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Monthly Archives: October 2012

The girl next door enters our livingroom, drops down on a chair and looks out into the garden. ‘He, you have a new tree!’ I look out of the window – a new tree? But instantly I understand what she is looking at – our Rhus Typhina (azijnboom) – it looks like it is set on fire, just like the whole garden is. These colours are amazing! Talking to friends from England, Germany and other parts of the Netherlands we conclude that during this autumn (2012) the colours of trees and shrubs are exceptional intense. This fact probably can be explained by whether circumstances.

In the mean time I ask myself why for example grass is not colouring that much, it still looks green to me. Imagine cows grazing on red grass! Wow, the world would go crazy.

Green is associated with freshness and is emotional speaking the colour of hope and peace. And as we know green is the most common colour in nature. The match between our emotions and the main colour of nature doesn’t seem to coincide. Technically speaking plants are green because of their chlorophyll. The question remains, why do trees and shrubs discolour in autumn? Of course the biochemical process of withdrawing the chlorophyll can explain it. But more interesting, what is the impact of this process to our heart? I am, and so do all the others I spoke to, enjoying these autumn colours very much, seeing these bright yellows and reds delivers energy. These colour explosions might help us to overcome the coming long, dark cold winter. Or … are there any other suggestions?

As persons interested in landscape and landscape architecture we could call ourselves lucky to work with colour and/or enjoying them. Working with, and enjoying colours, is next to working with time processes, with movement, with smell and taste very specific to landscape architecture. Therefore these aspects should have a prominent position within the curriculum of our master of Landscape Architecture. Please let me know if you agree.

Enjoy the autumn and get inspired!

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“All perceiving is also thinking, all reasoning is also intuition, all observation is also invention.” This quote of Rudolf Arnheim was the starting point of the 4 hour mapping workshop for graduate students [1]. Two landscape types, graphite, paper, cups and silverwork were the means to explore mapping as a tool in landscape architecture.

The two landscape types were taken from J.B. Jackson’s seminal book ‘The Vernacular Landscape’, where he described the political and the vernacular landscape. By the political landscape he meant those spaces and structures designed to impose or preserve an unity and order on the land, or in keeping with a long-range, large-scale plan (well-defined territories, public spaces, large-scale production landscapes). The vernacular landscape is one where evidences of a political organization of space are largely or entirely absent (absence of defined, permanent spaces).

After a lively discussion the structures of the political landscape were set up in wet graphite following a set of rules. Step by step this landscape evolved according to the master plan. After a while, the initial setup was overlaid with dusty graphite using natural forces such as water and ‘wind’ (since it was in a classroom we had to simulate by blowing ;-)). The result was a landscape of unexpected beauty showing human interventions confronted with natural patterns.

 

 

The vernacular landscape was created by a succession of spontaneous actions. At the moment we began, patterns of graphite started to evolve responding to the field conditions set by the table and the tools used. Some structures stayed and became part of an incremental process, others disappeared. Sometimes nature took over and added another layer. In the end the landscape was like a palimpsest presenting the result of the dialogue between processes of inhabitation and natural forces through time.

 

 

While reflecting on the mapping exercise we wondered how we could use this in the practice of landscape architecture. What could we learn from this? In both cases the initial intervention remained and became a modus operandi for the development of landscape by natural and sociocultural processes. This intervention can be architectural in nature, or more practical, but always precise and geared to achieve certain goals in space and time. Close reading of real-life landscapes all over the world reveals the unexpected beauty and logic of spatial organisation in this types of landscape. Examples can be found on e.g. http://geopathology.posterous.com/, such as:

 

 

This landscape in the delta of the Vjoses River, Albania (north to the right), where an occupation grid is superimposed on the fertile river landscape. This grid establishes a modular system and alternating pattern of parcellation, drainage canals and roads, which can be extended seaward, to obtain new land created by processes of accretion (in Dutch: aanwas).

 

 

Or this landscape in the North-East of Iran (north to the left), where the pattern of agricultural fields is closely related to the structure of an alluvial fan, taking advantage of the geological processes of erosion and sedimentation. Interventions are geared to optimize use of water and fertile sediment.

To conclude: by mapping physical, biological and cultural aspects we can understand the organization of space, how landscapes were created and how they change. It reveals certain ways of defining and handling space and time. In that respect “mappings are neither depictions nor representations but mental constructs, ideas that enable and effect change. It is a tool to explore and create new realities. Mapping is already a project in the making”, as James Corner puts it.

[1] The graduate students who created the maps: Anna Ioannidou, Nikolaos Margaritis, Lisanne van Niekerk and Mariska van Rijswijk; the workshop was led by John Lonsdale and Steffen Nijhuis.

The question mark in the title of our blog can be removed. From Tuesday 9 October 2012 we do landscape TOGETHER with TU-Delft and Wageningen University. The two happy gentlemen on the photo are no other then Kees Slingerland, the General Director of the Environmental Sciences Group of WU and Dirk Jan van der Berg, the Chair of the CvB of the TU-Delft. They just signed the agreement between the TU-Delft and Wageningen University to work more closely together on Landscape Architecture both in the fields of research and education. They look like they both have a lot of experience in signing sessions but it was not for a moment routine. In what could be called a battle of charm and diplomatic skills both chairmen excelled in meaningful speeches to underline the importance of the collaboration of the two universities in this field. Starting out from their respective scientific context, being the life sciences and the building sciences they see the enormous potentials (“best of both worlds”) when these two lines of research and education would work together more closely.

In the select company of Adri van der Brink, Adriaan Geuze, Karin Laglas and Krik van Ees a little ceremony took place. Sven Stremke and I were asked to report back on the first collaboration project, the mixed master studio kWh/m2 where the landscape architecture students from both Wageningen and Delft were working together.

In the agreement common ground is found in collaboration on research and PhD conferences. Wageningen University and the TU-Delft will be complementary in the field of education. Wageningen will offer a course for our future Master-students in the cluster of geo-morphology, ecology and soil science. Delft will offer a Minor in urban processes, urbanism and urban planning. The elaboration of these goals will take place in this year in order to be operational in 2013-2014. Some elements will even be ready for implementation in this academic year.