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In October 2017 Professor Richard Weller from University of Pennsylvania visited our faculty. He gave a lecture titled “Atlas for the End of the World” as part of the How do you landscape? (HDYL?) lecture series, attracting a large audience.

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Professor Richard Weller’s lecture in the Berlage Zaal of BK City, TU Delft.
Photographs by Timothy Djagiri

The lecture revolved around Weller’s approach in practice and research and how his thinking on landscape architecture evolves throughout his career. In the second part of his lecture he discussed issues and conflicts of the Anthropocene age. The research on this topic focuses on the relation of urbanisation and the left-over space for biological hotspots and can be explored more deeply on the website, http://atlas-for-the-end-of-the-world.com/.

In his lecture, Richard Weller argues that landscape architecture is not scenic. On the small scale, landscape architecture uses metaphors and symbolisms as agency, on the larger scale the discipline utilises landscape structures and systems. The lecture progresses through scales from garden to megaregions, and beyond. He criticises pastoral representations, the cultural dualism of his home country Australia, as well as the economic driven horizontal urbanisation extensions in the new worlds, e.g. United States and Australia.
The larger scale of the city presents the discourse of landscape architecture, called landscape urbanism, which to put it simply can be understood as landscape structure defining the urban form. The discourse presents the conflict of the regional scale in terms of threatened biodiversity as a result of horizontal growth of cities. He argues the necessity of landscape architecture as a discipline to “guide” future developments and urbanisations through protecting, allocating and designing green superstructures based on landscape structure and its ecology. All to make sure that the impact of new developments on biodiversity is minimised. He concluded his lecture by presenting future scenarios for Australia’s megaregions where new high density satellite cities are connected with each other by high speed trains which run through ecologically preserved areas. Following this quick run through the scales, he dissects the contemporary conflicts and challenges in terms of land use and processes of urbanisation which leads into his second part of the lecture.

Protected ecological regions of the world.
Source: http://atlas-for-the-end-of-the-world.com/

Biological hotspots atlas.
Source: http://atlas-for-the-end-of-the-world.com/

In the second part, he presented the research project ‘Atlas for the End of the World’. The domination of agriculture to fulfill the world’s demand on food and the growing urbanisation due to population growth presented as the main argument for the loss of biodiversity. The growth of the world population, 3 billion people before 2100, would mean that 357 cities with the size of New York needs to be constructed in the next 80 years. He visualises these tendencies through the mapping of the threaten biological hotpots on the world map. Superimposed with the projection of Anthropogenic growth, the atlas presents flashpoints of human growth and biodiversity. Most of the cities that are growing around the world are on a collision course with unique biological hotspots. Most of them are situated in developing 3rd world countries which are less conscious in regard to protecting biodiversity, and integrated planning. Furthermore, this concern has become a bumpy road within the United Nations which so far has achieved to protect 15.3% of the world surface as protected ecological regions. The question Wellers ask is: How can we as landscape architects respond to this challenge? He criticises the missing interest of landscape architecture schools in the proximity of these biological hotspots and the involvement of the discipline in general. At the University of Pennsylvania, the department of landscape architecture has developed several research projects at these hotspots in cooperation with local authorities and stakeholders. Therefore, in conclusion, he promotes the idea of humans as active agents for landscape restoration in response to the challenges of the Anthropocene on a planetary scale.

The day after the lecture Richard Weller joined the MSc3 studio where our graduates presented their very first ideas on their individual graduation project within the theme of FLOWSCAPE. Our diverse group of international students presented their fascination for the flow-research by addressing projects situated all over the world. Richard was impressed by the diversity and first investigations. His comments are very helpful and stimulating. Hopefully within the theme of FLOWSCAPE we will take into account some of the very pressures arguments of Richard Wellers research in order to keep biodiversity as part of the richness and endless transforming treasure of flows on earth. If not we, landscape architects, who else can intergrate existing or activate new biological hotspots as a vital part of space for all species including us.

Written by: Timothy Djagiri and Inge Bobbink

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All different projects made during the workshop suggested a wide variety of solutions to address the assigned energy problem, combined with different spatial and aesthetic qualities. We might suggest that a common theme, looking at the different projects lies in the tension between two different conceptions of the periphery: ‘The landscape as an attractive image’ and ‘The landscape as a productive field’. The identity of Holland’s cultural landscape seems to combine these two approaches into one particular image, which is also seen as representative of the Dutch culture.

Overcoming the opposition between the city and the periphery
On the one hand the cultural landscape is often seen as the counterpart for the city’s intense urbanization: As an image of calmness and harmony, completely different from the dense and frenzy environment of the city. Green fields, open horizons and undisturbed views seem to be part of a conservative image, where the landscape plays the role of the city’s counterpart. The persistence of the pictorial conception of landscape, rooted in the Picturesque ideal, still remains one of the most important ideological boundaries that restrict the thinking and practice of landscape architecture. Within the prevalence of the pictorial image, “Nature is represented by a softly undulating pastoral scene, generally considered virtuous, benevolent, and soothing, a moral as well as practical antidote to the corrosive environmental and social qualities of the modern city. This landscape is the city’s other, its essential complement drawn from a nature outside of and excluding building, technology and infrastructure”. (Terra Fluxus, p.25)

As the material produced within the workshop suggest, the contribution of landscape architecture in addressing the complexities of the contemporary urban situation has to be something more than an ideally composed harmonious image of utopian wilderness. By recognizing the capacity and the potential of the landscape as a working landscape, we may overcome the ideological boundaries of the picturesque tradition. Instead of focusing unilaterally on the landscape as a sequence of scenic views, we are challenged to think and reflect on the role of landscape architecture in a more critical way.

Landscapes potential to work as something more than a beautiful naturalizing veil, was also emphasized in the symposium after the summer school. Kathryn Moore, president of the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA), emphasized landscape’s capacity to become a new driver and catalyst in the urban development. By telling the story of the HS2 planning guidelines in Birmingham, she discussed how it redefines the relationship between the infrastructure planning and the underlying landscape topography.

Picture 1. Infrastructural landscapes as a romantic scene.
Kathryn Moore, Impression of Wind Turbines around the Motorway, Entrance to Birmingham
(source: http://birmingham-made-me.org/using-hs2-to-re-invent-birmingham/#.WgqoWWiCxEa)

The landscape as a productive field: how images of technology become part of a new picturesque
The relationship between landscape and infrastructure brings us to the second conception of the landscape as a highly productive field, a source of food and energy production. This feature of the Dutch landscape seems to be over-emphasized in the spatial exercise of the summer school. The question how much load can the landscape undertake, in order to be super-productive, to cover-up for the energy and food consumption of the city, as well as for the increased demand for housing was asked many times. It seems inevitable that in order to correspond to these demands, the image, the character, the identity and the experience of today’s cultural landscape has to radically change. The question is, if this change is inevitable, will the landscape still be attractive? As an image, as an experience and as a place to live.

From the one point of view we might say that by embracing radical change, we are moving closer to overcoming the pictorial conception of the periphery and recognizing that contemporary problems need new solutions. Furthermore, the landscape is no longer approached as the city’s other, but as a field able to incorporate urban qualities. By trying to sketch a landscape in between the urban and the cultural, new, hybrid, experimental typologies might emerge, by loosing up the constraints of conserving the purity of either the ‘character of the urban’, or that of ‘the cultural landscape’.

Picture 2. Sketching the energy landscape.
H+N+S, Landscape+Energy/ Designing the transition, Vision of Europe in 2050
(source: http://www.hnsland.nl/en/projects/landscape-energy)

However, the question still remains: Are we free from the prevailing emphasis on the landscape’s image or are we moving toward a new conception of the pictorial? This time we do not encounter images of mysterious forests and picturesque lakes, but of a romanticized, highly productive landscape. Vast areas of windmills and solar panels are approached as sites of strange and intriguing beauty. Even though the emphasis on a designed and approachable wilderness is replaced with a new kind of technological nature that can still work as a base for enjoyment and recreation, the image remains more than important. Should one not focus more on what conditions the installation of these devices create, what processes they generate and how they interact with the natural processes of the landscape?

Picture 3. Impression of the recreational route along wind turbines.
H+N+S, Wind Energy and Spatial Quality/ Spatial Quality Plan Wind Energy Wieringermeer
(source: http://www.hnsland.nl/en/projects/wind-energy-wieringermeer)

Design as control over the landscape. Are we trapped in a new loop of exploitation of our landscapes?
As John May also suggests, nice images of exploitation have a larger effect than we think. “In our desire to comprehend and control life at larger and larger scales, we are perhaps unknowingly putting in motion whole regimes of mass phenomena that can initially appear natural, or at least non-human, in origin. We are somehow managing to alter the world at the level of ontology”. (John May – On Technology, Ecology and Urbanism, Verb magazine/crisis, p.112) This raises the question: Are we, as designers of the next landscape, trapped in a loop of overcontrol of the landscape? Should the capacity of the landscape be exhausted to balance the over-consumption of energy for the comfortable life of the future inhabitant of the city? Since many practices of excessive control of natural landscape processes have proven to enhance the problem they were initially trying to address, why do we keep insisting in them and try to camouflage them with a green cloth of sustainability? Is “this vague conception of sustainability as a kind of substitutive network of green technologies little more than a band-aid, a small patch on a swiftly deteriorating skin”? (Ibid, p.107) What is it that makes new “sustainable” devices of exploitation different from the rapid processes of urbanization of the modern age, often criticized by many thinkers in the field of contemporary landscape architecture?

Picture 4. California Valley Solar Ranch in San Luis Obispo County.
(source: https://www.energy.gov/articles/5-super-sized-solar-projects-transforming-clean-energy-landscape)

Picture 5. Overcontrolled landscapes/ Infrastructural networks in Western Europe.
Muriz Djurdjevic & Thomas Paturet, Atlas of Infrastructure II.
(source: http://atlasofplaces.com/filter/Landscape/Atlas-of-Infrastructure-II-Western-Europe-Atlas-of-Places)

The need to protect the landscape from processes of urbanization, whether they are given the label of sustainability or not, was also a theme appearing at the symposium. Kees Christiaanse (KCAP Architects & Planner and professor at the Chair of Architecture and Urban Design at the ETH Zurich) discussed the term of ‘Inverse Urbanism’ in the first part of his presentation at the Triennial. As he suggests, there has been a change of perspective in the relationship between nature and the built environment. While, in the past, the landscape was the ‘leftover’ of urbanisation, the Inverse urbanism reverses this balance giving high priority to the natural and cultural landscape. This approach of the city as a residual area, emphasizes the need to reconsider our contemporary, over-comfortable ways of life. “This involves less comfortable and convenient methods of being in the world, and probably more uncertain and dangerous individual lives. It involves decoupling ourselves from the crass culture of speed and efficiency that has colonized our psyches”. (John May – On Technology, Ecology and Urbanism, Verb magazine/crisis, p.110) Understanding change as a threat often leads to the problem of excessively controlled landscapes. However, what contemporary treatises of landscape architecture suggest is to embrace indeterminacy, rather than trying to precisely predict and strictly control it. As M. Prominski writes: “…with the acceptance of indeterminacy, the celebration of processes and the productive use of systemic relationships for design purposes… landscape architecture is able to deal with complex problems…. Uncertainty should not be seen as something to be resolved, but as an integral part of the design and inspire an approach more guided by time and process rather than image and production”. (Prominski, Designing Landscapes as evolutionary systems, p.30-32)

Picture 6. “An estuary demands gradients not walls, fluid occupancies not defined land uses, negotiated moments not hard edges.”
Mathur, A. and DaCuntha, D., Soak: Mumbai in an Estuary
(source: flowscapes – Systems and Compositions, Graduation Guide 2017-18)

As a result, thinking of radical change is not only about imagining scenes where the image of the cultural landscape is combined with green technological interventions. The idea of sustainability needs to be seen as an integral part of our everyday practices. It is about imagining new ways of living, maybe less comfortable and fancy, but more able to accommodate change.

Written by: Eleni Chronopoulou and Inge Bobbink

During the first week of September, a 4-day summer school program was held as part of the Landscape Triennial 2017 program located in the monumental Kleine Vennep Barn, in the area of the future Park 21, the municipality of Haarlemmermeer. The summer school comprises an international group of landscape architecture students from TU Delft, HAS Hogeschool and Wageningen University.

The assignment asked to accommodate future needs of energy, food, climate change etc. in the Metropolitan area of Amsterdam (MRA). The next landscape, leaving the cities intact, focuses on the landscape that surrounds them. Questions like – How can the open landscape contribute in addressing contemporary and future urban requests of economic, environmental and cultural nature? In what way, can the landscape improve the quality of our everyday live? Could a sustainable plan for the periphery of Amsterdam contribute in establishing a better spatial relationship between the city and the open landscape in a more sustainable way? – needed to be answered by design experiments. In these experiments students tested the ‘loading’ capacity of the open landscape.

Working in the barn
The MRA area consists of 8 different regions: Waterland, IJ-meer, Flevopolder, Gooi, Vecht area, Haarlemmermeer, North Sea coastal zone, and the Oer-IJ. The summer school started with an excursion to the different areas in order to help us understand both, their distinctive spatial qualities as well as the relationships and transitions between them. Subsequently we were divided into ten groups. Eight teams worked on the different regions, while two groups worked on a bigger scale, addressing the whole Metropolitan area of Amsterdam.

The design task (for each individual region) included energy installations that would produce the incredible amount of 101, 7 PJ, combined with 62.000 new houses. Furthermore, we needed to incorporate programs such as recreation, health and alternative forms of tourism. We were invited to test new and creative ways to balance these enormous energy and housing demands with maintaining and protecting the identity of the Dutch cultural landscape. Can the landscape facilitate these number, or is its capacity exhausted, radically altering its character and disturbing its ecological values?
In the first two days, we analysed the characteristic and potential of the area, explored the possibilities for the concept by incorporating the new programs while imagining the space for the future landscape. Lectures in the evening on energy, productive landscapes and the future landscape planning for the Netherlands helped us to gain a better understanding of the area. Beside the lectures, the discussion with the teachers (Rob van Leeuwen, Kevin Raaphorst, Leo Pols, Joeri de Bekker, Ad Kolen, Frits van Loon, Saskia de Wit and Inge Bobbink) and progress-pitches of all groups help us to enrich our own design. Moreover, the visiting critics (Arjan Klok, Sven Stremke, Joop Slangen, Helga van der Haagen, Kevin Raaphorst) on the third day, gave us a new boost and constructive feedbacks to finalize the projects. Some of the inputs were related to the reasoning of the concepts, the design should not only deal with problem solving but should explore comprehensive spatial visions. Next to that they advised us to be more critical about the assignment and come-up with a statement.

Image 1. Work progress was discussed in the end of the workshop day

Visions on the Metropolitan area of Amsterdam
At the end of the summer school, 10 groups represented their design results. For the area of Waterland (image 2), integrative housing blocks including a circular water system and solar energy were combined with new forms of productive agriculture and an integrated recreational program. In the IJ-meer area (image 3) a radical re-positioning of the land took place, by letting the water inland and adding islands providing a sustainable living environment. In the Flevopolder (image 4), the productive energy landscape is seen as a connector between the urban fabric and its surrounding landscape and can become destinations for tourism. In the Gooi (image 5), small scale housing units combined with circular energy, urban farming and high productivity were tested. The team of the Vecht-area (image 6) focused on making space for the water while emphasizing the historical value of the New Dutch Waterline. In the Haarlemmermeer (image 7), ridges were introduced into the landscape as a new topography that would work as a sound barrier and at the same time create a distinctive and attractive spatial quality. In the North Sea coastal area (image 8), a wind park on the sea and a self-sustainable harbour was created, which would also incorporate recreational uses. Finally, in the Oer-IJ (image 9), the dike functioned as a device to connect two open water areas, one focused on productive agriculture and the other on energy.

Image 2. Design Proposal for Waterland

Image 3. Design Proposal for Ij-meer

Image 4. Design Proposal for Flevopolder

Image 5. Design Proposal for Gooi

Image 6. Design Proposal for Vecht-area

Image 7. Design Proposal for Haarlemmermeer

Image 8. Design Proposal for North sea coastal area

Image 9. Design Proposal for Oer-IJ

For the two groups who worked in the scale of Metropolitan Region of Amsterdam, two different scenarios to develop the future plan were addressed. In the Low Scenario, there is no significant change in the population and economic growth in the area. As a result, to reorganize the sustainable energy source, to create an integrated infrastructure line, and to redesign a liveable space for the resident in the polder landscape of the region were proposed in the future plan. In the High Scenario, the population and economy grow rapidly. To respond this situation, the area between Amsterdam and Almere were proposed as the New Metropole. The other strategies in this future plan were to establish green corridor and energy production in various landscapes in the area of MRA.

Image 10. Metropolitan Region of Amsterdam – Low Scenario

Image 11. Metropolitan Region of Amsterdam – High Scenario

Written by: Ayu Prestasia and Inge Bobbink

The International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) represents the worldwide profession of Landscape Architecture. The Award Jury composed of a Landscape Architect from each of the five IFLA regions, and the Secretary General of ISOCARP (International Society of City and Regional Planners) who served as a guest member of the Jury, agreed with the nomination statement, that “Dirk has made, and makes, remarkable contributions to the profession, and the main quality of these contributions is that they redefine the profession, its borders, its strategy and its position”. The jury report continues: “… On the other hand, he questioned what natural processes, ranging from erosion and sedimentation to succession, can be turned into nature-based solutions for human needs. His work revolves around how these processes might be guided by landscape architecture to give them a meaningful spatial expression”.

dirk_sijmon_balkon_s_copyright_tudelft_job_jansweijer

Dirk Sijmons. Photo © TU Delft, Job Jansweijer

Dirk has been professor of Landscape Architecture from 2011 until 2015 at TU Delft.
During this short period, he introduced the process-thinking approach into the curriculum of our master-track, which started in 2010. Since then many students involving natural processes in their designs in order to create meaningful landscape architectonic spaces with respect to the environment. The result of these projects can be viewed in the year-booklets of the graduation work.

In February 2013, MSc students of Landscape Architecture were taken to the Nieuwland Museum in Leystad for a three day workshop, led by an artist. Cora Jongsma, who has worked extensively with felt, introduced students to the fascinating similarities between two seemingly incongruent occurrences: the creation of felt from wool and the creation of polders.

Exhibition by Cora Jonsma in Nieuwland Erfgoedcentrum, LelystadExhibition by Cora Jongsma in Nieuwland Erfgoedcentrum, Lelystad

“Essentially, polders are created when water is pumped out of land. Similarly, to create felt, wet wool is flattened with a rolling pin. The constant rolling shrinks the fabric to create a smooth surface,” explains Inge Bobbink, coordinator of education at the Chair of Landscape Architecture. “Going through the process of making this fabric themselves gave students an insight into the process of how polders were created and how the land subsided due to the fact of drainage,” she adds.

During the course of the workshop students were first taught how to make felt and then about mixing colours, creating layers and texturing. On the final day they were asked to recreate a part of ‘their’ polder using the felt and colours made by them. Each student works parallel to the workshop on a design for ‘a recrational waterlandscape’ in a polder.

WoolSketching landscape structureTesting felt landscapeThe final effect of the workshop is definitely remarkable. As Bobbink walks us through the exhibition, the scraps of fabric begin to make sense. One is a landscape surrounded by crisscrossing water bodies; the fabric has been dyed in different hues of blue to create a sense of depth. Another is a greener landscape – a park on a polder. One looks like a prize-winning landscape garden.

The tableOverall, it is equal parts scientific and aesthetic. “The making of felt is for me the same as cultivating the landscape… I keep this natural process in mind with my Experimental Polders of Felt, with the only difference that felt softens instead of hardens… I try, as an alchemist, to transform the area into gold, and to say the least, in felt,” says Jongsma, in an introduction to the workshop.

Bobbink says that since the workshop she has noticed a marked improvement in how the students engage with the course. That’s not all. “Playing with designs, using technical know-how with imagination is something that will be handy to them in the long run as landscape artists,” she adds.

Interview by Damini Purkayastha from DELTA

Proeftuinen van Vilt on Cora Jongsma’s website

Smallest polder - plan overview

Polder Garden – bird’s eye view Campus Delft

Last year Michael van der Meer, the director of the Science Centre and Rolf Hut from the Faculty of Civil Engineering asked us to design the ‘smallest polder of the Netherlands’ at the Campus of TU Delft. We invited 5 students (Lowin van der Burg, Marij Hoogland, Linda Nijhof, Emma Ottevanger and Cem Steenhorst) from the faculty of Architecture, who invested quite some time next to their regular study program, to make a design. Denise Piccinini and myself from the department of Landscape Architecture coached them.

The project should demonstrate, especially to foreign guests and children, who visit the Science Centre, a typical piece of the man-made Dutch landscape.

Furthermore the polder should explain the principles of water management of the lowlands. Rain drops fall into the polder, are collected in the ditches, flow to the main canal and are discharged via the screw pump onto the ring canal that surrounds the polder.

Since the polder is very small and situated next to the Science Centre, neighboring a future international housing block we decided to design the polder as being garden. The image of the design should convince decision makers who are involved in planning process of TU Delft campus, that this Polder Garden can become an educational and spatial interesting hotspot. And moreover the first polder we, the Dutch, build in the Netherlands after having finished South Flevoland in 1968!

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!