Monthly Archives: October 2008

Where is this 'urban landscape'?

Originally uploaded by jonrawlinson

Los Angeles? Chicago? Beijing? Delhi? Ankara? Sydney? No: it is a view of Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia, from the Al Faisaliyah Center.
What a wasted opportunity. With so much faith, so much central power and so much wealth…. the designed urban ‘landscape’ could have been so very much better. Even now, they should commission a Strategic Urban Landscape Plan for the city – after running a multi-stage competition to select the best firm.
Although I rather admire the Saudi policy of not issuing tourist visas, it has prevented me from visiting the Kingdom to see if the landscape planning as quite as bad as it appears from this and other photographs. They could have had a landscape plan which was sensitive to:

  • Islam
  • Climate
  • Materials
  • Social Customs
  • Hydrology
  • Ecology
  • Etc

What’s more, it would have helped create a more-sustainable landscape in preparation for when Saudi Arabia’s water and oil have been depleted. Both are ‘quarried’ on a non-renewable basis.

The Garden of Eden

Christine’s post on the Lilypad Islands have a Garden of Eden quality. Vincent Callebaut propose a New Eden for us to inhabit when we have finished wrecking the Earth. The Lilypad Islands remind me what an excellent idea cruise ships are for other people’s holidays. Providing there is no pollution, just think how much better the all the world’s coasts would be if all the holidaymakers could be moved offshore.

Athanasius Kircher’s drawing ( 1675) shows the Garden of Eden between the Tigris and Euphrates, west of the Persian/Arabian Gulf. He shows the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, four angels guarding the gates and Cain killing Abel in the top-left corner. Majority opinion amongst modern commentators favours Kircher’s location of the Garden of Eden in Southern Iraq, but there are many competing theories.

Floating with the Tide


Vincent Callebaut Architectures has an innovative and evocative conceptual solution to the problems of climate change and land use! These lilypad like structures inspired by the giant Amazonian lilypad are floating zero emission cities complete with mountains, aqua culture fields, central park, suspended kitchen gardens and rivers.
[Image courtesy]

Saucy potato

The sauciest potato I know

Whoever would have dreamt that a potato could be so saucy? This prime example of a Charlotte was dug yesterday. For those who like waxy spuds, its flavour is without rival. The Potato Council writes that: “Charlotte is a salad potato. With its distinctive long, oval shape, white skin and moist texture it is ideal for so much more than just salads. Scoring 4 on the waxy / floury scale Charlotte stays firm when cooked and can also be very successfully sauted and even roasted in its skin for a firm ‘roast’ potato. It is frequently sold washed and in bags or punnets which adds to the convenience value of this widely available potato.” With food like this, the worrying decline in the birth rate could be reversed.

Post-modern Garden of Eden

Post-modern Garden of Eden

Originally uploaded by allspice1

Christine writes that:

Claus Emmeche and Steven Sampson in ‘The Garden Machine’ describe the effect of Postmodernism on art and architecture (p59);

“Today’s postmodern art and architecture also transcend the modern idea of the creating artistic subject, who in a sovereign fashion generates originals by natural creativity (art as ‘poiesis’). Instead art becomes a simulation where copies enter into a combination of significations that are actually not new, but which respresent small games that can be transmitted onwards in a time infinity of circulating signs….these metaphorical demands on the image are dissolved in a series of rituals that organises the continued simulation of art in the universal media of mass society.”

While there is an overriding sense that the ‘original’ has been lost in the overwhelming proliferation of the simulacrum: this is not necessarily true.

Australian architect Richard Francis Thorpe has an interesting analysis of the problems of Post Modernism in design in his article ‘The [im]possibility of slowness’ in UME Magazine.

LI Landscape Institute Policies

Landscape architects would flourish in a web of enlighted policies for town and country

The Landscape Institute has some policies. There are two of them. One is about Brownfield Skills and the other about Climate Change. So far as I know, neither are major areas of professional employment for landscape architects. My recommendation is that unless and until the LI comes up with something better the Landscape Institute should pluck up its courage and publish the policies which Alan Tate and I helped put together in 1995. They are only 13 years old. As the Credit Crunch evolves into the Recession, the LI should do some good for the environment – and help its members expand their areas of operations. Nothing venture – nothing gain.

The 17.10.08 issue of Vista (‘News, views and analysis from the Landscape Institute’) has an interesting report on how the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) ‘has thrown down the gauntlet to developers and planners with its ambitious new eco-town worksheet on green infrastructure’. I hope this creates lots of work – but who will do it? There is also a report on Northala Fields ‘ a revolutionary new park development in Ealing’ designed by artist Peter Fink with architect Igor Marko of FoRM Associates. The item does not say who the landscape architects were.

The LI  ‘Position Statement’ on Climate Change suggests more Green Infrastructure might help a little and gives the following examples: street trees,  hedgerows, pocket parks, cemeteries, small woodland, city parks, green networks, forest parks, lakes, rights of way, regional parks, rivers and floodplains, long distance trails, reservoirs. The document would sound better if called a ‘Policy Statement’ but even then I doubt if the networks would be clamoring to interview the LI President. The examples of projects are a little better but surely none of them were initiated to combat global warming.