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)

Counter to the Totality

There is no point in designing a detail that acts counter to the totality, but neither did I want to design something that would underpin Tschumi’s plan. That is why I’ve made a hole in the ground, a new independent space.

Alexandre Chemetoff, (1989)

Away from the action and adventure of the park, the garden is a haven of tranquillity. The cylinder acts as an intermediary, where visitors get a foretaste of the peace of the garden while being distracted by curious froglike gurgIings. The informal space at the end of the gallery, kept clear of the lines of movement, offers a moment of repose. In the garden are some forty species of bamboo, a situation made possible by the experimental climate control. Emphasis on the details, the ‘unimportant things’ such as the difference between, say, Phyllostachys flexuosa and Pleiobastus linearis, makes us forget the world outside and provides the feeling of repose only an enclosed garden can bring. ‘A manner of dreaming, a form of cultivation hidden in the folds of the countryside and of history; an “agricultural theatre” (Alexandre Chemetoff, 1989). In the garden the designer counters the flighty world of film characterizing the Parc de la Villette with the more intense experiential world of the theatre. Watching and experiencing are played off against one another, particularly along the two routes. Through the change in climate we can even physically feel the crossover to this more intimate response to nature.

SYNTHESIS. The Jardin des Bambous is a garden bristling with contradictions. Illusion against making the real visible, enclosure against boundlessness, simplicity against multiformity, a clearly organized strip next to a labyrinth, a scooped-out hollow that shows us the sky. The wall underlining the sense of enclosure is at the same time the binding element bringing the context into view. The bamboo, evoking the illusion and autonomy of an oasis, suggests instead an expansiveness. Even the relationship between form and function is reversed. The hermetic circle introduced at the entrance to the garden is in fact only a component of the route, whereas the residual area at the end of the gallery is the social space of the ensemble. ln the Parc de la Villette, infinite natural space is represented by the grid of follies and the serpentine lines. The Jardin des Bambous complements this expansiveness by proffering an enclosed, even sunken, garden. The vertical lines of the bamboo underscore the relationship with the sky. What is more, the garden visualizes the condition of horizontal expansiveness with row upon row of bamboo, which give concrete form to this abstract notion.

Rob Aben, Saskia de Wit, The Enclosed Garden (1999)

Alexandre Chemetoff, Bambous Garden at La Villette Park (1987)


Industrial Sublime

At Gas Works Park, the industrial works and the waste burial mound were transfigured through site design into aesthetic objects. This was achieved, first, through masking their presence with a thick, green wall separating the parking lot from the park, and then through juxtaposing silhouetted towers in the foreground with the city in the distant background. These objects were made heroic by their isolation and lack of functional context. They evoked the technological sublime awe of our ability both to control nature, space, and time through technology and to create magnificent forms clearly expressive of that control.

Elizabeth K. Meyer, Seized by Sublime Sentiments (1998)

Richard Haag, Gas Works Park (1972)

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