Professor Thun has provided us with a number of exciting and provocative lectures this year.  This series of blogs takes a look at these lectures and what they tell us about the relationship of architecture to landscape architecture.  I hope this generates conversation with my landscape architecture colleagues at Ball State University.

Imaging America

Imaging America looks intensely upon how our representation of nature effects our conception of it.  Our representation of landscape has varied drastically in the past two centuries.

As photography arrived, landscape became a place to see, see, and be seen.  Photography enabled the landscape to become authentic and real but only in the sense of the view finder.  The majority of America’s landscape parks, for instance, had become home to urban infrastructure to support the large number of tourists.  Not only did photography provide inspiration for the family traveler, but it also enabled meaning to be instilled into other subjects.  Railroads and industry were photographed with the wild, aligning the goals of forward progress with the natural environment.

Due to the greater emphasis on environmentalism, landscape has take on a greater interest to the larger population.  It has meaning and can be interpreted in many different ways.  James Corner states that landscape has the “capacity to theorize sites, territories, networks, infrastructures, and organize large urban fields.”  This becomes the goal then of the class; to understand the manner by which we can theorize landscape – understand its potential for changing human conception – and bring it into physical form, thus embodying idea into reality.

Manufactured Topography

Manufactured Topography looks at the manner by which humans change landscape to make it symbolic.  Throughout history, Native Americans have changed their landscape to represent and symbolize things, to give it meaning, as is evidenced by native American burial mounds.

In recent times, Olmstead conceived Central Park as a place that was “better, because it was for all phases of society.”  In this instance, he reconciled “villas with democracy and privilege with society,” inferring onto Central Park meaning not before conceived of landscapes.  In his conception of it, the park was viewed as a series of on-going relationships and it became a carrier of unexpected and of contradiction.  By providing a physical space that provided for a range of perspectives, spaces, and vistas, it provided a surface on which viewpoints are forever changing yet resultant from the earth’s impact upon the people.

Modern examples of surface carrying meaning include Effigy Tumuli, a reclamation project that conceived of a vacant mine site as a place for abstract anamalistic symbols, carried out by five man dozer crew.

Aquascapes and Hydroscaping

In this lecture, water is examined closely for both its ability to create effect while also establishing an understanding of its design potential.  In Querini Stampalia, the design of this gallery anticipates the rising of the water, ushering it in through a series of bronze gates.  Interior steps mark its rise, leading one up to a higher level.   Inside, each transition between rooms is treated with an understanding that water may soon fill, it the threshold being raised higher, a submarines seal if you will.  In the courtyard, water provokes contemplation, changing with the topography and being brought to life in small outlets that acknowledge its flow and the effects of gravity upon it.  In the Brion Family Cemetery, also by Scarpa, water serves to differentiate and change the space.  Where you enter two circular rings, a small channel makes you acknowledge it by stepping over.  It flows into a bigger pond, which serves as a barrier  and a reflecting pool, which provides a private space from the public space. Stepped edges and stepping stones lead to a chapel literally on the water.


“Surfacing” takes a critical look at the role of notation on a surface and its relationship to the surface’s ability to hold program.  This is exemplified in footprints in a snowy piazza, train tracks, an ice rink on a pond, or basketball courts on a parking surface.  Where this discussion takes a serious tone is its investigation into OMA’s competition for Parc de le Villette, in which surface becomes the primary holder of program.  These strips of surface, arranged in horizontal bands, provide for a rapid experience of multiple programs through adjacency.  The path one chooses changes the types of programming one experiences. The park is conceived as five layers – strips, confetti, access & circulation, composition of major elements, and connections and elaborations.

The final conclusion to be made from these projects, stated by Professor Thun is that surface need “not describe behavior but provide a framework.”

Agency of Plants

“Agency of Plants,” Professor Thun’s sixth lecture, considers the theoretical understanding of plants and landscapes in avant-garde design.

This understanding becomes most apparent in the projects for Downsview Parc of Toronto.  In a number of schemes for this competition, an interest in time is overlain onto the on to the development of the site.

In the Tschumi proposal, the design team sets the stage for a place of both the “civil” and the “wild,” represented in the picture of  a wolf struggling to tear clothing from a crippled man.  Throughout the park a series of mixed wood forests and tall savannah grasses are initially seen as being planted in a particular pattern or in particular measurement ratios and that time will ultimately lead to the development of these into fuller, more environmentally generated landscape.  Succession is realized and stated in this project’s competition proposal, showing both the site at 5 years and incremental until its full realization thirty years later.

Where the Tschumi plans appears to lack an overall sense of stewardship for the land, Field Operations proposal provides for an emergence through adaptive management.   It also conceptualizes the circulation into two types, one being “Circuits” – paths that carry program and lead to programmed areas, including tracks and trails – and “Through Flows” – which are seen as paths for drainage and for wild life, connecting areas of the park and reducing storm water impacts.   What sets the Field Operations scheme apart is its emphasis on “Emergence through Adaptive Management,” which provides an instrumental and pragmatic approach to the site’s eventual development.  It makes the claim that man will continue to manage this park that is undergoing ecological succession.  The site proceeds from “initial propagation” to “increasing self organization” to “continued adaptation.”

In terms of Holland in Holland, my studio this semester, these ideas are transferable.  The concept of phases and time based strategies can directly influence the idea of the growth in the farmer’s market, furthering ecological, economical, environmental, and greatest of all, civic life, on the site.

Also in terms of landscape, what if I began to think of the Holland site as a recursive loop, from which one thing is built, then the next thing builds from this, and so forth and so on.  These iterative generations recognize that development occurs incrementally and must response to that which comes before it.