Post-landscape?

Have we reached a post-landscape condition? Have new designs, representations and physical forms been realized which provide for collective actions and alternative relations with where we live, work and visit? In Recovering Landscape, Corner describes his inspiration for advocating a ‘recovery’ of landscape as ‘less the pastoralism of previous landscape formations’ but instead the ‘yet-to-be disclosed potentials of landscape ideas and practices’. But as economic and political contexts shifted, during the global economic collapse and the subsequent recession, can we identify an emergence of alternative practices and landscape forms? Concerns for ecological restoration and programmatic approaches to landscapes are emphasized by Corner whose Field Operations designed the master-plan for New York’s Fresh Kills Park and realized the rehabilitation of the High Line as a public park. However, Corner describes that ‘massive process[es] of deindustrialization’ have placed new complex demands on land-use planning requiring the ‘accommodation of multiple, often irreconcilable conflicts’. Landscape projects that remediate and repurpose polluted post-industrial sites have gained currency in urban redevelopments, building on the work of land artists Such as Mel Chin, and landscape architects like Peter Latz. But while we can identify inventive approaches that decontaminate formerly abandoned landscapes, few contemporary landscapes or urban design projects have confronted their contribution to increasing land-values, displacement of remaining industries and aggressive gentrification. Environmental recovery of landscapes facilitates urban redevelopment, provides a foundation for spatially and aesthetically reproducing cities and furthers opportunities for economic returns for individuals and organizations that own brownfield sites. Projects improve ecological conditions but fail to address, and in many cases exacerbate, businesses displaced, jobs lost and individuals excluded from renewed urban areas. While in some cases, as Cosgrove claims of recent critical thinking, ‘landscape is approached as a spatial, environmental, and social concept rather than as a primarily aesthetic term’, prevailing landscape practices remain tied to economic priorities. And although Corner reminds us that landscape is inextricably ‘bound into the marketplace’ neither his writing nor his landscape practice provide clues for how these relations can be uncoupled or rethought.

Ed Wall, Post-Landscape or the Potential of other Relations with the Land (2018)

Hoerr Schaudt, Rooftop Haven for Urban Agriculture at Gary Comer Youth Center (2009)

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Header image : Guillaume Amat, Open Fields (2013)

Heritage

While Cosgrove notes that ‘landscapes have a special significance within heritage debates’, he also argues that it is heritage which forces an engagement with the ‘realities of a postcolonial, polyvocal and globalized world’. While a ‘landscape approach’ has aided heritage scholars to move beyond what was a site-based engagement with their subject matter, therefore, an increased recognition of heritage – both tangible and intangible – has encouraged landscape scholars to heed the importance of the affective qualities of how, as Holtorf and Williams note, memories and mythologies, community and personal histories were ‘inherited, inhabited, invented and imagined through the landscape’. With its focus on the present and future, I would argue that a heritage sensibility would appear to provide a sense of hope and engagement.

David Harvey, Emerging landscapes of heritage (2013)

The place can be described as an astonishing and complex geological structure. The tectonic gesture of the place is made visible by the sea eroded cliffs and its several lava and ashes layers of orange, black, brown and grey. An old conical lime kiln characterizes the image of the place. An artisanal industry of drying fish and salt extraction completed the principal local economic activity of fishing, more recently developed on touristic service. This social condition of very humble and poor economic situation was accentuated by a strong feeling of isolation and segregation shared by this community. The recent regional connection and several investments on public services, inverted a process of social erosion and conflict, stressed by a previous wrong policy on social housing. By adding the new and complex program of public space and connections, an extraordinary change took place on social and collective representation and valuation of space.

João Gomes da Silva, Project Description (2006)

João Gomes da Silva + GLOBAL arquitectura paisagista, Salinas Swimming Pools (2006)

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Confusion

Landscape comes into English language geography primarily from the German landschaft. Much has been written about the fact that the German word means area, without any particularly aesthetic or artistic, or even visual connotations.

Denis Cosgrove, Landscape as cultural product (1984)

The word landscape finds its roots in the Old Dutch word landskip, which designates a stretch of cultivated land. The word paysage in French stems from the Latin word pagus, which simply means an extent of land made by the peasant. In other words, landscape is the belabored making of the peasant, and has nothing to do with the ideal of untouched wilderness.

Christophe Girot, Immanent Landscape (2012)

Historically, landscape has had a range of meanings, some quite unrelated to art. One such meaning applies to civic classification of territory. It has been argued that the German Landshaft or Lantshaft was not originally a view of nature but rather a geographic ares defined by political boundaries. In the late fifteenth century, the land around a town was referred to as its landscape, a meaning that still survives in some places, as in the Swiss canton of Basel Landschaft.

Malcolm Andrews, Landscape and Western Art (1999)

This distinction can be traced back to the Old English term landskip, which at first refered not to land but to a picture of it, as in the later, selectively framed representations of seventeent-century Dutch landschap paintings. Soon after the appearance of this genre of painting the scenic concept was applied to the land itself in the form of large-scale rural vistas, designed estates, and ornamental garden art. Indeed, the development of landscape architecture as a modern profession derives, in large measure, from an impulse to reshape large areas of land according to prior imagining.

James Corner, Eidetic Operations and New Landscapes (1999)

Landscape is a familiar term that is rich and evocative, but also complex and at times confusing.

Simon Swaffield, Landscape as a way of knowing the world (2005)

img06Relais Landschaftsarchitekten, The Written Garden Berlin (2011)

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To Map

To map is in one way or another to take the measure of a world, and more than merely take it, to figure the measure so taken in such a way that it may be communicated between people, places or times. The measure of mapping is not restricted to the mathematical; it may equally be spiritual, political or moral. By the same token the mapping’s record is not confined to the archival; it includes the remembered, the imagined, the contemplated. The world figured through mapping may thus be material or immaterial, actual or desired, whole or part, in various ways experienced, remembered or projected.

Denis Cosgrove, Mappings (1999)

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Adriaan Geuze & West 8, Eastern Scheldt (1992)

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Header: Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas (1972)

No more Real

A landscape is a cultural image, a pictorial way of representing, structuring or symbolising surroundings. This is not to say that landscapes are immaterial. They are represented in a variety of materials and on many surfaces – in paint on canvas, in writing on paper, in earth, stone, water and vegetation on the ground. A landscape park is more palpable but no more real, nor less imaginary, than a landscape painting or poem.

Stephen Daniels & Denis Cosgrove, Introduction: iconography and landscape (1988)

Kathryn Gustafson, Les Jardins de l’Imaginaire (1997)

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