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)



By nature we mean the infinite interconnectedness of objects, the uninterrupted creation and destruction of forms, the flowing unity of an event that finds expression in the continuity of temporal and spatial existence. When we designate a part of reality as nature, we mean one of two things. It can mean an inner quality marking it off from art and artifice, from something intellectual or historical. Or we intend it as a representation and symbol of that wholeness of Being whose flux is audible within them. To talk of ‘a piece of nature’ is in fact a self-contradiction. Nature is not composed of pieces. It is the unity of a whole. (…)

As far as landscape is concerned, however, a boundary, a way of being encompassed by a momentary or permanent field of vision, is quite essential. Its material foundation or its individual pieces may simply be regarded as nature. But conceived of as a ‘landscape’, it demands a status for itself, which may be optical, aesthetic or mood-centred. (…) To conceive of a piece of ground and what is on it as a landscape, this means that one now conceives of a segment of nature itself as a separate unity, which estranges it from the concept of nature.(…)

That one part of a whole should become a self-contained whole itself, emerging out of it and claiming from it a right to its own existence, this in itself may be the fundamental tragedy of spirit. This condition came into its own in modernity and assumed the leading role in the processes of culturalization. Underlying the plurality of relationships that interconnect individuals, groups and social formations, there is a pervading dualism confronting us: the individual entity strives towards wholeness, while its place within the larger whole only accords it the role of a part. (…)

Out of this arise countless struggles and disunities in our social and technical-practical, intellectual and moral lives. Yet, that same form, in relation to nature, produces the conciliatory richness of landscape. Here is something individual, contained, self-contented, that at the same time continues to adhere to the whole of nature and its oneness without contradiction. It cannot be denied, however, that landscape only comes into being in a process whereby the Life that pulsates within our perceptions and emotions tears itself away from the homogeneity of nature. The specific object thereby created and transposed onto quite a new level then, so to speak, from within itself opens up again towards that total-Life and re-absorbs the infinite into its still intact boundaries.

Georg Simmel, The Philosophy of Landscape (1913)


Kare-sansui (dry landscape) zen garden at Ryōan-ji (circa 1480)

(Photo by Cquest – Own work)