Archive

Tag Archives: landscape design

Routes are important operative structures in landscape architecture because they play a crucial role in mediating or facilitating the use and reception of (designed) landscapes. Routes are the ‘silent guides of the stroller’ and facilitate the primordial act of walking as an aesthetic and social practice. The shape of a walk refers not only to the formal aspects of routing such as the tracing and gradient of the routes, but also to the landscape space as people perceive it. This perceptual space indicates the visual reality, the sensorial experience that emerges only by bodily movement and is affected by topological, physical, social, and psychological conditions. The psychologist Kurt Lewin proposed in 1934 the term Hodological Space to describe these factual conditions a person is faced with on its way (‘Hodos’, a Greek word meaning ‘way’). The psychogeographical maps of Guy Debord in the 1950’s and Hans Dieter Schaal in the late 1970’s are inspiring attempts to visualize perceptual space.

 

Psychogeographical mapping of hodological space (drawing by Hans Dieter Schaal, 1978)

Mapping hodological space (drawing by Hans Dieter Schaal, 1978)

 

Visual perception and kinaesthesia

The shape of a walk as a concept connects visual perception to the ‘sense of movement’ or kinaesthesia. In traditional Asian culture it is common to link visual perception with movement as exemplified by the Chinese character for ‘to see’ 見 in which the upper part symbolises the eye 目and the lower part symbolises the feet of a person 儿. Kinaesthetic experience involves several sensory channels for an active participation with the spatial environment. The brain integrates information from proprioception and the vestibular system into its overall sense of body position, movement, and acceleration, which is important for spatial orientation as described by the neuroscientist Alain Berthoz.

Bodily sensation and muscle movement are thus closely related to visual perception. As James Gibson elaborates in his seminal work ‘The ecological approach to visual perception’: “Locomotion is guided by visual perception. Not only does it depend on perception but perception depends on locomotion inasmuch as a moving point of observation is necessary for any adequate acquaintance with the environment. So we must perceive in order to move, but we must also move in order to perceive.” The shape of a walk is therefore determined by a kinaesthetic experience of the designed landscape where visual perception is inherently connected to one’s abilities and possibilities for movement offered by the design.

 

Bodily sensation and muscle movement are closely related to visual perception (photos by Eadweard Muybridge, 1887)

Bodily sensation and muscle movement are closely related to visual perception (photos by Eadweard Muybridge, 1887)

 

Walking as field of study in landscape architecture

The shape of the walk is thus of crucial importance in landscape architecture because it is not possible to perceive space without movement of the eye, head and body. It determines the tactile and kinaesthetic experience and is the means to organise the visual logic of a site by directing the individual’s gaze at views or focal points and their sequence. From this follows that the shape of a walk is an important unifying and structural principle in landscape design and the discovery of landscape from past to present. According to the garden theorist and historian Erik A. de Jong it must be considered the hinge that steered more than anything else the changing options for use, experience, and design and contributed fundamentally to both personal and cultural developments.

From this perspective the shape of a walk becomes a highly relevant field of study in landscape architecture. Not only in the sense that it addresses the phenomenological dimensions of landscape as proposed by the sociologist Lucius Burckhardt with his Science of Strolling (called: Strollology or Promenadology), or that it offers an alternative approach to landscape design that integrates intense space perception, encourages intuition and supports organization as elaborated by landscape architects such as Henrik Schultz and Günther Voght. The shape of a walk is also an important container of design knowledge available for systematic exploration, description and classification. It is an invaluable source of design principles that effectively shape the relation between formal space (‘space of coordinates’) and perceptual space. Studying the shape of a walk can help landscape architects to get a grip on space as perceived from eye-level, kinaesthetic aspects, wayfinding, and the phenomenology of landscape in order to become tools for landscape design.

GIS-based analysis of the shape of the walk at Stourhead Landscape garden combining height gradient, visible features and light and shade along the route (analysis by Steffen Nijhuis, 2015)

GIS-based analysis of the shape of the walk at Stourhead Landscape garden combining height gradient, visible features and light and shade along the route (analysis by Steffen Nijhuis, 2015)

The material as discussed above is excerpted from: Nijhuis, S. (2015) GIS-based landscape design research. Stourhead landscape garden as a case study. Delft, A+BE. http://dx.doi.org/10.7480/abe.2015.13 or http://repository.tudelft.nl/view/ir/uuid:74854bbb-1843-4b73-9214-040e8c64384c/

“To discover and reveal the deeper substrate of the landscape is something the natural sciences alone cannot accomplish.” – Günther Voght

The Department of Urbanism at the Faculty of Architecture and Built Environment, TU Delft considers urbanism as a planning and design oriented activity towards urban and rural landscapes.[1] It aims to enhance, restore or create landscapes from a perspective of sustainable development, so as to guide, harmonise and shape changes which are brought about by social, economic and environmental processes. In this respect we can consider urbanism as an object or goal-oriented interdisciplinary approach that breaks down complex problems into ‘compartments’ or ‘themes’. The core of urbanism is formed by the disciplines of urban planning, urban design, and landscape architecture. Giving shape to the relationship between man and natural landscape is a core task for this disciplines and involves civil-, agriculture-, nature-, and environmental based techniques as operative instruments. However, in order to work together effectively it is important to identify and develop the qualities of the involved disciplines individually. What is the particular nature of landscape architecture as an independent discipline? The presumption is that the answer can be found in a repertoire of principles of study and practice typical for landscape architecture.

The nature of landscape architecture as a discipline, and particularly landscape design as an important activity, can be characterised by the interplay of four principles of study and practice.[2]

(I) Landscape as three-dimensional construction

Here the focus is on research and design of the landscape ‘from the inside out’, as it could be experienced by an observer moving through space. It elaborates on the visual manifestation of open spaces, surfaces, screens and volumes and their relationships in terms of structural organisation (e.g., balance, tension, rhythm, proportion, scale) and ordering principles (e.g., axis, symmetry, hierarchy, datum, transformation).[3] The basic premise is that the shape of space, plasticity (form of space-determining elements) and appearance (e.g., colour, texture, lighting) of spatial elements in the landscape determine the relation between design and perception. This principle addresses the form and functioning of three-dimensional landscape space, which creates a spatial dynamic. This might be, for example, the framing of a landscape or urban panorama, or the construction of a spatial series along a route, making a pictorial landscape composition. Examples from landscape architecture designing landscape as a three-dimensional construction include: Stourhead landscape garden, Wiltshire (UK) (figure 1), Vaux-le-Vicomte, Melun (France) and Japanese pre-modern gardens.

Figure 1: Stourhead landscape garden (Wiltshire, UK) is a landscape designed from the observers point of view. Views and sightlines are combined with formal, transitional and progressive elements. Study map of Stourhead in 1779 by Frederik Magnus Piper showing important sight lines at eye-level (image courtesy: Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Stockholm)

Figure 1: Stourhead landscape garden (Wiltshire, UK) is a landscape designed from the observers point of view. Views and sightlines are combined with formal, transitional and progressive elements. Study map of Stourhead in 1779 by Frederik Magnus Piper showing important sight lines at eye-level (image courtesy: Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Stockholm)

(II) Landscape as history

The landscape is ‘read’ as a biography, as a palimpsest that evidences all of the activities that contributed to the shaping of that landscape. The Genius Loci expresses the character of the site, not only geographical but also the historical, social, and aesthetic character, and is at the heart of this principle. The landscape is regarded as a layered entity where traces that time has laid over can reinforce or contradict each other. Knowledge of these layers is one of the starting points for new transformations of the landscape involved, or adding a new design layer. This principle involves the evolution of landscape over time and elaborates on operations of ‘erasing’ and ‘writing’ history.[3] Operations of erasing history include: complete or partial eradication, etching, excision, entropy and excavation. Operations of writing history include: parceling, infill, addition, absorption, enveloping, wrapping, overlay, parasitize and morphing. Examples from landscape architecture carefully intervening in the landscape as a historical culture include: Bunker 599, Diefdijk (Netherlands) (figure 2), the Quarries at Crazannes (France) and Oranjewoud Estate (the Netherlands).

Figure 2: Bunker 599 (Diefdijk, the Netherlands) is an example of a careful design intervention in an important historical defence structure of the Netherlands, the New Dutch Water Line. Project by Rietveld Landscape with Atelier de Lyon, 2010 (source: Rietveld Landscape)

Figure 2: Bunker 599 (Diefdijk, the Netherlands) is an example of a careful design intervention in an important historical defence structure of the Netherlands, the New Dutch Water Line. Project by Rietveld Landscape with Atelier de Lyon, 2010 (source: Rietveld Landscape)

(III) Landscape as scale-continuum

This principle regards landscape to be a relational structure connecting scales and spatial, ecological, functional and social entities. Landscape is viewed as a scale-continuum. The design involves establishing relationships via attachment, connection, embedment of a specific site or location into the broader context at different scale levels. A landscape intervention will have impacts on different levels of scale, hitting interests of stakeholders operating on that level. Although scale is a matter of grain and radius, it implies that a particular site is always part of the larger context.[5] Once the frame and granule of the site (object of study) is determined, the rest is regarded ‘context’. The reach of scale is also important, because conclusions on a specific level of scale could be opposite to conclusions drawn on another level of scale (called: scale-paradox). This principle addresses working through the scales as an important basic premise, for example for systematic elaboration of planning strategies (e.g., regional planning and design) and design interventions (e.g., project-based realization). Examples from landscape architecture connecting scales and different layers of interest are: Metropolitan Park Boston (USA) and Emscher Landscape Park (Germany) (figure 3).

Figure 3: Emscher Landscape Park (Germany) is based on a regional strategy elaborated by project-based design interventions. Section of the Masterplan 2010 indicating realised and future projects (source: Regionalverband Ruhr, 2010)

Figure 3: Emscher Landscape Park (Germany) is based on a regional strategy elaborated by project-based design interventions. Section of the Masterplan 2010 indicating realised and future projects (source: Regionalverband Ruhr, 2010)

(IV) Landscape as process

The landscape is regarded as a holistic and dynamic system of systems.[6] In that respect landscape is an expression of the dynamic interaction between ecological, social and economic processes. The landscape is considered as a process rather than as a result. Natural and social processes constantly change the landscape, making the dynamics of the transformation a key issue in research and design. The design is like an open strategy, aimed at guiding developments, no blueprint design. Projects play a role as an open-ended strategy, as in staging or setting up future conditions (e.g., manipulating processes of erosion and sedimentation by water or the development of project-based master plans). Operations focus on the interaction between landscape processes and typo-morphological aspects and facilitate aesthetic, functional, social and ecological relationships between natural and human systems. This principle of study and practice elaborates on models for understanding the landscape as system (e.g. layers-approach) and concepts like sustainable urban metabolism and urban ecology. Examples from landscape architecture using natural and social processes to shape landscape include: Jardin Élémentaires (Italy/France: study project) (figure 4), Nature development De Gelderse Poort, Nijmegen (the Netherlands) and London Guerrilla Gardens (UK).

Figure 4: Jardin Élémentaires is a theoretical experiment were natural processes of erosion and sedimentation by water are manipulated by dams, creating changing patterns of streams and sedimentary islands in a valley landscape. Project by Michel Desvigne, 1988 (image courtesy: Michel Desvigne)

The knowledge reflected by the principles of study and practice form the core of landscape architecture and expresses the integrative nature of the discipline. It embodies a way of thinking typical for landscape architecture and is visible in landscape architecture theories, planning and design processes and products. The understanding and development of this body of knowledge is an important basis for interdisciplinary, context-driven and problem focused research. Boldly stated it is like this: “if you don’t know what the core of your own discipline is, you don’t know what you can contribute to other disciplines”. By developing the typical principles of study and practice of landscape architecture, it is possible to contribute to other fields in terms of theories, methods and techniques, as well as their application via concepts, strategies and interventions. It becomes the basis for exploring the boundaries of the discipline, exchange of knowledge and the search for collaborations and partnerships to engage in sociocultural, ecological and technological issues from the perspective of spatial planning and design.

Notes

[1] This is an abridged version of the book chapter:  S.Nijhuis (2013) “Principles of Landscape Architecture”, in: E. Farini and S. Nijhuis (eds.) Flowscapes. Exploring landscape infrastructures. Madrid, Universidad Francisco De Vitoria, pp 52-61

[2] This principles are adapted and modified from: M. Prominski (2004) Landschaft entwerfen: Einführung in die Theorie aktueller Landschaftsarchitektur. Reimer Verlag; S. Marot (1995) ‘The landscape as alternative’, in: K. Vandermarliere (ed.) Het Landschap / The Landscape. Four International Landscape Designers. Antwerp, De Singel, pp 9-36; S. Nijhuis (2006) ‘Westvaart als landschapsarchitectonische ontwerpopgave’, in: Westvaart in de polder. 4 ontwerpen voor een verdwenen 7-molengang. Leiden: Uitgeverij Groen, pp 35-37.

[3] S. Bell (1993) Elements of Visual Design in the Landscape. London, E & FN Spon.

[4] P. Lukez (2007) Suburban Transformations. Princeton Architectural Press

[5] T. de Jong (2006) Context Analysis. Delft University of Technology

[6] I.S. Zonneveld (1995) Land Ecology. An Introduction to Landscape Ecology as a base for Land Evaluation, Land Management and Conservation. SPB Academic Publishers, Amsterdam