Must be made

Without much fanfare, The Landscape Urbanism Reader, takes leave of living as the designer’s primary point of departure. The task of designing the city’s metabolism in the form of distribution centers, water-purification installations, high-tension lines, waste-disposal locations, and infrastructure bundles is at least of equal importance. In precise analyses supported by diagrams and aerial photos, Alan Berger y Pierre Bélanger, among others, sketch these components of the new programme. The book also denounces both the suburban city’s spectacularity wasteful use of space and its failure to reuse such things as disused industrial estates and abandoned agricultural land, whose reanimation and completion/revitalization must be made, with the help of environmental know-how, into primary tasks.

Dirk Sijmons, A reflective Plague organism (2009)

That’s the point: things that must be made: a group claim for commissions that seeks the support of the whole group of the discipline appealing to the common interest. It’s true that is necessary to think about new programmes for the contemporary city but, one can say too that this is not the only possible analysis, especially if you think about all the cities of the world or that, claiming for work too often mean to renounce to have a critical point of view on urban policies as disciplines used to do in the past. You can say indeed, as Leanne Muir and other do (check this), that all that is just marketing bullshit. And all this can be true, sometimes, we need to understand when a project is pure self-marketing and when is not. And maybe we should recover some discursive devices for the critic of urban policies and support the brave authors that openly make those critiques. That’s not bad for enthusiasm.

Alan Berger+P-REX lab, Pontine Marshes Study (2007)

(See also the New York Times article)

School of Thought

As a school of thought, landscape urbanism compresses the polarisation between design and planning in an effort to combine the strengths of each. It shifts the landscape architectural project from an art (or craft) of making beautiful landscapes to one of interdisciplinary negotiation and the seeding of strategic, development processes. Just as it has been inspirational, the landscape urbanist polemic has also been grandiloquent. Accordingly, I have tried to condense the rhetoric into a set of basic principles without falling prey to reductionism. In short, as I interpret it, landscape urbanism claims to do the following:

include within the purview of design all that is in the landscape—infrastructure and buildings, etc., and shuffle across scales so as to bridge the divides between landscape design, landscape ecology, and landscape planning.

bring greater creativity to planning operations and greater rationality to design operations.

• conceptualize and then directly engage the city and its landscape as a hybridized, natural, chaotic ecology.

emphasize the creative and temporal agency of ecology in the formation of urban life as opposed to envisaging an ideal equilibrium between two entities formerly known as culture and nature.

understand and manipulate the forces at work behind things and less with the resultant aesthetic qualities of things.

interpret and then represent landscape systems so that these systems can in turn influence urban forms, processes, and patterns.

prefer open-ended (indeterminate and catalytic) design strategies as opposed to formal compositions and master plans.

Richard Weller, Landscape (Sub)Urbanism in Theory and Practice (2006)

Dirk Sijmons + H+N+S, Coastal Urban System Flanders (2017)



The best place to visit Holland is Japan. Holland Village, in the outskirts of Nagasaki is a condensed scaled down version of the real thing. Or may be it is the other way round and Holland Village in Japan is actually the original that makes its European counterpart nothing more than an oversized, inflated and (quite literally) watered down version lacking the purity and essence of its prototype. (…)

The notion of the actual creation of land is the essence of Dutch Landscape architecture. Whilst in the Anglo Saxon world Landscape is first an foremost a visual representation and a mental construct wrapped into a wet blanket of subjectivity, for the Dutch landscape is about the phisical and rational manipulation of an objectified reality. The Dutch Landscape is an efficient livework unit while the British landscape architects can design gardens and cannot design landscapes while exactly the opposite holds true for their Dutch colleagues.

Dirk Sijmons, Architectura + Natura. = Landscape (1998)

jp-ngs-hollandvillage-b img_2393 amsterdam_2Nagasaki-Holland-Village

Holland Village, Nagasaki (1983)