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.
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/
With the Year of the Historic Estate behind us I can safely make two confessions. The first, which I would term only half an admission, involves the presumptuous idea that I can claim some kind of clandestine spiritual right of ownership to Castle Groeneveld, because of memories that stretch back many more years than those of its ‘modern-day’ proprietors, the Dutch Forestry Service (Staatsbosbeheer, or SBB). Many us will be familiar with the phenomenon that, as soon as something is imprinted on your mental map, you are also to some degree its owner. As more and more memories adhere to that particular place, the stronger this phenomenon becomes. I was once with the parents of a friend from primary school on the day after one of the infamous 1950s parties hosted by the then inhabitants, Joop and Ali Colson. I remember the great mystery of the run-down building and I have a vague reminiscence of a room with a totally rotten floor (now perhaps the Hasselaer Room?) and a trio of old pianos with drawing pins in their little hammers. Only part of the castle was habitable. I also happened to witness part of the set-building process for Jan Vrijman’s film, The Reality of Karel Appel, with my own parents.
A second common phenomenon is that people resist alterations to places onto which they have projected their memories. Nobody can blame me for bemoaning in concord with the taxi-driver who complained that all the mystery, of the building as well as the garden, had been erased by restoration, as I made my way to the recently refurbished castle for the first time in a very long time. I was working for the Dutch Forestry Service at the time, and if the conference rooms at the Westraven main office were fully booked then you were allowed to reserve a room at Groeneveld, so I went there often. Later on that commitment was converted into a seat on the Advisory Committee of the castle that I had already spiritually appropriated many years earlier. As far as I have been able to ascertain, this Advisory Committee is composed almost entirely of persons who, via other paths, have undergone the same process: a company of unabashed lords and ladies of the manor.
No, the second admission is what concerns us here: the overconfidence of actually thinking that you might one day possibly go and live there. However, a pleasing quality of the country houses of the Netherlands is that they do not boast the proportions of English stately homes and are unlike France’s regal country houses of the first order. Our Dutch country estates are all of a scale that is just about ‘habitable’, but it can only be ascribed to youthful exuberance that, at the age of 20, I made a serious bid to take up residence in the house at Elswout in Overveen. I had been to the Elswout country estate often. We went on holiday to Zandvoort aan Zee on Holland’s North Sea coast every year. The modest bad-weather facilities to be found there were limited to ‘Kraantje Lek’ – the ‘Dripping Tap’ restaurant and environs – with its backdrop of bare, towering dunes, the hollow tree (a ‘gooseberry bush’ where the women of Haarlem reputedly went to collect their newborn babies), a huge seesaw and pancakes. To reach this little restaurant you followed a long, winding road through the fringes of the inner coastal dunes, with on one side a wooden fence that seemed to be never-ending, and which also continued after you had reached Kraantje Lek. ‘Elswout lies over there,’ my mother would invariably comment. ‘You have to buy a ticket to get in.’ She wasn’t much of a nature-lover, so it wasn’t until I reached the age of 14 that I saw what lay beyond the fence, and I have visited regularly ever since. The beautiful park with its exaggerated dune landscapes, stylized little bridges and strange little houses strewn along a meandering path, the beautiful woods with, as I discovered, mushrooms even in the spring. At a given point the walk fairly suddenly presents a spectacular view towards the country house. (I thought it a rather unwieldy piece of architecture, to be honest.)
Even when I was studying I liked to go there in the weekend. During one of those walks I noticed that the house was unoccupied. It must have been around 1970, in the years that the Jac. P. Thijsse Grammar School had already moved out and the Zocher Horticultural College had not yet taken up residence. A chat with the forester revealed that Bloemendaal Municipal Council was searching for a fitting new use for the property. At that time I was busy with a collaborative (and equally overconfident) project between Delft Polytechnic (TH Delft) and the Rietveld Academy to design and produce ‘flight suits’ – a sort of mini zeppelin for personal use – and we could have made good use of some extra workshop space. In addition, everyone was chronically dissatisfied with the prevailing post-war housing shortage, of course. Myself, and a dozen or so like-minded people therefore devised an intrepid plan to establish a ‘creative, multidisciplinary live/work commune’ for which we created a foundation (called WAVE, if I remember correctly). With such a name, designing eye-catching stationery was child’s play, and that is how Bloemendaal Municipal Council ended up receiving a formal letter from us. An informative telephone conversation confirmed to us that not only had the letter arrived, but that it would be given serious consideration as well. With a mixture of disappointment and relief (it was all slightly scary, for sure), six weeks later we read ‘that following a thorough appraisal the Municipality’s preference is for the other candidate’. So we had ended in the last two.
A year and a half later, a warm summer’s day prompted us to go for a picnic at Elswout with several friends – a number of former members of WAVE among them. We settled at the edge of the woods on the meadow that border on the south side of the large house. Musical, culinary and alcoholic refreshments and fine conversations combined with the fantastic location in a mind-expanding manner. At around 6 o’clock we noticed that a table was being set for two on the large balcony of the house opposite, a pair of handsome candlesticks included. Our curiosity was aroused. From the balcony the new inhabitant also noticed us. This slight man with a bush of unkempt hair walked to the edge of the balcony and admonished us: ‘Would you mind leaving?’ And a few minutes later, without much conviction: ‘Do you mind leaving? You’re spoiling the grass for our pedigree cattle!’ We didn’t react, aware that here we were not dealing with the owner, but ‘just’ the party preferred by the Municipality of Bloemendaal. He and we left it at that and enjoyed a wonderful evening on either side of the lawn. Later on, Dutch courage prompted us to beckon him to join us as we lingered on the picnic blanket. He introduced himself as Peter van Gogh and joined us for a drink and a smoke. When he found out that some of us were studying architecture he insisted that we should go with him. He wanted to show us something. In the main hall on the ground floor hung a gigantic charcoal drawing that covered a whole wall with rapidly sketched lines that suggested movement, a barely recognizable topography and a mass of clouds. He pointed out a glittering silver ring in the middle of the drawing and had us guess what it was. By that stage of the evening we wouldn’t have been able to distinguish a rabbit from a hare, and gave up after a few half-hearted attempts. ‘That is the climatological city,’ said Van Gogh, ‘as seen by astronauts from a Mercury capsule.’ ‘Yes, the cli-ma-to-lo-gical city,’ he repeated, as if dictating, ‘a city for 1.5 million inhabitants in a superstructure 10 to 30 kilometres in diameter in a 1-kilometre-high ring that is dimensioned so that the city can cultivate its own food in the middle. My solution for the urbanization problem.’ The imperious tone made clear that there was no escape and that we were in for a pithy tail-end to the evening. An extended monologue ensued, supported by him showing us countless drawings. He also produced a scale model of a test frame for the giant ring, which according to him had already been tested in the wind tunnel of the aircraft manufacturer Fokker and boasted such superb aerodynamic properties that the wind was deflected across the structure, creating a microclimate for optimal agricultural production.
The climatological City
There was a strict zoning scheme: the industry below the ground in the base of the ring, transport and services above that and then a few dozen layers of housing on top of that, followed by another transport ring with services and a further dozen or so floors of accommodation, this continuing until the ambitious construction height of 1 kilometre had been reached. Van Gogh also held a disquisition about a cable radio system, via which all the inhabitants could remain in constant contact with the ring’s administration and could also vote interactively (25 years before the internet!). The ring city was the ‘cutting edge’ of 1970’s technology in every regard. No matter what we asked, everything had already been taken into account and solved, as befits this kind of utopian design project. Van Gogh was a vehement detractor of urban planners who, in his words, imposed a way of life on people. We looked at the enormous ring and asked: ‘So what does this represent then?’ No, his own city was a ‘neutral apparatus’ that would bring an end to such moralizations and provide the relationship between city and countryside with a definitive form. When the ring was full you simply began building a new one. As students we had of course studied the ideas for superstructures of Archizoom, Superstudio and Buckminster Fuller and caught glimpses of the utopian architecture of the Enlightenment, but never before had we encountered a utopian architect in person. We felt like we had met with an alien. We put up a good fight, which was hardly difficult when confronted by such a weird and wonderful utopia, but Van Gogh enjoyed sparring with us, making it a magical evening.
Only when I started to explore landscape architecture in greater depth did I realize that the name of the ‘Dripping Tap’ restaurant referred to the system of dune streams and ponds – the duinrellen – which spring forth from the high dunes there due to seepage, that the springtime mushrooms must have been morels, that the dune’s oversized contours are meant to evoke an Alpine illusion, that the rustic little bridges are supposed to play a supporting role, the strange little houses are called ‘follies’, that the scenic route is one of the standard ingredients of landscape architecture and that the house was inspired by the Villa Farnese in Caprarola (and my appreciation of the house hasn’t really changed in the meantime: it’s still a storey too high). But the main thing I had failed to understand until then, was that some of the magic of that evening resided in the wonderful but also tragic coincidence of a utopian architect positing a new, albeit unfeasible city/countryside model in the midst of, of all places, an estate: the centuries-old, tried and tested formula for a stylized and refined balance between town and country. It turned out that the erstwhile Bloemendaal Municipal Council had taken the right decision.
Peter van Gogh with his model of the Climatological City
The Institute of Place Making finds out and makes visible what the notion of place is about and how it evolves. It will do this by mapping, categorising and analysing feedback of visitors and inhabitants on their experience with Terschellings’ landscape and places. The results will be returned through a website with a map of the island indicating the values visitors and inhabitants endow to a variety of places they know on the island. An interactive classification and exhibition of the results will take place at the Institutes’ laboratory during Oerol at ‘Duinmeertje Hee’.
People will be all around the island during the festival. Therefore the staff of the Institute will go out of the office to meet them in the field, and hand out test tubes with the request to put the ‘essence of Terschelling’ in the test tube and return it to the Institute. The test tube is used as a symbol and medium to activate thinking about place. A small label is attached to the test tube, with instructions and space to fill in personal information: age, gender and place of residence, a space to fill in data about the place: a small map to mark the location, what the weather was like and the time of the day, and a small space to note the experience in a few keywords, or draw something. This information will help us to categorize the places. In addition to this, conversations with visitors on their place will be collected as audio and video fragments. The visitors may keep the test tube a couple of days with them to find and experience their place before returning it to us.
One can visit the Institute at ‘Duinmeertje Hee’ to have the results, test tube and completed label, processed. Here, the visitor is brought into a pseudo-scientific world of staff in white lab coats who receive the visitor and extract the data with them in a couple of steps: making a photograph of the test tube, measuring and weighing the contents, pinning the place as accurate as possible on a large wall map, asking some additional questions to categorize the data like wet or dry, hot or cold, dead or alive, and then bringing the data form the label into a digital interactive map on the website.
The visitor is then asked to go into the forest and put their test tube in one of the white cabinets in the ‘open air laboratory’. These cabinets have poetic names like ‘the cabinet of overwhelming nature’, ‘the cabinet of immeasurable colours’ or ‘the cabinet of eternal elements’. In every cabinet, a more detailed classification is made within the theme of it. After some days a collection of experiences builds up in the cabinets in the form of a cabinet of curiosities that other visitors can watch and study. The cabinets will be installed in the forest in accordance with the shape of the old dunes’ topography the raster of trees and the patterns on the forest floor, forming a group of ‘objets trouvés’.
The results of the project will be heavily coloured by the fact that there is a festival taking place, but the principle could be repeated on a different moment or at a different location. It certainly will give us an overview of places and landscapes that people on Terschelling appreciate most. For a more elaborate investigation the fairly subjective data of the visitors will be supplemented with more objective characteristics derived from GIS-data like landscape type, field of view, percentages green, open sky, water, weather, etc. A comparison could then be made between perception of a person and what the landscape actually looks like. Each day of Oerol the results will be analysed and some striking outcome will be the motive for a daily manifestation in the afternoon, elaborating on that specific result.
But the investigation could also be placed in a broader context .The next step could comprise of making the results operable for landscape architectonic design. The landscape in the Netherlands is changing rapidly, and will continue to change even more in the future. The ‘old’ is replaced for the ‘new’, usually to the chagrin of those familiar with these places. How can we use their views to guide transition in a more sensible way? The Institute of Place Making also wants to find an answer to that question.
Curious what the project looks like? Visit us at Oerol, June 14 – 23, 2013, at ‘Duinmeertje Hee’
http://www. iopm.nl/ (under construction)
Michiel Pouderoijen and Denise Piccinini, assignment coordinators and tutors of Landscape Architecture ON site, being part of Oerol 2013 (Elective MSc2 – Chair Landscape Architecture at the TU Delft) Students: Kaegh Allen, Ilse van den Berg, Erik van der Gaag, Charlotte Grace, Bart de Hartog, Rogier Hendriks, Doris van Hooijdonk, Marleen Klompenhouwer, Emiel Meijerink, Eva Nicolai, Pépé Niemeijer, Sarah Roberts