Narrative Essence

What clouds the vision and makes it frustrating, indeed, useless to be an architect, is the way that the reality of occupied spaces, branded and scarred with use, compares with the perception of them. If I have understood correctly, the question is that architecture knows nothing of that precisely narrative essence from which spaces are made. Pamuk became a writer, because that makes more sense; it is more honest in facing the way his city is made up. He wants to bear witness to this city, he wants to be present in it, gathering with a sharp eye and witty shrewdness the past of places, of events, of its stones. Better to write, to narrate, because places don’t stand still, they change with the swelter of the lives that leave their imprints there, with the elusive approximation of intrinsicality.

 

Franco la Cecla,  Against Architecture (2008)

Lawrence Halprin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial (1997)

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Humane

Sorensen’s works are profoundly humane. They are comfortable. The needs of people are not neglected for the ends of art. Often what first appears as a rigid geometric structure is actually quite flexible in its use (Kampmann, Kalundborg, Naerum). Even his most monumental projects, such as Kongenshus Mindepark, do not dwarf the human, but keep the human at the center.

The places Sorensen created are enlivened by the people who use them. He frequently crafted an artful framework that he intended the users to employ and transform, this is part of the strength of the allotment gardens in Naerum (1948), for example. In this sense, Sorensen anticipated performance art and the public projects of Lawrence Halprin, such as the Portland Fountains of the 1960s.

When Sorensen retired from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1963, a new wave of concerns was sweeping over the School and society. The new generation rejected formal art and the traditions of garden design and focussed upon social function and politics. This Sorensen could not comprehend. Although a formalist, he had never abandoned a concern for people and for larger social issues. This is especially important to remember now, in a period when gardens are once again being regarded as an art form. Today, many landscape artists forget that gardens are a social, as well as a spatial, art.

Anne Whiston Spirn, Introduction to C. Th. Sørensen landscape modernist (2001)

Carl Theodor Sørensen, Aarus University Campus (1965)

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Basic, Human, Archetypical

What is design really all about? Design, particularly environmental design, has a profound responsibility. It is, in a sense, the bearer of the cultural value system of a community. For that reason, environmental design goes way beyond the visual; it is much more pervasive. It deals with cultural issues, with context, with lifestyle, with social and economic issues; it has profound ecological ramifications and influences on the future of the planet; it deals with the whole community as well as the individual; it is contributing to a human ecology and, in that sense, it must be multi-sensory and holistic. And, I think, holistic is the operative word.

Perhaps more importantly, landscape design must go much deeper than image-making, which simply trivializes it. It is, after all, not a matter of constantly changing style, as some people think -like the redesign of new fashions each season. It has nothing to do with old-fashioned carpet bedding or modish, intricate gridded patterning on the ground, which is the more recently stylish way of doing things.

Landscape design is about social relevance, it can become poetic and symbolic, but, perhaps most importantly, it can articulate a culture’s most spiritual values.

For its best meaning, it can strive to externalize and make feasible spiritual values-for individuals, for a community, and for the whole planet. The role of the landscape designer can be similar to the role of a Shaman who, in the Dutch teacher Beuy’s words, “can transform base materials into mystical touchstones.” Beautiful term.

ln that way, landscape design is like alchemy. That is what makes it an important art form, and why, in fact, it is worthy for us to pursue this particular profession. Some of the most remarkable transformational environments l have personally experienced exhibit manifestations of spiritual values. They have altered my life.

What they seem to do is release in people something inherent inside them, something that is already there. They evoke some basic need, which lies dormant until it is evoked.

These environments speak to us at a basic, human, archetypical level, revealing to us our latent human and spiritual values.

Lawrence Halprin, Design as a Value System (1989)

Lawrence Halprin, Sea Ranch Sketches and Views (1972)

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Image-Making

We are surrounded by image-making architects who design very special places where columns are hollow. Its hardly a good idea to lean against them because you could be sued for denting them. The entire project, actually, has a hollow ring. Everything seems to be designed to evoke a stage-set image these days, having very little to do with the actual activities going on within the building or the landscape.

Everywhere developers are hiring architects and landscape architects to authenticate their deals by making buildings and open spaces which, like advertisements, call attention to the project. It has become a form of corporate pimping, if you will. It leaves the architect to serve out his role as what Philip Johnson calls “a design whore.” The designs are profoundly phony, Disneylandish structures and landscapes without meaning, or prohindity, or sense of value. They are full of sound and fury, but signify nothing socially relevant.

At the other end of the scale, as Randolph Hester points out, are the homeless, the disadvantaged, the socially burdensome; the planet’s ecological balance is threatened. Real-life communities and small-town neighborhoods are disintegrating in the face of shopping centers full of silly shops selling trendy knickknacks and doo-dads and taking over from the authentic downtown of the village or town.

Lawrence Halprin, Design as a Value System (1989)

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Joel Meyerowitz, Broadway and West 46th Street (1976)

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Intense

I never use water as a barrier. I use water in cities as a living force, on some level like plants. It moves, it sparkles, it sounds good, you can touch it, you can play in it. (…)

I wouldn’t be in this work if I didn’t think it would—well, I don’t know how much it transforms people—but it can go a long way toward making their lives more meaningful and enhancing their lives. And if it’s done right, it can promote healing. A lot of healing can be done in a wonderful environment. (…)

They will feel about you that you’re going to make something wonderful for them. And they help you by expressing themselves. Not telling you how to do it, but encouraging you and accepting your vision and working with you on that kind of a level. (…)

‘Memorable’ and ‘intense’ and ‘passionate’ are words that I prefer to ‘pretty’ when I’m making places for people.

Lawrence Halprin, Notebooks 1959-1971 (1973)

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Lawrence Halprin, Ira Keller Fountain Park (1970)

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No objects

Architects make objects.

We don’t.

We make experiences.

We’re not trying to find a form.

The land is the form.

Lawrence Halprin, Notebooks (1971)

J.M.William Turner, Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps (1812)

J.M. William Turner, Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway  (1812)

Bitter Pill to swallow

The concept of involvement and participation underlies this whole report. It seems central to the comments of all our consultants. Rand has summarized the point when he says, “Designed environments which are thought out. formalized, and complete are usually lifeless‘ and unapproachable because:
(a) they do not invite interaction and modification to suit immediate
human needs;
(b) they are unable to grow, develop and become extended through human use. Human habitation merely fulfills (for better or far worse) the designer’s conception of their potential meaning rather than leading to the discovery of new functions and new forms of interaction. Oddly enough [he goes on to say] many environsents which ‘work’ well for people meet few if any, aesthetic criteria ordinarily employed  by designers.

For most designers this was a bitter pill to swallow. (…) We do not seem to be able to structure the process of change. On one hand we need citizen participation; on the other the magnitude of he physical needs of rebuilding are enormous.

Lawrence Halprin, New York, New York (1968)

 

   

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Lawrence Halprin, Lovejoy Fountain Park (1966)

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Movement

In order to design for movement a whole new system of conceptualizing most be undertaken. Our present systems of design and planning are inevitabily limited by our techniques of conceptulizing and our methods of symbolizing ideas. We know only how to delineate static objects, and so is all we do.

Lawrence Halprin, Cities (1963)

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Archetypes

For its best meaning, it can strive to externalize and make feasible spiritual values-for individuals, for a community, and for the whole planet. The role of the landscape designer, can be similar to the role of a Shaman who, in the Dutch teacher Beuy’s words [sic], “can transform base materials into mystical touchstones.” Beautiful term.

ln that way, landscape design is like alchemy.

That is what makes it an important art form, and why, in fact, it is worthy for us to pursue this particular profession. Some of the most remarkable transformational environments I have personally experienced exhibit manifestations of spiritual values. They have altered my life.

What they seem to do is release in people something inherent inside them, something that is already there. They evoke some basic need, which lies dormant until it is evoked.

These environments speak to us at a basic, human, archetypical level, revealing to us our latent human and spiritual values.

Lawrence Halprin, Design as a Value System (1989)

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John Ford, The Searchers (1956)

Monument Valley, Utah, USA

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Steven Spielberg, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, USA

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Wim Wenders, Paris, Texas (1984)

Big Bend National Park, Texas, USA

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Richard Long, Sahara circle (1988)

Hoggar Region, Argelia

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