Dig Down

ln its original meaning, ‘landscape’ was not a net draped over the surface of things. lt was a thing shaped from, and the act of shaping, the earth. It was the digging of ditches and canals, the mounding up of berms and walls, the shaping and reshaping of these things over centuries. The substrate was the matrix of this shaping. Landscape went deep beneath the feet into the topsoil, into the gurgling bubbling under that, then deeper still into rock and heat. This early, earthy side of landscape was all but lost in the seventeenth century, and we live in the shadow of that loss. For without knowing the world under your feet, you will never fully know the world before your eyes.

So: get down on your knees. Lay your hands on the ground, then start digging and do not stop until your hands are bloody. Then turn your palms upward and smell the landscape there. Feel the roots of things. 

Thomas Oles, Go with Me. 50 Steps to Landscape Thinking. (2014)

THUPDI + Thinghua University, Shangai Quarry Garden (2010)



Mosbach’s unique education in the life sciences that was precursor to her training in landscape informs and nourishes her aesthetic approach. The ground at Louvre-Lens is designed as a sensitive surface.
The intention is to expose this surface to variations in time, playing with relationships between materials through the processes of contagion, superimposition, and coverings. It is about drawing the ground via flows and traversing different environments in the park.
An existing wood at the edge of the site yields to a large clearing of meadow. which then becomes a mix of hard planted surfaces near the building. The ground is locally perforated to allow water to infiltrate; it folds over to become seating at the entrance to the museum: it protects the building from the intrusion of vehicles and it dips to accommodate a pool. Around the building, desirable mom exists as the first pioneer stratum, collecting atmospheric dust and preparing for successive ecological cycles. For Mosbach, the way the park responds to temporal and ecological dynamics is multidimensional and becomes a new heritage for the site.

Thierry Kandjee & Sarah Hunt, The Invisible Made Present (2013)

Louvre-Lens by SANAA and Imrey Culbert03Louvre-Lens-By-SANAA-59-Hisao-Suzuki Louvre Lens By SanaaCatherine Mosbach, Louvre-Lens Museum Park (2012)



On the West side of Manhattan there is the High Line, a defunct section of the elevated railway, once a ruin where an intrepid soul did occasionally Walk but now converted into a long, thin pedestrian zone so that walkers can stroll high above ground level and look down on the poor suckers beneath them. New Yorkers seem justifiably proud of the High Line and a lot of people, no doubt some of them out-of-towners, do walk there with great enthusiasm, but it’s a very specific kind of walking, actually I think more a form of promenading. People walking up and down, savouring the pleasure of walking, looking around, showing themselves off, checking each other out: very old school. Few, if any, of these people are using the High Line, as a way of getting from A to B. The place functions as a kind of pedestrian theme park, a piece of reclaimed territory, decked out with designer sidewalks and exuberant landscaping while keeping some of the old rails still visible.

The first couple of times I went to the High Line, a small industrial building was being demolished very close to the southern end of the walkway. ]ust one man was doing the job, operating a surprisingly small machine, one with a single long arm with an hydraulic hammer on the end, something that looked like a giant hole punch. Smashing walls and roofs wa easy enough but once in a while the operator encountered metal girders, that were much harder to break down, resulting in an explosion of grinding and juddering, though he always got the job done sooner or later. The whole process delivered quite an ear-bashing to the walkers on the High Line, and clouds o demolition dust rose up and billowed in our direction. The noise and the dirt were the kind of thing that you might think would spoil a good walk, But it didn’t. I, naturally, absolutely loved it, but so did most of the other walkers. We paused in our walking, moved to the side of the High Line, pressed up against the railing and stared down in fascination to see how one man could destroy aiwhole building. A certain amount of  ruin, the chance to see a ruin being made, didn’t spoil the walk at all: it made it. If I’m ever called upon to design la pedestrian theme park I’ll make sure there’s some industrial-scale destruction going on there.

  Geoff Nicholson, Walking in Ruins (2013)

Cities are loosing the places where one can create an affective relationship with a landscape. Instead, the traces of history are now becoming luna parks as Geoff Nicholson say. With the over-design of heritage, cities identity is becoming just propaganda, and business that threatens the citizen’s lives in many ways.There is a pleasure in the ruins… when a new design let them survive, avoiding their commodification and creating a place that visitors can make theirs. In these projects, the infra-design allows the feeling of discovering and the relief in front of the over-determinated spaces. Indeed, this kind of spaces invites us to transform them, as a way of enrichment of the information and freedom of expression and they have the shinning aura of the real too.  



Siiri Vallner, The Pier (2012)



Visual culture is the primary conduit for globalization, with ideas travelling with ease across the Internet, on television, films and in print media. Inevitably, this leads to a reduction in the range of sensory experience to almost a single sense, where sight and sometimes sound become the sole means of relating to landscape. The focus on the visual – or ocularcentrism – is one of the threads of research that informs the tension between the global and landscape. Ocularcentrism is not a recent practice, but has influenced the landscape for centuries, with the overemphasis on the visual gaining ground through theories like perspective and the picturesque, and the rise of viewing-based practices such as museums, zoos and tourism. Reclaiming the landscape from an ocularcentrist perspective is one of the imperatives for those seeking to resist the homogenising influence of globalization. 

Jacky Bowring, Navigating the global, the regional and the local: researching globalization and landscape (2013)

Germán del Sol, Termas Geométricas (2009)


Plastic, Cosmological and Spatial

Does the landscape need to be linked to be present as a form of awareness? Does the body cooperate with the exterior in constructing liveable spatial and temporal coherence? It is the very possibility of our own body which makes interaction possible. Hence the question as to how my body can dispose of the landscape. The methodological elements in the present landscape didactic are: commitment, personal recognition of perception, announcement and production. The journey and experience of contours make it possible to unravel the concrete constitution of a space. Its edges will contribute as fully to its exploration as will its practices and uses. When the landscape and urban zones are conjectured as material and immaterial interrelationships of things and beings, students do not speak of objects but rather of relationships experienced within the mobility of time and the continuity of space. A means of conceiving the landscape is thus established.

The landscape is conceived of here as being a plastic, cosmological and spatial expression of the milieu affected by the bodily reality of living beings.

Françoise Crémel, A Plane of Consistency for the Landscape: the Body as a Documentary Tool (2013)

B.A.S. + Planergruppe Oberhausen, Therapeutic Park in Brilon (2015)



Parks are not

Parks are not the answer. Not for impoverished cities plagued with socio-economic crises that are painfully embodied in immense tracts of land abandoned by defunct industries and antiquated infrastructure. The question is: what if reframing formerly urban fallow sites as fertile ground for regeneration constitutes a means for a city to reinvent itself? When traditional redevelopment under-delivers or fails to materialize, as it often does in times of fiscal distress, can landscape architects offer resourceful design strategies that require a new way of seeing and a fresh vocabulary?

The term ‘wildland’ posited here attempts to brand cultivated urban wilds along with other unconventional landscape- based tactics to fill the gaps and dispel the stigma of disinvestment. Can wildland assume a role as healthy urban fabric, no lesser an asset than parkland? For well over a decade, notable examples in Germany invented ‘urban nature parks’ promoted by progressive planning policies to convert fallow land into productive resources for the current and future city. Yet American municipalities default to mowed lawns to keep blight at bay, albeit at a great cost. The unfortunate urge to tame urban wilds denies the reality of urban entropy and sacrifices the socio-ecological benefits that citizens could harvest from a landscape with a savage tenacity.

Julie Bargmann, Why not Wild? (2012)

GTL Gnüchtel Triebswetter Landschaftsarchitekten, Old Niddawiesen Airfield (2004)


Formal Properties?

A surface is a living system with its own structure and cycles of production. It is a performative medium that conveys water and supports organisms like bacteria, fungi, plants, and animal life. It is the result of processes that take place under it such as the decomposition of rocks and their migration upwards from the depth of the ground. It is also the result of processes that take place over it like erosion caused by wind, water, and human activity. It responds to external systems like climactic patterns that evolve in their own composition. In its biological sense, the surface in landscape architecture is less a boundary and more a zone of connectivity. It is a place where vegetational, hydrological, and soil systems interact.

Anita Berrizbeitia, Surfaces In-Depth (2012)

If we had this conversation twenty years ago there would be discussion of the formal properties of surface. We might be looking at the paintings of Malevich or Kandinsky, or the photography of Gursky.

James Corner, Surfaces In-Depth (2012)

Andreas-Gursky-2 andreasgursky070521_560 Andreas-Gursky-Nha-Trang-20041

zcs_08_andreas_gursky_architecture_017004_andreas-gursky_theredlistAndreas Gursky, photographs

Andreas Gursky, Rhein II (1999)


Landscape has -we saw many images- a bit of an amorphous image. When people think about landscape they don’t think of rigor, of order, of a formal element but rather of something very free, wild and uncontrollable. (…) We never want to reproduce nature or a landscape but we always want to make clear what is tamed, that we use an aesthetic that always works with elements of the landscape -the reason for an “architectural landscape”. That’s why we also create spaces – elements of architecture, for example, spaces, axes, points of high elevation, we create these elements in the landscape as architectural elements, but we always try to work with the contrast between plants and architecture.

Stephan Lenzen, Interview (2012) 7.04.01_Dyck_7 schloss-dyck-10049p44_grande_proyecto_04057Dyck-Castle-by-Stephan-Lenzen-01

p44_grande_proyecto_11 p44_grande_proyecto_10Stephan Lenzen + RMP Landschaftsarchitecten, New Gardens in the Dyck Field (2002)



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)



Take One Creative, Stone River: The Passion of Jon Piasecki (2011)

 I built this project by myself. There were no other laborers.  I hammered each stone joint and moved each stone down the path on a small wooden cart. I transferred tens of tons of gravel and sand as a setting bed with a wheelbarrow and I moved nearly 400 tons of stone in the wall and as paving over the 800-foot length of the path. I opened the existing stonewall, chose the course of the path within it and rejoined the residual wall stone in such a way that the path appears to have grown organically within this stonewall where it resides. I was able to personally lay stones so as to avoid individual clumps of ferns, standing trees, fallen logs and existing stones with mossy growths in the wall. This was done in an attempt to preserve as much as of the preexisting life of the enormous wall as possible. (…)

This project is an illustration of the labor of one person inspired to change the world. In this instance by joining stone and by making a path into the woods with great sensitivity, I am working to heal, in a small way, the rift between culture and nature that is intrinsic to our modern relationship to the land.

Today, design and fabrication are generally distinct entities. Labor is devalued.  Unknown people toil to make our things. Machines spew out the stuff of our needs and desires and the making of them dehumanizes the production class and despoils the land.  Of course the machines are essential, and some disconnect between design and fabrication is inevitable, but this project openly asks if perhaps our fascination with the virtual over the actual, or with design over build, has gone too far? I would suggest that it has and that this disconnect certainly harms nature but it endangers our humanity even more so.

The goal of this project is to integrate the visitor with nature as he or she walks along this path through the woods. I hope to help these visitors feel the life and wonder of the natural world of which we all are a part.

Jon Piasecki, Stone River (2010)



Jon Piasecki, Stone River (2010)