City landscapes are being increasingly commodified, monitored, and constructed in ways that discourage spontaneous appropriation and unplanned transformation. In resistance to this over-determinism, a few contemporary landscape architects and urbanists are seeking to promote qualities of indeterminacy, open-endedness, and temporality in their work. Their aim is to engender and support engagement rather than objectification. These efforts are particularly applicable to large-scale public, decommissioned, and marginalized lands within or at the edge of the cities. Such spaces resist popular prescriptions of use, identity, and meaning. Is this shift from form to events, permanence to change, identity to void, a recognition for the need to recover essential territories in the city that are “neither wilderness nor home”.
Anuradha Mathur, Neither Wilderness nor Home. The Indian Maidan (1999)
Anuradha Mathur, Dilip da Cunha, SOAK (2009)
Our image of the landscape is the result of complex cultural interpretations. The relationship of our personal experience, based in our cultural milieu to the landscapes around us is often underestimated. This includes how we interpret something even as simple as a public park. Parks have undoubtedly communicated cultural, behavioral and political cues throughout history. Sometimes didactic and sometimes unintentionally instructive about societal norms and preferences, parks are not always as neutral as they might appear. Curiously, parks are instruments of power that seem almost benign in the public realm – few question the creation of a new park.
The design and appearance of a park generally reflects its cultural and geographical position. At the municipal level, parks are furnished with standard “from the catalog” items, such as benches, bollards and trash cans, which vary from country to country, and from city to city. Even in parks that are initially completely custom designed, these standard elements creep in as time and use progress. it is easy to identify the location of some parks from their bits and pieces, such as those in New York City from their dark green wood-slat benches. In contrast to this common quality, Superkilen in Copenhagen looks nothing like any other park in Copenhagen,and for good reason.
Jessica Bridger, Culture Riot (2012)
Topotek 1, Bjarke Ingels Group, Superflex, Superkilen (2012)
Landscape may be represented by painting, drawing, or engraving; by photography, film, and theatrical scenery; by writing, speech, and presumably even music and other “sound images”. Before all those secondary representations, however, landscape is itself a physical and multisensory medium (earth, stone, vegetation, water, sky, sound and silence, light and darkness, etc.) in which cultural meanings and values are encoded, whether they are put there by the physical transformation of a place in landscape gardening and architecture, or found in a place formed, as we say, “by nature”. The simplest way to summarize this point is to note that it makes Kenneth Clark’s title, Landscape into Art, quite redundant: landscape is already artifice in the moment of its beholding, long before it becomes the subject of pictorial representation.
William J. Thomas Mitchell, Imperial Landscape (1994)
Rene Magritte, The Human Condition (1933)
When we work as landscape architects, despite many explanatory models, design remains an obscure process of trial and error — who will clear up the error? — of ‘attitude’ and ‘intrinsic nature’ of morphology and performance models. C.Th. Sorensen talked about inventions. The results. at least, are on view.
Supposing we understand avant-garde landscape architecture the same way we do architecture and the other arts as the realisation of abstract ideas. in this case of nature, ecology and society. Then designing should consequently be understood as the ‘invention’ of information systems or layers that overlap with existing elements. This must precede any thoughts on appearance or expression. Working the other way round can be seen as trite, as patronage, and as predetermining interpretations and even feelings.
Peter Latz, The Idea of Making Time Visible (2000)
Carl Theodor Sørensen, Geometrical Gardens (1945)
The drawing presented here for a park in Greenwich interests me highly as a unique landscape drawing. It, in a convincing way, depicts time and evolution. The development of an urban forest is the main theme in the project. The drawing does not simply explain the development of the forest. It mainly states that there are several stages of maturity which have an individual quality in terms of design. This drawing is important as it denies the idea that a landscape project can be represented by one drawing which shows the project in an unknown year in the future, in its supposed final state. Desvigne here, combining plan and section shows different moments in time as being independent optimal design conditions. In doing so, the designer is forced to be more precise about what happens over time: how big are the trees in certain stages; which conﬁgurations might come true by thinning the trees? Aprt from that, the drawing has a convincing beauty which has always been present in the French drawing tradition. Desvigne himself became known eariy for drawing with his work on theoretical gardens, “Les jardins elementaires”. Starting from here Desvigne became one of the international stars — in itself an interesting new phenomenon in recent landscape architecture.
Noël van Doreen, Speaking about Drawing (2012)
Michel Desvigne & Christine Dalnoky, Greenwich Peninsula (1999)