However, their texts cite and synthesize the ideas of influential modernist methods, programmes and manifestoes that appeared in the early twentieth century. The development of an actual operative response to the broad and often vague concepts surrounding landscape urbanism was largely developed at the Architectural Association in London. Prior to this period of design exploration, landscape urbanism had never been clearly developed as an actual design practice. Today, much of the design culture that has come to be associated with landscape urbanism was initiated and developed in the AA Landscape Urbanism program during its early formative period and its influence persists in many educational institutions. A number of practices that have chosen to adopt the design and conceptual approach towards urbanism have also adopted many of these design strategies.
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Fall Landscape urbanism emerges Perhaps the time has come to state, definitively, that landscape urbanism has in fact emerged. Even describing landscape urbanism as a practice is at times regarded as a stretch, while it is commonly characterized as an approach, study, or way of thinking about the contemporary city.
Aerial view of the London Olympic Parklands. Image from London Definitions Landscape urbanism appears to offer a way to consider the complex urban condition; one that is capable of tackling infrastructure, water management, biodiversity, and human activity; and one that asks and examines the implications of the city in the landscape and landscape in the city.
Infrastructural urbanism note 7 , for instance, shares a concern for flexible ordering principles to accommodate yet unknown future activities, but promotes the creation of artificial ecologies rather than integrating existing environmental conditions.
While these terms share a common background and theoretical foundation, they appear formulated to address very specific concerns rather than serve as an approach for multiple and diverse landscape issues which underpin the contemporary city.
Landscape in these terms appears as a burden to be solved by mechanisms, rather than a complex and essential part of these dense areas we call cities, a fundamental which needs to be sifted and nurtured.
Retrieving special meaning Part of the strength and depth of landscape urbanism comes from the use of two words that previously might be held in opposition, suggesting a hybrid discipline. As landscape urbanism is not a neologism or amalgam—such as landurbanism or urbanlandscapism—the compound term carries the respective complexities and critical baggage of each word.
Powerful subtleties in interpretation of both words have been recovered over the past decade to strengthen and augment them; what distinguishes landscape urbanism from parallel practices is the nuanced meaning of the word landscape. Its rich etymology has been written about extensively the earliest Dutch usage to describe a picture representing scenery has evolved into a term in which human influence even if it is simply the act of viewing is key.
In pairing landscape with urbanism, landscape urbanism reintroduces critical connections with natural and hidden systems and proposes the use of such systems as a flexible approach to the current concerns and problems of urban conditions. This flexibility has allowed landscape urbanism to resolve into different perspectives, the two most distinct modes of which can be described as the machine landscape mode as defined by Mohsen Mostafavi and the field operations mode as set out by James Corner.
As directed in The Machinic Landscape and the Landscape Urbanism course of the Architectural Association note 19 , the machinic landscape mode undertakes a very specific survey and analysis of the site to identify underlying forces.
These are then fed into an abstract mechanism usually a form of computer algorithm that creates architectural forms, often of large scale and organic geometry. Often, those outside the profession grasp this particular perspective of landscape urbanism because the end result is a recognizable architectural form, albeit an abstract one.
Alternatively, the field operation mode seeks a less determined end product. A fixed outcome is rarely envisaged at the outset, but the potential scenarios for the site are forecast to explore the multiple processes at play across the wider area. The ultimate aim is an active landscape that repairs and improves what are frequently ravaged natural systems, but with an eye to drawing out meaningful and often poetic landscape elements.
So why has landscape urbanism appeared to grow so strongly over the past decade, and why is it critical now? A number of reasons are apparent, relating to economy, collaboration, and authentic design. In light of the recent economic downturn, traditional economics of construction are severely challenged, resulting in numerous stalled developments within and on the edges of cities. They range in scale from gap sites to district-size wastelands, and are weighed down by debt and unrealizable value—their function and usefulness appear lost.
In Edinburgh, Scotland, plans to transform post-industrial waterfront land into high-density neighborhoods have foundered: the sites repossessed by banks from bankrupt developers and left to quietly recover. If it is no longer economically viable to create new cities and towns, nor feasible to abandon cities with shrinking densities, what, then, is to be done with these stalled sites?
Reflecting a scenario all over Europe, these stalled sites are actually located in the heart of culturally dense and landscape rich areas and are a vivid and graphic expression for those living around them of the changing nature of our cities. These are the types of places where landscape urbanism should be engaged, reclaiming and restructuring the landscape cannily and efficiently in advance of financial recovery. Where building and development is not economically viable, landscape urbanism in the interim is a valid proposition.
Collaboration across disciplines and communities. The ever-increasing pressure on other, natural, forms of resource also dictates a change in the way we think about urbanism and buildings. A renewed environmental responsibility has arisen, but we must translate these into significantly different approaches within the traditionally conservative construction and development sector.
The current inability or unwillingness to consider the impact of unconfined development on natural processes must be challenged; better engagement on these issues across disciplines and across communities will be critical. The past era of nonchalance with regard to the environment is returning to haunt us, with the impacts increasingly becoming visible.
Landscape urbanism offers an approach which draws from multiple disciplines to promote a forum in which these consequences are understood and avoided.
This collaboration extends into the communities that are directly affected, through visual education highlighting the positive impact of design. Efforts such as de-culverting a poorly constructed urban waterway or improving the biodiversity of our public open spaces through habitat enhancement make these innovations explicit.
Beyond the prosaic and constructive side of landscape urbanism—and perhaps the strongest rationale for its longevity— there is the imaginative and poetic side to landscape: the ability to tease out invisible systems and make them part of our consciousness. As design professionals practicing in the twenty-first century, we must reduce the energy demands of our designs, increase efficiencies, and integrate renewable energy. But beyond these planet-saving technical measures, we must ensure that new and revived urban areas are still places that g celebrate the intrinsic qualities of a site: landscape urbanism has the potential to bring out the hidden, the unknown and the delightful for those who inhabit these places.
These abilities and processes will make landscape urbanism an ethos that appeals to professionals and people beyond the field. Conclusion For an ethos that celebrates uncertainty, underlying complex processes, and the grey areas of contemporary urban conditions, a clear definition is difficult to distill into a fixed statement. Regardless of the shades of meaning or abstraction adopted, landscape urbanism tries to understand the massive complexity of the world that we live in, to work collaboratively with other disciplines to produce solutions that are respectful to sites and inhabitants, and also create new urban spaces that contribute to the wider natural and cultural territory.
In its unique potential to take a poetic gauge of environmental processes, landscape urbanism differs from other practices. The ability to recognize, embrace and transform such subtle but powerful forces suggests a way to design authentic, yet newly imagined places that immerse us in the richness of landscape. Chris Gray is an architect and landscape architect who works at the boundary between the two disciplines. His professional experience ranges from complex urban projects with tightly integrated architectural interventions to large scale development frameworks and masterplans.
Chris has a strong interest in contemporary landscape design, the development of the modern city and authentic design within sensitive landscapes. Note 1: Leon Neyfakh. Note 2: James Corner.
Mohsen Mostafavi and Ciro Najle. London: Architectural Association, Note 3: [Illustration: The waterways around the industrial area where the Olympic Park is situated were among the most polluted in London and the UK and an approach was taken to remediate the whole area based on their treatment. Charles Waldheim. Note 6: Stan Allen. Hashim Sarkis. Munich; New York : Prestel, Note 7: Stan Allen. Stan Allen. New York : Princeton Architectural Press, Note 8: Alison Smithson. Munich; New York: Prestel Note 9: Foreign Office Architects.
March , Note Mohsen Mostafavi and Gareth Doherty. Ecological Urbanism. Recovering landscape: essays in contemporary landscape architecture. New York : Princeton Architectural Press, for a collection of essays that supply various definitions of landscape beyond the representational. Note Anne Winston Spirn. New York; London:W. Note Denis E. Social Formation and Symbolic Landscape. Kent: Croom Helm, Note Sanford Kwinter. Note James Corner. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, Note Ibid.
Note Mohsen Mostafavi and Ciro Najle, eds. Landscape urbanism: a manual for the machinic landscape. GSD, Harvard, Feb. Share this:.
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