Rudi van Etteger
Date: 10 November 2016

Time: 11:00 – 12:30
Location: Aula, building 362, Gen. Foulkesweg 1, Wageningen

Dissertation title:

Beyond the Visible. Prolegomenon to an aesthetics of designed landscapes

Group: Wageningen University, Landscape Architecture
Promotor: Prof.dr.ir. A. van den Brink and prof.dr. H.G.J. Gremmen
Co-promotor: Dr. R.C.H.M. van Gerwen

Abstract:

In this thesis the appropriate aesthetic evaluation of designed landscapes is explored. The lack of a specific theory for the appropriate appreciation of designed landscapes in environmental aesthetics has made it possible for landscape architects and critics to belief that landscapes are scenic entities. Actual design criticism as offered in the Landscape Architecture Europe books is shown to be based on the inconsistent belief that aesthetic experiences of works of landscape architecture are mostly visual. To explore what an appropriate appreciation should be based in, the ontology and phenomenology first of the particular designed landscape of Walcheren and consequently designed landscapes in general are explored. The exploration has provided important cues for the aesthetic evaluation of designed landscapes which form an evaluative framework for the appropriate appreciation of designed landscapes. A discussion is provided on the importance of such an appropriate appreciation for different audiences.

Extra information on:

http://www.sense.nl/graduations/upcoming/10871732/Rudi-van-Etteger

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The chair of Landscape Architecture invites you to a new colloquium series in the How-Do-You-Landscape sessions entitled “SCAPES”. This series focusses on urgent and emerging themes for spatial design, such as disasters and emergencies, co-creation, social justice and new technology. We invite leading academics and practitioners with contrasting or complementary views to speak about their work in an informal setting. The presentations are followed by a discussion chaired by an academic from the faculty. A screening of a film or documentary on the same topic follows up the lectures in the weeks following.

#2 ROAD-SCAPES
The second theme in the new series is Road-Scapes, and explores the past and future role of infrastructure in shaping the conceptions and transformations of natural, rural and urban landscapes. Timothy Davis, architectural historian for the American National Parks Authority will speak about his research on the design of roads in U.S. National Parks and their influence on ideas of nature, recreation and technology in American society.  Stefan Bendix, urbanist and founder of Artgineering, will speak on his work on cycle infrastructures as a tool for spatial and socio-economic development in contemporary urban environments. The relationship between past and future infrastructure forms a central thematic for the colloquium, which concludes with a discussion between these two speakers and moderator René van der Velde, associate professor in landscape architecture. The presentations and discussion are intended to reveal critical themes and principles for landscape architects and urban planners on this most fundamental of spatial design and development instruments.

Tim Davis – Park Roads                  Park roads have been celebrated as technical and aesthetic masterpieces, hailed as democratizing influences, and vilified for invading pristine wilderness with the sights, sounds, and smells of civilization. Davis’ research traces the role of motorists, wilderness advocates, highway engineers and landscape architects in shaping these infrastructures, offering a new perspective on national park history and providing insights into evolving ideas about the role of nature, recreation, and technology in American society.

Tim Davis is a historian for the U.S. National Park Service. His writings on parks, parkways, and other aspects of the American landscape have appeared in Landscape Journal, Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture, Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes, and America’s National Park Roads and Parkways. He has taught courses on landscape history, theory and preservation at the University of Texas, the University of Maryland, and the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in Decorative Arts, Design and Culture. He received his  degree in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard College and a PhD in Americ
an Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. poster-roadscapes-stefan-bendiks

Stefan Bendiks – Cycle infrastructure                  The planning and design of infrastructure in urban and peri-urban contexts is an increasingly critical task. Stefan will present research and praxis projects by the office that explores the phenomenon of the route and the role of infrastructure in the spatial and social development of territories. Recent research and a publication on cycle infrastructure by the office will form the main body of the talk, a comparative study of 10 long-distance cycleways, their planning and design characteristics, and their impact on aspects such as socio-economic development, experience and mobility patterns.

Stefan Bendiks is director of the office Artgineering, an office for urbanism based in Rotterdam and Brussels. He devises and implements design strategies for complex (inter)urban conditions with particular attention to the role of infrastructure. In various research and design projects, he re-interprets the relationship between mobility, landscape and urban development. The work of Artgineering has won various awards and prizes such as Europan, the Karl-Hofer Award of the UdK Berlin and a Bauhaus Award nomination.poster-roadscapes-stefan-bendiks2

The new masters students of Landscape Architecture embarked upon the first of, what will soon be, many adventures studying the diverse dutch landscape. The first excursion took the students south from Delft and into the beautiful landscape of Limburg.

Limburg offered an entirely different view of the dutch landscape, rolling hills and vineyards were the main characteristic. Created by the terraced plateaus formed by the river Meuse; this was a Netherlands very different from the flat polders of south holland and one which most of the students had not seen before.

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But this was also an area in which the students could see mans forceful affect on our environment; that being in the old limestone quarries of Limburg. Now, that the quarry sites are closed, nature has taken over and this unique space was a peaceful setting of plants and wildlife. But most interestingly for the students to see were the bounding steep walls of rock which show the geomorphology of the space; layers of strata freezing the landscapes’ formation through time.

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Of course, the only way to really understand the landscape is to delve into and experience it; thus ensued two jam-packed days of exploring from the apex of the plateau to the lows of the quarry, through the small villages, chateaus, vineyards and even a quick wave to Belgium. From tumbling down the steep quarry sides to wet hair flips in the lakes; the only way to learn the landscape is to be in it!

Jade Appleton

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A landscape architect for president. How about it? In the first part of this feuilleton this idea turned out to be not as far-fetched as it sounds…. All first American presidents were gardeners/farmers, using their own garden to experiment with and express their ideas on what the future America should be, with Thomas Jefferson as their champion. In part III  we will see how Thomas Jefferson’s close-knitted relationship between gardening, garden design, landscape architecture and politics becomes manifest when he translated the experiments with his own garden Monticello to the University of Virginia, materialising his democratic ideals.

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Jefferson had been involved in every detail of the university, from its foundation to the design of the buildings and gardens. He envisioned a new kind of university, where students and faculty could interact, live and learn all together, and dedicated to educating in practical affairs and public service rather than in more academic professions. It was the first non-sectarian university in the United States, revolutionary for its time in terms of its curriculum, educational methodology and physical form. Both programmatically – the combination of classrooms and living quarters – and spatially – the spreading of the academic buildings into the landscape as a unified, harmonious interrelation – the composition of the university displayed a new way of thinking.

The university, which opened in 1825, is designed around a lawn, terraced down in order to deal with the hilly topography of Charlottesville and flanked on each side by a formal alley of trees, with at the end the library – inspired by the Pantheon in Rome – as the majestic centre-point. The lawn’s edges are defined by a series of educational pavilions with student housing between them, connected by a continuous colonnade. The lawn is the formal garden and main public space of the campus, in opposition to the more private rear gardens of the pavilions.

Its precedents can be found in the quadrangles of the English university towns Oxford and Cambridge. However, unlike the air of exclusiveness of its European predecessors, the American lawn, opening up to the unbounded landscape, reflected both domesticity and community, in an amalgam of an ideal of romantic pastoralism and democratic communalism. It promoted a community ideal, and the critical conception that a place can create community.

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For further reading: Therese O’Malley, “The Lawn in Early American Landscape and Garden Design,” in The American Lawn, ed. George Teyssot (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999).

 

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“… it may be said that Mr. Jefferson is the first American who has consulted the Fine Arts to know how he should shelter himself from the weather.”[1]

A landscape architect for president. How about it? In Thomas Jefferson landscape architect. Part I this idea turned out to be not as far-fetched as it sounds…. All first American presidents were gardeners/farmers, using their own garden to experiment with and express their ideas on what the future America should be, with Thomas Jefferson as their champion. In part II of this feuilleton let us zoom in on his life work: Monticello.

Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s house and plantation, wasn’t the first American pleasure garden, but certainly the most influential one, uniting arts, science, production, experimentation, expression of both power and of democracy, of renewal and tradition.

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Already in college Jefferson started planning his own house and garden, and never stopped planning it for the next 50 years. He inherited most of the land from his father, and his first action was to level the top of what had been his favourite spot since childhood, a hill that rose 170 metres above the river, and which he named Monticello [little mountain]. Two years later, he started building his house, inspired by Palladio. Although some Palladian plantation houses existed at the time, none was as sophisticated as his, and with the house he had a strong statement about who Thomas Jefferson was and would be: fashionable, powerful, looking toward the future. For him Palladian architecture, looking to the ancient past for models of the future, wasn’t old in essence, but modern.

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As with the house, he had been planning the garden from early on. Before beginning to build the house, he was already planting fruit trees on the hillside. His first plan for the grounds laid out an astonishing landscape vision: somewhat lugubrious, fairly decadent and shamelessly romantic for someone who is celebrated as a master of sober and statesmanlike prose, totally unlike the no-nonsense Jefferson he was as a president.

To present an image of his ideas, let me describe one of these never-built phantasies. The graveyard, which he described as a circle surrounded by a hedge of cedar, among ancient oaks interspersed with some “gloomy” evergreens, with “no mark of any human shape that had been there, unless the skeleton of some poor wretch, Who sought that place out to despair and die in.”[2] Temples, a pyramid and statues would mark the graves, with inscriptions in pseudo-classical Latin describing water and grottoes. The whole arrangement would be planted with native beech and aspen trees, and a vista would be cut open to the river. There would be fragrant plants and an Aeolian harp would play mournfully by the shifting winds, unseen.

These and other visions were derived directly from his European books, and from the many travels he made when he was a Minister in Paris, spending most of his time touring gardens in France, England, Holland, Germany. His favourite was the jardin anglais, which he saw as the expression of Enlightenment, as a reaction against the autocracy and the oppressive rule of the privileged few (disregarding the reality of hundreds of poorly paid servants needed to keep up these gardens). The new naturalism was an expression of politics—the progress of civilisation moves toward greater liberty and justice, claiming the political powers that be were “natural” —, of the scientific revolution, geared toward empiricism—true knowledge can only be derived from the physical examination of things themselves—and of a new philosophy, with reason replacing faith and religion as the central organising principle, all of which fitted Jefferson’s views.

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He kept perfecting his house and garden, living for years in a building site, tearing half the building down and replacing it with a taller portico and a single dome (modelled on Villa Rotunda) to make it aesthetically perfect. In the meantime, all his ideas to make money from his large plantation, such as introducing crop-rotation systems and soil-improving crops, did not deliver, whereas the nail-factory that he started, worked by boy slaves, did, presenting a total contradiction of Jefferson’s deepest-held belief that the United States should be a nation of farmers. This made him one of the first factory owners, the forerunner of what would transform the nations’ economy and social structure.

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Despite his ideals, Jefferson was less a farmer than a plant-obsessed gardener of scientific bent, using his garden as an experimental laboratory. Even as an old man, he supervised the plantation almost daily. He was a zealous record-keeper, writing down all his observations, whether the wind direction, the blooming dates of wildflowers, or the life cycle of a destructive insect.

After retiring at Monticello, all his previously designed, unexecuted plans eventually led to the plan that was put in action. Working carefully with native material, although he was constantly experimenting with exotic plants, he created a very original version of a landscape garden. Based on his love for botany, agriculture and surveying, in this final vision he imagined the hilltop as a ferme ornée, an ornamental farm, with temples, clumps of trees, a swooping drive surrounded by flower beds called “roundabout”, a grove, a fish pond, a vegetable garden, fruit garden, and orchards. Outbuildings were moved out of sight, vistas were created, and the wooden fence replaced by a ha-ha.

Monticello is the quintessential expression of the ideal of a virtuous rural retirement, of a country of farmers in the tradition of Virgil’s “Georgics.” The rational exploitation of agricultural lands for profit (utility) married to a concern with pleasure and taste (beauty).

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For further reading: Graham, S. (2011). American Eden; From Monticello to Central Park to our backyards: what our gardens tell us about who we are. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

[1] Marquis de Chastellux, Travels in North America in the Years 1780, 1781 and 1782.

[2] From Jefferson’s Memorandum Book

In the present publicity excess on the American presidential elections, Trump versus Hillary, I can’t help fantasizing about the ideal president. What about a landscape architect for president? Well, it has been done before, and very successfully… Actually all first presidents were gardeners/farmers, using their own garden to experiment with and express their ideas on what the future America should be. Each in their own way made what Adams called “the garden of a patriot”, where the mundane activities of sowing and planting became imbued with the idea of nation building.

The very first president George Washington was a professional surveyor, discovering firsthand an ability to identify and select the best plots of land for purchase, an especially important consideration in colonial America, where land equaled power. Also, he studied and implemented improved farming methods throughout his life, an initial interest driven by his own needs to earn a living and improve his family estate Mount Vernon. He had a strong interest in landscape design and architecture throughout his life, and after returning home from his service in the Revolutionary War, he redesigned the landscape at Mount Vernon, adopting the less formal, more naturalistic style of the 18th century English landscape garden. Based on a plan gifted to him by Samuel Vaughan, he reshaped walks, roads, and lawns; cut vistas through the forest, and planted hundreds of native trees and shrubs. Eighteenth-century visitors to Mount Vernon were delighted by bountiful offerings of fresh vegetables and fruits, and reveled in after-dinner walks amongst all manner of flowering plants. From the beginning, trees had been emblematic of the new nation, and when in 1783, with liberty at last achieved, Washington could return to Mount Vernon, his first act was to embark upon large-scale plantings of native American trees. He wrote to friends and relations all over the 13 states to request specimens of indigenous species – balsam firs from the north, eastern hemlocks and white pines from the north-east, live oaks and magnolias from the south – which, added to the cockspur thorns, redbuds and other trees that grew wild on his Virginia estate, would form an image of the new nation in microcosm. Where earlier colonists had spurned native species, Mount Vernon was to become what Andrea Wulf calls “the first truly American garden”.[1]

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Mount Vernon

 

After Washington, John Adams was elected president, the first president to live in the White House, which was then, like most of Washington, surrounded by mud flats. However, apart from adding a vegetable plot he did not spend enough time there to alter the grounds. But at his retirement he returned to his family farm in Massachusetts, where he spent his time farming. “I begin now to think all time lost that is not employed in farming; innocent, healthy, gay, elegant amusement! Enchanting employment! How my imagination roves over my rocky mountains, and through my brushy meadows.”[2] Much of his land was farmland, with ornamental plants near the house. Adams was no landscape gardener on the scale or with the intensity of George Washington or Thomas Jefferson; the only large intervention he made was the creation of a ha-ha, creating the effect of a long, uninterrupted view. He proposed naming his farm Peacefield, for the sense of peace he enjoyed there, but also in commemoration for the peace he had helped to win for his country.

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Adams Farm

Where Adams saw the urban entrepreneurial elite of merchants and traders as the key to the nation’s prosperity, the third president Thomas Jefferson thought the greatest service a man could render his country was to introduce a useful plant to its culture. Since his travels to Europe, Jefferson had been an avid collector of books and architecture and gardening, which he used to shape the Palladian splendour of his estate Monticello.

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Monticello

Jefferson was followed up by James Madison, who, after his term as president, retired to his Virginia estate Montpelier, where he managed a large plantation and devoted himself to the preservation of the environment by conserving timber resources and once-fertile land that had been depleted from overuse. In 1818 he made a prescient speech on the subject, filled with advice for living off the land without destroying it. Humankind, he said, could not expect nature to be “made subservient to the use of man”: man, he believed, must find a place within “the symmetry of nature” without destroying it.[3] His garden, like those of others laid out by the founding fathers, remains today as proof of his dedication to the natural world.

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Montpelier

My personal favourite is Jefferson. Although the title landscape architect had not been created before his death in 1826, he was certainly qualified for that appellation. Not only did he design his estate Monticello and his summer house Poplar Forest, but with his design for the University of Virginia he created the prototype for the American University, he played a large role in the design and realisation of the city of Washington and established the grid by which means the American wilderness was colonised.

A feuilleton.

[1] Andrea Wulf (2011) Founding Gardeners. The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation.

[2] Letters of John Adams Addressed to His Wife, ed. Adams, 2:139.

[3] “Address to the Agricultural Society of Albemarle, Virginia” (1818).