Impervious

If the disciplines of urban planning and civil engineering respectively form the impervious architecture and fixed framework of cities of Western industrial society today, then planners and engineers are thefoot soldiers in the maintenance and management of the myth of instrumental reason. Perpetuated by State-driven policy, the over-emphasis on “legibility” in strategies of abstraction (land use keys) and data aggregation (demographics) have simplified complex information, and where “predictions have often been wildly wrong.” The risk of reason is personified in the positivist role of technocratic engineer “the best exemplar of the power of expertise… reinforcing directly and indirectly the rule of instrumentalism and unending economic growth. Over time, the implementation of legal limits, and categories of accountability-institutionalized through standardization and systematization, have gradually contributed to the rigid and segregated space of cities today. “The modern engineering enterprise is primarily a colonizing project, ” both self-aggrandizing and totalizing. Removed more and more from regional resources and dynamic biophysical processes, the neutralization and normalization of process is heightened by the security found in quantitative logic and numerical precision. Anthropocentric economies of expediency and exactitude simply externalized ecologies of race, class, and gender. The assumed neutrality of infrastructure is perhaps its most dangerous weapon.

Pierre Bélanger, Is Landscape Infrastructure? (2016)

DnD Landschaftsplanung, Earth Cubes on the Vienna Outer-Ring Motorway (2005)

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Header: Pierre Bélanger + OPSYS, Waste Flows, Backflows, and Reflows, Maas-Rhine River Delta, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, (2009)

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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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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Metamorphosis

Climate change is creating existential moments of decision. This is unintended, unseen, unwanted, and is neither goal oriented nor ideologically driven. The literature on climate change has become a supermarket for apocalyptic scenarios. Instead, the focus should be on what is now emerging—future structures, norms, and new beginnings.

Metamorphosis is about a new way of generating and implementing norms in the age of climate change. A brief look at the history of world risk society illustrates this concept. Before Hiroshima happened, no one understood the power of nuclear weapons; but afterward, the sense of violation created a strong normative and political momentum: “Never again Hiroshima!” Violations of human existence like Hiroshima induce anthropological shocks and social catharsis, challenging and changing the order of things from within.

“Never again Holocaust!” This metamorphosis decouples our normative horizons from existing norms and laws. I am referring here to something profound. A former basic principle of national law was that an act could not be judged in hindsight against a law that did not exist at the time the act was committed. So while it was legal under Nazi law to kill Jews, it became, in hindsight, a crime against humanity. It was not simply a law that changed, but our social horizons—our very being in the world. This is exactly what I mean by metamorphosis. In the case of climate change as a moment of metamorphosis, nature, society, and politics coalesce.

Ulrich Beck. How Climate Change Might Save the World: Metamorphosis. (2014)

Ecosistema Urbano, Eco Boulevard Vallecas (2007)

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Header: Maurits Cornelis Escher, Metamorphosis II (1940)

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)

However, while the Downsview Park does reclaim a form of agency for architecture at the scale of the city, it still leaves open the question he actual citizens. It is in this respect that the Jade Eco Park gives an extraordinary response, challenging the city-as-a-forest paradigm in a radical way. The city-as-a-forest embodies all the contradictions of our relationship with the state of nature, a condition that is seen both as barbarism but also innocence, productive ground but also wild junkspace: Held but also jungle. It is to this jungle that the jade Eco Park reacts by becoming, quite explicitly, a machine: while the visitor is allowed to become fully just an animal body, architecture takes control of the jungle. But Mies’s and Laugier’s ‘jungle’, ultimately, is a narrative trope before anything else: that is to say, a cultural trope, rather than a spatial one. On the contrary, by working on physical reactions, the Jade Eco Park asks the users to recuperate a primordial form of agency: the awareness of one’s own body. In doing so, Rahm and Mosbach’s project stands out as it questions the very use of the word landscape. Landscape, as a term, is inextricably linked to sight – a sense that becomes almost irrelevant in the haptic environment of the jade Eco Park. And, after all, the highest kind of critical agency lies perhaps in the possibility to rethink and redeine the intellectual categories we work with as architects, and as human beings.

Maria Shéhérazade Giudici, How to live in a jungle. The (bio)politics of the park as urban model. (2018)

TAICHUNG taichung3 A-futuristic-new-park-for-Taichung-07 A-futuristic-new-park-for-Taichung-01 6_2013-0808_MasterPlan A_v4-1

Philippe Rahm & Catherine Mosbach, Jade Park, Taichung (2011-2016)

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Inevitable

 Nina-Marie Lister, Interview with Jared Green (2011)

Mahan Rykiel Associates, Design with Dredge: Resilient Infrastructure for Chesapeake Bay (2017)

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Machines

Two main aspects can define a landscape machine: for one, its identification as ‘machine’ should be taken quite literally. These are machines that have a certain material input and output and are driven by a critical amount of energy input. For example, in the estuaries of the south-west Netherlands landscape machines can be related to water, salt, sediments and surplus nutrients as input, and clean water, food, blue energy and silted-up lands as output. Their fuels are solar energy, enabling photosynthesis, providing heat, and tidal forces influenced by the moon. The rationale behind the design includes coastal defence, sustainable fisheries and agriculture and nature development goals. 

Secondly, the natural processes within the landscape machine are continuously interfering with each other and therefore affecting the type, shape, size and position of the resulting landscape components. The landscape machine is evolving through interaction with physical, chemical and ecological processes. Its mechanical components are natural processes or the specific behaviour of flocks of animals that themselves are affected by on-going events. This implies that parts of the machine may fade out or even vanish and that new functional parts may come into being. The landscape changes, the machine changes, but the input does not change. A key difference between conventional farmland and a landscape machine is that succession is not prevented in the latter.

Big Nature

Our performance -how we consume, how we waste- is incontrovertibly connected to the state of the environment. We have always had a desirous relation to nature- whether agrarian or industrial, literary or aesthetic. As our technological culture accelerates toward entrepreneurial environments, bonding with Big Nature may come… well, naturally.

Recently, critic and landscape architect Richard Weller pointed out that “landscape architecture is yet to really have its own modernism, an ecological modernity, an ecology free of romanticism and aesthetics”. Because of their functionalism, we are tempted to understand these nexts landscapes as a kind of ecomodernism. But to flourish, they will need to appeal, if not to our sense of romance, at least to our sensibility about how decisions we make today impact the future. We are no longer innocent; contemporary culture is coming to grisps with the Anthropocene epoch, a period that, Nobel Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen suggests, began in the late 1700s with the onslaught of fueled human activity.

The onus of our new environmentalism includes a call for an advanced stewardship that is not just about protection or remediation, but an entrepreneurial redefinition of our relationship to nature.

Jane Amidon, Big Nature (2010)

Kongjian Yu + Turenscape, Qunli Stormwater Park (2011)

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Corporate Ecologies

The magnitude of the social, political, economic and environmental effects of corporations as the dominant institutions of our time is extraordinary and overwhelming. Yet there is tremendous open-ended design potential in the processes and constructed landscape systems that humanity employs to produce goods and services. Approaching corporations as networked landscape ecologies reveals the expanded role landscape architecture can play in the analysis and design of these systems. The discipline of landscape architecture excels at the analysis of site, and the envisioning of corporate ecologies advocates more intensive investigations of these vast, insufficiently studied productive landscapes. Myriad forms and interrelationships of these systems have yet to be mapped and understood. As these ecologies are revealed and more extensively defined, they can be more broadly affected, either by trying to finesse how these systems fit into the landscape or by designing better systems.

Corporate ecology contrasts what corporate landscape has historically signified in landscape architecture discourse and practices (a preoccupation with the rarified symbolic content of corporate headquarters) with the broader implications and design opportunities latent in ubiquitous production sites by considering corporations as complex spatial ecologies. The historical definition of corporate landscape is a relic of past trends and motivations in landscape architectural practice such as object and scenic-based design practices that grew out of 18th-century landscape painting traditions, earlier professional marketing and media (how design offices marketed their services and the types of projects that were published in trade magazines) and how corporations have historically operated. However, all of these trends have since shifted; ecological performance criteria have returned to the foreground of contemporary design theory and practice, and corporations have, however reluctantly, been forced to consider a wider range of success criteria for their investors and customers than profit alone. Over the last decade, there has been a significant change in both consumer and investor expectations, evidenced in the exponential increase in Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) stocks, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), International Standards of Organization (ISO) performance ratings, and the fact that nearly every corporate website has a section devoted to sustainability and concern for the environment. Diminishing resources and rising energy costs are also forcing corporations to find more efficient, sustainable operating solutions.

Brett Milligan, Corporate ecologies
 (2010)

Bret Milligan et alt., Schemes of the networked ecologies (2010)

Nostalgia

1. Nostalgia for the past and utopian dreams for the future prevent us from looking at our present.
2. Nature is the flow of change within which humans exist.  Evolution is its history. Ecology is our understanding of its present phase.
3.  All things in nature are constantly changing.  Landscape artists need to  design to allow for change, while seeking a new course that enhances the coexistence of humans with the rest of nature.
4.  Landscape forms encapsulate unseen assumptions. To expose them is to enter the economic and aesthetic struggles of our times.
5.  Historical precedents do not support the common prejudice that human intervention is always harmful to the rest of nature.
6.  Shifts are taking place before our eyes. Landscape artists and architects need to give them a name and make them visible.  Aesthetic expertise is needed to enable the transforming relations between humans and the rest of nature to break through into public spaces.
7.  High visibility, multiple alliances, and public support are critical to new landscape genres that portray our present.
8.  Landscape—through new landscapes—enters the city and modifies our way of being in it.
9.  New landscapes can become niches for species forced out of their original environment.
10. The new view of plants as groups of interrelated species modifying each other, rather than as separate and fixed, exemplifies fluidity—a main motif of landscape form.
11. Nostalgic images of nature are readily accepted, but they are like stage scenery for the wrong play.
12. In his History of the Modern Taste in Gardening (1780), Horace Walpole says William Kent “was the first to leap the fence and show that the whole of nature was a garden.” Today landscape “has leapt the fence” in the opposite direction, to the city, making it part of nature.
13. Existing urban spaces can be rescued from their current damaging interaction with nature.
14. Landscape artists can reveal the forces of nature underlying cities, creating a new urban identity from them.
15. Landscape can create meeting places where people can delight in unexpected forms  and spaces, inventing why and how they are to be appreciated.
16. A landscape, like a moment, never happens twice. This lack of fixity is landscape’s asset.
17.  We can heighten the desire for new interactions between humans and nature where it is least expected: in derelict spaces.
18. Emerging landscapes are becoming brand new actors on the political stage.
19. Landscape renders the city as constantly evolving in response to climate, geography, and history.
20. Landscape can show artistic intention without imposing a predetermined meaning.
21. Landscape can bridge the line between ourselves and other parts of nature—between ourselves and a river.
22. Landscape is becoming the main actor of the urban stage, not just a destination.
23. The edge between architecture and landscape can be porous.
24. Landscape can be like poetry, highly suggestive and open to multiple interpretations.
25. We must put the twenty-first century city in nature rather than put nature in the city. To put a city in nature will mean using engineered systems that function as those in nature and deriving form from them.

Diana Balmori, A Landscape Manifesto (2010)

Diana Balmori + Balmori Associates, GrowOnUs (2015)

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