands

A requirement had been that the brutal charm of the still-present trenches, concrete elements and anti-tank walls remain intact. At the same time, the preservation of the site’s ecological value was a priority, in which regard the client supplied Bureau B+B with detailed information. B+B took on the challenge of designing on these terms, with the result that the opposite poles of recreation and nature conservation were both taken fully into account in the design. With regard both to the existing wood landscape and military paraphernalia, little was changed, and simple interventions turned out to be sufficient to turn the rough area into a park. The firm’s free approach to the landscape – for instance the addition of recycled green glass to the loose-fill pavement, which sparkles by day and is illuminated by countless embedded solar-cell lamps in the evening – turned out to be an eye-opener for the German client. The terrain’s different biotopes were classified according to their respective degrees of sensitivity. Thus, the number and location of paths was ultimately determined by how intensively the park is used. Where nature needs more protection, there are, quite simply, fewer paths. There are even a number of spots that are entirely inaccessible to the public. Interestingly enough, though, these were not the ecologically most valuable spots, but those that, due to breaking branches and the danger of falling trees, were selected for clearing. These ‘islands’ are surrounded by fascines and are now used by the University of Brandenburg as research locations. However, despite the no-go areas, the circa 5-km-long network of paths gives visitors the feeling that they are free to wander wherever they wish. The intensive program was concentrated on the park’s periphery, around four ‘terminals’: large, brick-red concrete elements equipped with slides, climbing holds or trampolines. (…) Their form and use are not immediately clear at first glance. This is indeed their strength: you can sit, sunbathe or picnic on them or just look around; they can be used as décor for theatrical productions or outdoor concerts. The magical attraction of the terminals brings the recreational function of the Waldpark into focus – only nature lovers penetrate deeper into the park.

Bureau B+B, Waldpark Postdam (2001)

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Bureau B+B, Waldpark Postdam (2001)

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Islands

Toxic Discourse

Large Parks on disturbed sites should be recognized as landscapes of consumption as well as production. It is tempting for designers of large parks built on abandoned industrial sites to heroicize the buildings and machines that remain. Such strategies, however, privilege the histories of production over the histories of consumption that are also embedded in such sites. This allows visitors to distance themselves from the histories of human, material, and chemical flows on and off the site, and to limit their own culpability in and responsability for such histories.(…)

Toxic discourse is an expression of a collectivity of consumer-citizens who perceive their environment through the lens of uncertainty and risk. Disturbed sites are byproducts of economic policies that viewed nature as a resource and that accepted environmental degradation as the inevitable consequence of technological progress. The experience of designed landscapes on and in disturbed sites can render visible the consequences of the economic, political, and social decisions that led to those risks.

Elizabeth K. Meyer, Uncertain Parks: Disturbed Sites, Citizens and Risk Society (2007)

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Collectif 6, Déjeuner sur l’herbe version

Toxic Discourse

Reservoir

The Third Landscape – an undetermined fragment of the Plantary Garden -designates the sum of the space left over by man to  landscape evolution – to nature alone. Included in this category  are left behind urban or rural sites, transitional spaces, neglected land, swamps, moors, peat bogs, but also  roadsides, shores, railroad embankments, etc. To these unattended areas can be added space set aside , reserves in themselves: inaccessible places, mountain summits, non-cultivatable areas, deserts; institutional reserves: national parks, regional parks, nature reserves.

Compared to the territories submitted to the control and exploitation by man, the Third Landscape forms a privileged area of receptivity to biological diversity. Cities, farms and forestry holdings, sites devoted to industry, tourism, human activity, areas of control and decision permit diversity and, at times, totally exclude it. The variety  of species  in a field, cultivated land, or  managed forest is  low in comparison to that  of a neighboring «unattended» space..

From this point of view, the Third Landscape can be considered as the genetic reservoir of the planet, the space of the future…..

Gilles Clément, The Third Landscape (2003)

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Gilles Clément, Third Landscape Garden at St. Nazaire (2009)

Reservoir

Opportunists?

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Landscape designers may see themselves as agents of mitigation and mediation, but are we really just opportunists?

(…) Should landscape architects have more scruples than others? Landscape architects are no more holy than any other people and should neither place themselves nor be placed in a holier-than-thou position. Saying that, I believe that we should be operating in a way that helps the earth – and all who inhabit it – in any way we can, and to give something back so we leave this world a better place than when we entered it. But I believe this to be true for everyone. However, the topic of the environment is very wide and broad, and there are many, many ways to contribute to this topic, from the heroic site-specific art pieces done by the ‘earthworks artists’ of the 1960s (such as Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt, Michael Heizer and Walter De Maria), to ecological research, to devoting oneself to saving the snail-darter. These are all within the purview of ‘landscape’ and all make contributions. In a field as broad as landscape architecture, it is important that we must recognize that there are equally broad ways of making contributions, and that one way is not necessarily superior to another.

I am definitely an opportunist: I am always looking for opportunities to do something interesting. Given that the landscape is a much more complex, larger and more expensive canvas than most studio art, I must depend on others to supply my ‘canvas’.

Martha Schwartz, Designer, client and user (2005)

Opportunists?

Body

More recently (…), we could observe a new diagram of the human body in relation with its environment. The winning entry of the Phase Shift Park (Taichung) competition by Philippe Rahm architectes and Catherine Mosbach depicts indeed the body, not anymore by its anatomical dimensions but rather by its biological affections by the environment. Heat, humidity and pollution, as three factors having physiological consequences on the body, are mapped and exploited in the creation of the park proposition.

Léopold Lambert, A subversive approach to the ideal normalized body (2012)

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TAICHUNG

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Catherine Mosbach, Phase Shift Taichung Park (2011)

Body

Beyond

When we neglect natural processes in city design, we not only risk the intensification of natural hazard and the degradation of natural resources, we also forfeit a sense of connection to a larger whole beyond ourselves.

Anne Whiston Spirn, The Granite Garden (1988)

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Ridley Scott, Blade Runner (1982)

Beyond

Promise

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While the use of environmental language in landscape architecture is prolific, its direct application to professional practice in landscape architecture has created a problem: More often than not, the words are unfulfilled by the work. Creating “harmony between humans and nature,”“providing unity in nature,”“healing the environment,” and “restoring nature to the city” are goals not easily accomplished. In fact, some within the profession believe that it is impossible to fulfill the promise of those words through the individual projects of landscape architecture. And yet those and other similar phrases are frequently used in the practice of landscape architecture.

Additionally, the profession has developed an environmental canon of sorts that includes contrasting, if not conflicting, rhetorical positions. This ambiguous perspective on environ- mentalism reflects a similar ambiguity in society at large. Recent polls indicate that fifty-eight to seventy-three percent of Americans consider themselves environmentalists. The percent- age of landscape architects claiming to be environmentalists is likely at least as large given the profession’s traditional interest in nature. Despite landscape architects’ substantial expression of concern for the environment, how they see the profession’s role in dealing with an environmental crisis has engendered considerable disagreement, if not discord.

Daniel Joseph Nadenicek and Catherine M. Hastings, Environmental Rhetoric, Environmental Sophism: The Words and Work of Landscape Architecture (2000)

Promise