Reuse

All landscape is reuse, whether through the intervention of human action or through the earth’s continual formation in a process that, in the words of geologist James Hutton, ‘has no vestiges of a beginning, nor prospects of and end’. Acting in parallel, human and non-human agents work to remake the surface of the earth and its ecosystems, though on different material and temporal scales and with different impacts, often working against each other. Thus, it is not possible to ‘discard’ landscape, only to reuse it. Continual formation and reformation is central to Georg Simmel’s definition of landscape. In his 1913 essay ‘Philosophy of Landscape’, he defines it as a subset of that which is not divisible: nature. In the tension between landscape’s claim for autonomy against ‘the infinite interconnectedness of objects, the uninterrupted creation and destruction of forms’, a boundary, says Simmel, is essential. In this essay I posit that to construct this tension between the discrete and the continuous, and to make its representation visible, is both the work of design and the work of criticism in the age of global disruption.

In the intervening century since the publication of Simmel’s essay, capitalism has advanced to form a globally interconnected and undifferentiated world. Many boundaries have disappeared while others have been formed as economies and priorities shift, as the strength of the institutions that sanction landscape wanes, as nature’s entropic forces soften its structures. Still, it must be emphasized, landscapes continue to be an act of will, a social product that registers the conflicts, the diverse interests, the tensions and the pressures that act on it. As such, landscapes do not just appear on their own, they must be simultaneously created, kept, maintained, and protected through institutions and governance. In this way they are demarcated, strongly or more subtly.

Anita Berrizbeitia, Criticism in the age of global disruption (2018)

Martí Franch + EMF,  Jordi Badia + BAAS, Can Framis Museum Gardens (2009)

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Lexicon

DI: You talked about a sort of reverse-engineered forest in the Novartis pilots and about the concrete applications of your design theories. My question would be: do you come back and revise your design database? In other words, after building your prototypes and pilots, do you check the results against your catalog of tree spacing, screen, buffer, edge?

MD: Of course, we work in both directions. Also, maintenance comes into play. Some of our projects have grown and need to be revisited, others require specific upkeep. For instance, I will likely consult on the pruning regime for the plantings of the Saint Louis Art Museum addition. Pruning sounds like a trivial matter but it is, in fact, essential to the design concept. We need to accompany the project as it evolves and matures. This also allows us to check the validity of design concepts. What works, what doesn’t work. In Bordeaux, for instance, the Parc aux Angéliques which is located on the right bank of the river Garonne, is planted with very young trees. It looks more like a nursery than it does a typical park or garden. So we have to be vigilant that our design intentions are maintained. Sometimes, of course, we realize that a certain tree spacing is not appropriate-too tight or too wide-and we revise the layout, but maintenance is a serious issue. 

Several of our current public commissions are long-term and we have to be cunning. A garden is never finished and neither are our landscapes. The projects for the right bank of Bordeaux, for instance, are to be implemented over twenty years or longer. They evolve, conditions change, and we need to be present throughout this evolution, accompanying, modifying, and revising the structure. lt is ultimately a living organism that provides immense pleasure. This is a cliché, but it is very satisfying, very moving, to come back ten years later and witness growth. I don’t often speak about this aspect of my practice, but l love trees.

DI: Over the years you have acquired a landscape lexicon. You speak of agricultural traces, urban forests, tree spacing, maintenance. There is a matter-of-fact quality to these elements, precedents, and techniques. There is a near transposition from nursery to landscape in your practice. Could you speak about the relation between these working landscapes, whether pertaining to agriculture or nurseries, and your own design process?

MD: This is very important. I see the agricultural landscape as a construction site with furrows, fences, hedgerows, ditches. It is being built and it is beautiful. Similarly, nurseries are beautiful, even in the trees are very young. The appreciation of these landscapes is inherently tied to an understanding of why things are done a certain way. The other reason behind my interest in nurseries is that I hate young parks, and as a landscape architect I have to deal with young parks. Some of my fellow landscape architects’ young parks look terrible. You could use the image of ugly babies. You see lawn and young trees, and with some imagination, you can foresee how this and that tree will look in a century and how this park could develop over time, but in my lifetime, it will not look like much. Light fixtures and fancy furniture prematurely announce this future park, but now, it’s like a big baby wearing accessories or jewelry. I love that image! So, to go back to your question, I imported the vocabulary of nurseries to deal with this question of young parks. Maybe they become old nurseries instead of big babies, but they have an immediate presence. I can work with this material: the plantings can be cut, if necessary, burned, or shaped. These plantings have a presence.

Dorothée Imbert, A Landscape Inventory. Michel Desvigne Paysagiste (2018) 

Michel Desvigne and Christine Dalnoky, Square des Boleaux (1989-1992)

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Cyborg

I have argued that in bringing together landscape design, infrastructure, and the concept of the cyborg, a framework emerges that enables land- scape designers to shape future landscapes based on the integration and synthesis of human and non-human actors as well as biotic and abiotic processes. The three examples in this article illustrate how the profession is already (knowingly or unknowingly) working within this framework. Purposefully designed as co-dependent socioecological networks, these projects transform and choreograph landscape processes across multiple spatial and temporal scales. This results in new spatial and material conditions, exchanges, and temporalities that enrich the experience of everyday life; promoting an aesthetic that is predicated on relationships between dynamic things and systems, not static, single objects alone. (…)

Taken together, the design approach outlined in this article offers tremendous opportunities for the discipline of landscape architecture. The cyborg challenges us to reconsider our relationship with the environment and technology, thereby prompting designers to reimagine the physical nature of these metabolic interactions. An overemphasis on control and efficiency gives way to dynamic and open-ended linkages between people’s intentions for the landscape and the non-anthropogenic forces at work. By structuring non-hierarchical relationships and co-evolutionary processes, it is possible to create more sustainable and resilient interactions among all elements, actors, and systems that make up complex socio-ecological systems. In doing so, cyborg landscapes aspire to create multifunctional landscapes that do not simply operate in the present, but learn from experiences in order to adapt and grow smarter over time.

Kees Lokman, Cyborg landscapes: Choreographing resilient interactions between infrastructure, ecology, and society (2017)

Kate Orff + SCAPE, Oyster-tecture Gowanus (2010)

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Interconnectedness

Since the 1990s, the landscape field has reinvented itself in different guises including, but not limited to: landscape-as-art, landscape urbanism and landscape infrastructure. Each of these frameworks combines new ways of thinking about the city as an environmental system with varying emphases on form, performance, and program. Further, technological advances in digital terrain modeling, Google Earth, diagramming, and the use of computer programs to generate photorealistic perspectives have all changed the content of landscape architectural design processes and content.

Beyond technology, the field has been expanded and enriched by an expanded understanding of process derived from evolving ecological theory, including the systems-based emphasis of landscape ecologists such as Eugene Odum, who developed the modern notion of ecology as an integrated discipline. Odum’s work has provided a ground for further evolution in the topic by Richard T.T. Forman, Steward Pickett, Steven Handel, and Nina-Marie Lister, among many others. This emphasis provides a crucial corrective to the traditional, interventionist mode of landscape architecture and the emphasis on ecological systems in this vein can to be further enriched with an equal attention to sociology and political science. Moving forward, we need to think analytically about the interconnectedness of social and physical systems, knit these strands together, and derive new territories for action.

Kate Orff, Toward an Urban Ecology: SCAPE / Landscape Architecture (2016)

Kate Orff + SCAPE and Richard Misrach, Petrochemical America (2009)

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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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Coffin

Ian McHarg, too, was concerned about unrestricted developement. The idea that some developments are more suitable to some landscapes than to others seems only common sense, but when homes built on floodplains are inundated, or hotels built on cliff tops fall into the sea, the extent of human folly becomes evident. We could avoid such calamities and live more harmoniusly whit nature, thought McHarg, if we took natural processes and values into account. He proposed a method for bringing everything into the picture. Known as ‘landscape suitability analysis’ or sometimes just as ‘sieve-mapping’, the technique he developed involved layering information on acetate sheets. So, for example, in considering the optimal route for a new highway, McHarg would combine layers showing the engineering properties of the substrates with layers showing productive soils, significant wildlife habitats, important cultural sites, and so on. When these were combined, it was the areas which were clearest of symbols that were the better areas in which to construct the road. The method also worked” well for planning development at a regional scale. Typically, after gathering physiographic, climatic, and geological data, McHarg could produce suitability maps, usually zoned for agriculture, forestry, recreation, and urban development. The method, which relied on extensive gathering and manipulation of data, became much easier with the growing availability of computers, and ‘McHarg’s Method’ became the basis of the technology known as GIS (Geographical Information System) which uses digital map layers instead of superimposed drawings.

Ian Thompson, Landscape Architecture. A Very Short Introduction. (2014)


Some years later, however, another nail in the coffin of the designed landscape was drilled: the publication of Ian McHarg’s Design with Nature, which cited the natural world as the only viable model for landscape architecture. This text provided landscape architects with both an analytical method and sufficient moral grounds to avoid almost completely decisions of form and design -that is, if design is taken as the concious shaping of landscape rather than its stewardship alone. McHarg emphasized the evolving study of natural ecology and remained within the bounds of natural processes and planning. A strong moral imperative underpinned the discourse; it mixed science with evangelism -a sort of ecofundamentalism. In his writtings and lectures, McHarg took no prisoners and allowed no quarter.

Marc Treib, Nature Recalled (1999)

Ian McHarg, Minimum Social Cost Alignment of a Road (late 1960s)

 

Obscure the Human Act

Landscapes often contain and are subject to natural processes that change the designer’s original plan. There are also landscape designers who intentionally seek to obscure the human act of design. These concerns deepened with the development of modern landscape architecture in the twentieth century. Borrowing many of its tenets from modern architecture, which distrusted allusion and stressed honesty of expression and truth of materials, modern landscape architects considered how their work could be a true evocation of modern times. This thinking is evident in the writing by one of its earliest proponents, Christopher Tunnard. For Tunnard, gardens and landscapes that appeared to be the act of natural processes were not only old fashioned, but also deceiving. In his appraisal of the work of Swedish Garden Architects at the First International Congress of Garden Architects in Paris in 1937, he chided this Association for clinging to a romantic conception of nature when they suggested that planting should ‘give the impression that they have grown there spontaneously’. Tunnard cautioned, ‘the imitation of nature is a long perpetuated fraud’.

Susan Herrington, An ontology of landscape design (2013)

also see: Messy Ecosystems

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ASP Landscape Architects, VolketswilGriespark (2009)

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Change

In contrast to architects, urban planners and other designers, landscape architects bear the responsibility of creating interesting spatial configurations that are shaped by factors that bring about change: the seasons, weather conditions, skies, plant cycles, soil conditions and time. Together these constitute the quintessential aspects of landscape architecture: it’s about making use of dynamic, living processes instead of static, immutable situations. A good understanding of nature and how it works forms the foundation for diverging from the usual…

Steven Delva, Why we shape space (2012)

Studio Roberto Rovira, Ecological Atlas Project (2014)

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Enchantment

Landscape architects like to design places considered diffcult and unrewarding and sometimes regarded as ugly even. In such cases they appear on the scene to salvage a seemingly hopeless situation and remedy it through their endeavours. If they are brought in to enhance a carefully planned and well­ fashioned project like Tempelhof, however, which enjoys general appreciation and is simply wonderful, the challenge they face is much tougher.

In the case of Tempelhof the main task con­fronting the designer teams was to transform an airport into a public park, to convert a screened o and tightly controlled arena into a completely open urban space.

This placed very considerable demands on the landscape architects selected by the competi­tion jury. Their understanding of the specific nature of the undertaking had to be such that their project would reflect its essence and move it ahead as if the two were in complete harmony – the product, as it were, of a secret pact concluded long before with the original designers. (…)

In their scheme the Gross. Max. landscape architects have merged the preservation of the setting and the sensuousness of the landscape with their own specific project design. They have thus succeeded in maintaining the spirit of Tempelhof while at the same time setting the site almost imperceptibly in motion.

Their proposal that different park curators should be brought in on an annual basis underlines this concept of movement and tes­tifies to their creativity and a spirit of innova­tion rooted in the notion that a park is ‘not an object but a process’. Although their approach is very clear and formal, it is geared to enchantment rather than formalism.

Henri Bava, Urban Urge (2012)

Gross. Max., Parklandschaft Tempelhof Winning Entry (2011)

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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

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Andreas Gursky, Rhein II (1999)