Sobering Thought

A sobering thought for all designers: in fact whatever designers dream up and realize affects the formal perception of landscape architecture objects only to a limited extent: (a number of other parameters, situative variables that the designer can scarcely influence, have their own very definite parts to play. These include the weather (rain, sun, dark clouds, broken cloud, heat, cold, storm, light breezes etc.), the seasons, the time of day (the incredible interplay of colours at sunrise, hard shadows at midday, the softness of twilight etc.), the number of other users (the happy school class on the main pathway, the couple on the edge of the wood etc.) but also the robin singing in the bushes or the rumbustious drunk on the adjacent bench. This list could be continued ad infinitum. All these parameters are “simply there”, are permanent and more or less simultaneously effective, but just in different forms, relating to each other at different force levels. Objects in landscape architecture simply have to let these parameters “go over their heads”, “put up with them”, sometimes “suffer them”. But often it is precisely these unpredictable elements that can create moments of intense harmony in their interplay with a designed landscape.

Perceiving form (in landscape architecture) – a right-hemisphere experience – is thus always more, and always more complex, than the things the designer really can affect. So what does the landscape architect actually do as a designer? The –admittedly materialistic– answer has to be: landscape architects distribute solid items within an area that is being worked on topographically and structurally; they design starting-points, signs, with the aim of (gently) leading and accompanying users to create form (or space).

Given the complex way in which form is perceived, we have restricted ourselves in this book to the “feasible”, to what the left hemisphere can manage to say. Above all, we have reduced the phenomenon of “landscape architecture” to make it “tangible”, “comprehensible”, in other words morphological.

We hope that it will be possible to discern this.

Stefan Bernard, In the form of open space (2003)

Atelier Loidl, West Gleisdreieck Park (2014)