At Ease

While the current climate crisis tightens its stranglehold on contemporary society, many are those who put their faith in groundbreaking design and artistic innovation. As a side effect of the climate threat, this renewed celebration of creative agency may be welcome, not the least from a landscape architecture perspective since, in the context of sustainable development, every design action is also a landscaping gesture with environmental implications. Nevertheless, isolated from a broader societal context, these new eco-scapes risk ending up as nothing but attractive emerald patches disguising a sprawling global ‘junkspace’. As an expanded field of aesthetic and political agency, however, the emerging sustainability culture offers new perspectives on creative spatial practice. Approaching the environmental issue from the perspective of contemporary landscape related art practices, this article seeks to contribute to the articulation of a landscape aesthetics that would meet the requirements of our agitated time. Such articulation, however, requires a reconsideration of landscape aesthetics beyond the consoling and beautiful, as well as a fundamental shift in landscape thinking from representation to agency. The future eco-scape is not necessarily a sphere where you feel ‘at ease’, but a performative and unsettled space in constant transformation and change.

(Upper image: James Corner with Prince William and the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson (now Prime Minister) visiting the Queen Elizabeth Olimpic Park in London, (Field Operations Website)

Rundown

In a Smithson sculpture like Aslphalt Rundown (1969), in which truckload of the viscous material was poured down the gullied slope of a quarry near Rome, Hargreaves saw the expression of this contemporary conception of landscape. Although far from beautiful in any familiar sense, Hargreaves found such work deeply compelling for the way it brought time, gravity, erosion, human commerce, and the physical properties of matter all into play. ‘For the first time,’ Hargreaves recalled, “I understood that designed landscapes could be extraordinarily meaningful. The Smithson works reintroduced the concept of landscape as idea -something lost in the pursuit of the functional landscape- and opened a door to a world not yet fully explored and still expanding.

John Beardsley, Entropy and the New Landscapes (1996)

Robert Smithson, Asphalt Rundown, 1969 (Roma) (2)

Robert Smithson, Asphalt Rundown (1969)

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George Hargreaves + Hargreaves Associates, Byxbee Park (1988)

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