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Following up former contributions of the chair of Landscape Architecture/TUDelft to the Oerol Festival we are this year developing our fifth project in the framework of Sense of Place – IOPM.

The 2017 project has just been named; PIN(K) A PLACE – Disclosing Landscape.

This year expedition project focus on Place and Perception and is located in a forest nearby Duinmeertje Hee.

Background and methods used during the design process.

Walking a straight line – immersive method

The first step of the recognition and mapping phase made on site was the introduction of an exercise when the students were asked to walk into the forest for the first time, not in groups but alone and remote from each other by about 30 meters, not using any of the existing paths but starting from the edges of the forest and walking into the forest in a straight line minding and making notes of the deviations – moments when, where and why they were inclined to stop or leave the referential straight line to research the particularities of the forest, coming back to the line after the recognition of a certain particularity continuing their journey along the line till the next moment of deviation happened.

By introducing this linear movement a qualitative recognition of the site was established; obstacles were encountered during the walk; the perception and ‘view’ of the students were drawn by events, objects, atmospheres along the way introducing serendipity into this mapping phase. The experiential dynamic of walking and the sensorial relationship with the site made the students much more aware of the particularities they encounter and the deviations they were inclined to make.

By noting this particularities and encounters a first map of capacities of the site were made. This exercise that was not meant, in principle, to collect hints for the project but be a recognition of what was there, has generated an unexpected affluence of material, perceptions, experiences and is still informing the project in its end phase. Not only the experiences and deviations on site are been inspiring but also the very exercise of walking as a research method, what confirms the importance of been conscious about the ‘steps’ taken during all phases of the design process.

The second step directly related to the walking a straight line exercise was to compare and discuss the experiences in the group trying to find out the way to match them. This phase revealed on one hand the tendency to describe tactile aspects of the site and on the other hand talk about feelings, remembrances, stories related to certain spots along the way, ending in a map overlapping different ephemeral encounters.

The most important conclusion of this brainstorm section, along with that of mapping the individual opinions or making lists of emotions, is the realization that each of us has a personal perception of the landscape. In this sense you could make as many maps and lists as visitors are of the same forest.

What remote back to understandings about place and perception the students had studied in the introductory phase like the Richard Muir’s book Approaches to Landscape where he also refers to another important researcher on subjects related to Place and Perception, Yi Fu Tuan; “In experiencing places, we simultaneously encounter two closely related but different landscapes. The real landscape, the objective one made by soil, vegetation and water. The other is the perceived landscape, consisting of senses and remembrances, a selective impression of what the real landscape is like… When the one departs, the landscape enduring in the memory to be recalled and recounted will be the one founded on perceptions, not the real landscape”(Muir, 1999).

Curation or the many authors approach / participatory research

Following up the above mention conclusion the design process stepped into two main directions; one searching for ways to give the visitor pre-defined experiences by introducing a narrative, or tools to enlarge existing features of the site. This projects refer to installations with a certain degree of interaction aiming to focus the perception of the visitor into specific aspects of the forest playing with the senses or giving to the visitors a different role than the one they are used to. A few examples of this approach are; marking the relief and high differences of the old dunes, or by amplifying sounds and views present in the forest, or using natural material available, or reporting the visitors to former ages of the same landscape.

The other direction searches for a more interactive approach where the user/visitor of the forest is a co-author and an integrative part of a research like project. This approach relates to more recently ‘bottom-up’ investigative strategies emerging as an attempt to offer a different form of analyses than the factual or theoretical one. In this sense the project has not one author but is a result of an overlapping of uncountable authors. In a curatorial way of doing research, the intention is to build a database of perceptions together with the visitors of the project stepping aside of the role as dominant creators and establishing a framework wherein the interaction can happen.

The above mentioned is a result of a process which took about three weeks of intensive search for a concept. In this design phase the students were shift several time under the different ideas. In principle the ideas remained, what changed were the students working on them, depending on their own interest. In such way some ideas were developed further, others were revaluated creating a groups cohesion where everyone can now identified with the end result. This way of work helps to reach high level concepts generating a massive amount of ideas, all of them somehow being part of the final project.

Final Project

PIN(K) A PLACE – Disclosing Landscape

Pin(k) a place is the final project, still in development, which will be built during the Oerol Festival, from 09 till 19 June.

Pin(k) a Place is a project that operates on the surface of the forest, overlapping the existing landscape without deleting or modifying it substantially. It is a project which has as premise to be reversible, impermanent but at the same time tries to provoke reactions, tries to choreograph a relationship in between the visitor and the landscape they are in. Its intention is the creation of a meaningful place by introducing icons to the landscape and engaging the user physically and emotionally. Its intention is also to be an interactive research of people’s perception of this landscape, to understand and document what is in there people feel the most attach to. Therefore the project opens a conversation with the visitor, stimulate their participation, mapping it and build a collectively authored archive of perceptions.

Literature and studies used to develop the mentioned exercises and phases are, for example: studies and experiments e.g. made by Ellen Braae trying to capture site-specific qualities of a site (Braae et al., 2013), Cosgrove considerations about maps and mapping in Mapping (Cosgrove, 1999), Land Art projects in which the act of walk becomes an artwork in Walkscapes (Careri, 2002), Richard Muir’s definition of a Place in Approaches to Landscape (Muir, 1999), Yi-Fu Tuan seminal books – Place and Space (19077) and Topophilia(1972), Ed Wall essay on an method how to create an interactive cartography (Wall, 2017).

Students Oerol 2017 – Bella Bluemink, Eva Ventura, Eva Willemsen, Federica Sanchez, Ge Hong, Ilya Tasioula, Jan Gerk de Boer, Joey Liang, Lukas Kropp, Maël Vanhelsuwé, Maximilian Einert, Michelle Siemerink, Qingyun Lin, Timothy Radhitya Djagiri, Yao Lu. Coordination and tutoring Oerol 2017 – Denise Piccinini and Rene van der Velde

 More information about our project?

Visit our website (still under construction) https://iopm2017.wordpress.com/

 

 

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Blue Ridge Parkway-04

Roads and landscape

The road in the landscape is a  multi-faceted subject, as we could read in the previous posts by Gerdy Verschuure and Steffen Nijhuis. Driving as a means to experience the landscape is one of these aspects, which sometimes has been exalted to an art in itself.

When traveling through the United States, one of the greatest experiences is the travel itself: driving days on end through expansive landscapes on roads straight as an arrow where the landscape morphology permits, or following the contours of the natural landscape where it doesn’t. This fall I fulfilled a long since wish: driving the Blue Ridge Parkway. Starting from the northernmost tip, we drove south for two days, zigzagging from breath-taking view to breath-taking view, until a flat tire forced us to return to the inhabited world.

 

Blue Ridge Parkway-07

Parkways

The tradition of building parkways goes back a long way, to one of the godfathers of landscape architecture. When Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux had created Prospect Park in 1868, they felt that, although the park was recognized as a magnificent natural reserve, it lacked any corresponding system of roads leading to it. So they created the Eastern Park-Way, the first parkway. Parkways – wide avenues, with a differentiation in lanes for pedestrians, horse riders and carriages, supported by planting – were not quite parks in themselves, but not just streets either, and became known as ‘ribbon parks’. In Olmsteds days the car did not play a big role yet, but in the following decades, when mass-production of automobiles made motorised traffic widely available, the idea that one could enjoy nature while driving on the road remained an issue. Half a century later the concept of the urban parkway was extended to the scale of the country, by creating grand scenic parkways – roads across the land leading into the wilderness, allowing independent journeys into National Parks which were previously accessible by public transport only.

 

Blue Ridge Parkway-02

 

 

The Blue Ridge Parkway

One of the first scenic parkways to be built was the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina. It runs between Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smokey Mountains National Park – a distance of 469 miles. Stretching across the peaks of the Appalachian Mountains range, it was designed to respond to the contours of the land. It was designed and constructed in sections: as land was purchased by the states, rights-of-way were approved and contracts secured through the Bureau of Public Roads. Construction began in 1935, and when work halted due to the outbreak of World War II, some 170 miles were complete. In the 1950s construction resumed, and by 1968 the parkway was complete, except for a 7.7-mile stretch. It was not until this section was completed in 1987 that the Blue Ridge Parkway fully opened, 52 years after the project began.

Essential for the experience of the parkway are its rest-stops, positioned at a bend in the road which opens up to an unexpected wide view, or just before a tunnel, which as an impressive feat of engineering, is considered a worthwhile view in itself.

As befits a true National Park the Blue Ridge Parkway received its own sign, expressing the value ascribed to what is basically just a road. The sign highlights a remarkable landscape architectural aspect, repeated over the full length of the road: often the forest is cut away to allow for the view, leaving one last tree standing, creating depth in the perspective and anchoring the viewer to the place in relation to the horizon.

 

Nature experience  

While the urban parkway introduced the benefits of nature to the city, the ever-present problem of cross-traffic managed to erode the ideals of a continuous passage in nature. The creation of national parkways allowed for a complete removal of the parkway from any reference to urban contexts. In the design of the parkways, infrastructural space is considered a valuable territory on its own, carefully choreographed in the landscape, interconnecting parks and park areas into a coherent system, in such a way that motorists could enjoy nature while in transit. More than just a feat of engineering, these infrastructural lines can be seen as a cultural phenomenon where movement is the motor of a physical and visual experience.

 

References

Engle, R.L. (2006) The Greatest Single Feature… A Sky-Line Drive. 75 years of Mountaintop Motorway. Luray, VA: Shenandoah National Parks Association.

Zapatka, C. (1995). The American Landscape. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

Mongolian Buffalo

The magnificent steppes always seem to be framed by mountain chains; wherever you move you experience a 360°of both space and enclosure. The gently flowing rivers cross carpet-like grass lands, on which cows, horses, sheep’s and buffalo’s are running freely and peacefully. Once in a while a group of two or three white round tents called gers shine in the sunlight. As you move through the steppe you are free to choose any path you desire, there are almost no preconceived roads. This is Mongolia. It’s landscape is one of the most breath-taking and well-preserved landscapes on earth. While traveling through Mongolia you are sure that what you see today is also what Chinggis Khaan has seen too. Well, almost.

As we stop on the way, a Mongolian shepherd invites us over for suutei tsai (milk with tea and salt) and something else. What this ‘else’ is, is not really clear, our Mongolian is far beneath the required level, but as we enter the ger we discover that they just have slaughtered and cleaned a goat. The guts and other intestines lie on one side, the best meat on the other. And on the side of this bloody scene we spot a memory stick. A what? Yes, and close to the home altar there is the I Mac. When taking a tour outside the ger we bypass children blue torching the head of the goat and see a boy jumping on his horse, while sending an sms. Then we stop and stare at the solar panel attached on the south side of the ger. It looks like the Mongols have skipped the exploitative and wired phase of industrialization and are now plugging into green energy and wireless communication instead. How come? Could it be really true?

Mongolia is locked between Russia and China with no access to the sea, being therefore somehow dependent on the policies of the two giants. With a density of population that used to be 1000x (0.41 p/ km2 in 1918) and now 300x less than nowadays in the Netherlands (404.5 p/km2), it was simply not profitable to make roads and wires. This lack of infrastructure was not very inviting for the big industry. And Russia, being the boss there between 1924 and 1989, didn’t want to make it interesting either. So the Mongolian existence kept on being based on its life stock, which provides milk, skins for clothes, transport and meat. As the cuddle needs fresh grass, the Mongols move their gers along with it, not bothering a lot about land ownership. (Every group of gers claims a circle of occupancy proportional to the size of the life stock, with the maximum size of the distance that a shepherd can do on a horse in half a day. If you are new in an area you search for your own circle where you don’t disturb the others). It has been like this during Chinggis Khaan and it still is. But the times are changing. Since the ‘90’s Mongolia is ‘on the market’ with its untouched natural resources like copper, coal, molybdenum, tin, tungsten, and gold. At this moment around 3000 mining licenses have been issues by mostly Chinese, Russian and Canadian companies. How many of them will provide solar panels in return?

Traditional ger + solar panelOld print of Mongolian landcape

If Australian landscape architects are still wrestling with the question which animal to adopt as their mascot they can call off their quest. Scientific research helps them to make their final choice. The Great Bowerbird (Chlamydera nuchalis, native to Australia) presents itself as the best choice.

The great Bowerbird not only builds a bower as a little tunnel to attract females but doing so adds a final touch that makes this bird the obvious candidate to be lifted to the heraldic shield of Australian landscape architecture. All male Bowerbirds stand behind the bower and try to catch the attention of the female bird by throwing objects alongside the back of the tunnel. Everything will do, stones, little bones, shells but the most interesting objects, like bottle caps or a blue plastic clothes-peg, are saved for last to make the best impression. The amazing thing is that the great Bowerbird arranges the objects to size thus creating a false perspective.

For me Chlamydera nuchalis may call itself the Great Bowerbird because it not only creates a scenic (and romantic) route that seems to come out of landscape architecture textbooks, but as an extra the false perspective looks very much like the stunning prospettiva forzata that Palladio build in his Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza.

Needless to say that the suggestion that birds would create romantic illusions is sheer human projection and that this beautiful construction has evolutionary advantages. The illusion may hold the female’s attention for longer than a poorly arranged gesso, the researchers say. But then again, if modern environmental historians are confronting us with their insights that Nature is mainly a cultural construct (Cronon) and post modern sociologists like Donna Haraway (Cyborgs) and Bruno Latour (Hybrids) are confronting us with the constant hybridization of culture and nature why not take a less anthropocentric view on the Bowerbird and grant him a hybridization from the side of nature. To coin a term let’s call it Nulture. And let us perhaps allow ourselves to look at our Culture as something that indeed is evolutionary advantages but nevertheless an inalienable part of nature. For the sake of being congruent let’s call it Cature. A deep bow for the Bowerbird!

References:

Kelley, et al. Illusions Promote Mating Success in Great Bowerbirds. In: Science 20 January 2012: 335-338. DOI:10.1126/science.1212443

Landscape can be defined as “an area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors” [1].This definition clearly emphasises the sensory relationship between the observer and the landscape. The major question here is: how do we know and understand the landscape through perception?

Although ‘perceived by people’ refers to a holistic experience with all senses, very often it is reduced to the visual aspects. This has to do with the fact that 80% of our impression of our surroundings comes from sight [2]. Also the ‘range’ of our senses plays an important role. Granö (1929) already made the distinction between the ‘Nahsicht’ and ‘Fernsicht’. The Nahsicht or proximity is the environment we can experience with all our senses, the Fernsicht he called also landscape and is the part of our environment we mainly experience by vision [3]. Hence the identifying character of landscapes in the rural and urban realm is, to a large extent, built upon visual perception. Since visual perception is a key factor in behaviour and preference, it is crucial for landscape planning, design, and management, as well as for monitoring and protection of landscapes. But how can we comprehend the ‘face of the landscape’ and its perception? And how can we make this applicable to landscape planning, design and management?

Can you see the face? [4]

We believe that the long tradition and current advances in the field of visual landscape research offer interesting clues for theory, methodology and applications in this direction [5]. Visual landscape research is an interdisciplinary approach that combines (a) landscape planning, design and management concepts, (b) landscape perception approaches, and (c) Geographic Information Science (GISc)-based methods and techniques. While integrating psychological knowledge of landscape perception, the technical considerations of geomatics, and methodology of landscape architecture and urban planning, it provides a solid basis for visual landscape assessment in cities, parks and rural areas. It offers great potential for the acquisition of design knowledge by exploring landscape architectonic compositions from the ‘inside out’, as well as possibilities to enrich landscape character assessment with visual landscape indicators. Since they are crucial elements in landscape perception and preference it is important for landscape planning, policy and monitoring to get a grip on visual landscape attributes like spaciousness and related indicators (e.g. degree of openness, visual dominance, building density and the nature of spatial boundaries).

The field of visual landscape research is expanding every day. Influenced by national and international initiatives it is likely to continue developing in three ways. In the first place by scientific development of theory, methods and techniques. Secondly by implementation in education, and thirdly by knowledge transfer and applications in academia and society (valorisation). In order to facilitate this development a dialogue is needed between the scientific community and society through high quality publications and platforms for knowledge dissemination and discussion. We like to contribute to this dialogue via our platform Exploring the Visual Landscape (EVL), an initiative of Delft University of Technology, Landscape Architecture andWageningenUniversity, Centre for Geo-Information.

Colloquium: Exploring the Visual Landscape, March 22nd 2012, TU Delft. More information: visuallandscape-bk@tudelft.nl

Book: Exploring the Visual Landscape. Advances in Physiognomic Landscape Research in the Netherlands. S. Nijhuis, R. Van Lammeren and F.D. Van Der Hoeven (eds.). Research in Urbanism Series, Volume 2. September 2011, Amsterdam, IOS press

Download from Repository TU Delft: [http://repository.tudelft.nl/view/ir/uuid%3Afe6698ae-045c-436b-945b-c61c4b0437e4/]

Online purchase: [http://www.iospress.nl/html/9781607508328.php]

Notes:

[1]  Council of Europe(2000) European Landscape Convention.Florence. European Treaty Series 176. p3

[2]  Seiderman, A., Marcus, S. (1989/1991) 20/20 is not enough. The new world of vision.New York. Alfred a. Knopf. p6

[3]  Granö, J.G. (1929) Reine Geographie. Eine methodologische Studie beleuchtet mit Beispielen aus Finnland und Estland. Acta Geographica 2 (2); 202. Recently republished in: O Granö and A. Paasi (eds.) (1997) Pure Geography.Baltimore andLondon, TheJohnHopkinsUniversity Press.

[4] Source: http://www.newopticalillusions.com/3d-optical-illusion/face-optical-illusion-2/ [accessed: February 4th, 2012]

[5]  See for an overview: Nijhuis, S., Van Lammeren, R., Antrop, M . (2011) Exploring Visual Landscapes. Introduction. In: S. Nijhuis, R. van Lammeren, F.D. van der Hoeven (eds.) Exploring the Visual Landscape. Advances in Physiognomic Landscape Research.Amsterdam, IOS Press. pp15-40

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