Just around the Corner

The Architectural Association in describing ‘Landscape Urbanism’ says what Landscape it is not. It is NOT:

“…understood as a scenographic art, beautifying, greening or naturalising the city.”

And then what it IS;

“…scalar and temporal operations through which the urban is conceived and engaged with.”

Thus, Landscape Urbanism prioritises the phenomenological experience of the city, while distancing itself (perhaps defensively) from the visual aesthetic. Perhaps an ironcial realisation of this preference for the non-aesthetic is the prediction by James Corner of the disappearance of the city into the landscape. Perhaps this prophecy will be realised quite differently than the romantic post-industrial ruin?  Corner, typified by the high line project, focuses on the rehabilitation of the abandoned elements of the city and post-industrial landscape.Can landscape urbanism be artfully conceived? 

Perhaps the city of the future will afterall disappear under the advance of the landscape, but once again capture something of the beauty which is now itself abandoned by its favourite profession?

12 thoughts on “Just around the Corner

  1. Christine

    Gardens are for people…[ http://www.flickr.com/photos/nelbox/3848693372/ ]

    Thomas Church wrote in ‘Gardens are for People’ “the Modern California garden has been described as an informal outdoor living room filled with deck chairs, chairs and swings, more social than horticultural in its intentions.”

    So my question is who has abandoned the urban spaces which Corner adopts as his canvas?

  2. Tom Turner

    I have been touring some English gardens recently and conclude that ‘gardens are for gardening’. People seem to enjoy the activity, as I do, and I see little evidence of people wanting to do anything in them. They just want to make them!
    Re abandoned urban areas, they are a consequence of the ‘creative destruction’ which is a recognized aspect of capitalism.

  3. Christine

    Is this the fundamental distinction between garden spaces and urban spaces? What should the abandoned urban spaces become? Horticultural gardens, pleasure gardens, parks, outdoor galleries, new buildings, water features, waste dumps, carparks, forests, wetlands, industrial plants, skate parks, community gardens…..?

  4. Tom Turner

    I see garden space as ‘fundamentally’ enclosed. This is etymologically so in many languages, both European and Asian. And I think it should remain a fundamental characteristic of gardens. There are ever-so-many reasons for enclosing space and we should not lose sight of them.
    ‘Urban space’ spans many spatial categories and many of them come into the fascinating group of spaces which are ‘bounded yet unbound’. As the paradoxical aspect of the category-name implies, this is an easy type of space to get wrong – but the rewards of success are great and often exemplified by the best urban spaces. On my interpretation, this is also the meaning of the niwt symbol which inspired the Gardenvisit.com logo. I see Edmund Bacon’s book on the Design of cities as a partial guide to the making of this category of urban space.

  5. Christine

    The distinction between the bounded space of the garden and the bounded yet unbounded space of the urban space is a useful one. Can you illustrate it in diagrammatic form?

    Perhaps there are connector spaces (spaces that you move through) and destination spaces (spaces that you come to)?

    Potentially there could be hybrid spaces which intrinsically unites the two aspects? Spaces that you both come to and move through?

    A river is perhaps the best illustration of this combined function…often being simultaneously a transportation route and a recreational destination.

    The Highline is probably primarily a connector space and although it is also a destination space. I imagine the Highline’s continued success as a destination space will depend on the management and the continuous subtle and not so subtle renewal of those destination elements.To some extent the perception of public safety as a connector space will also depend upon the successful management of the Highline.

    See [ http://www.thehighline.org/galleries/images/jesse-chehak ] for the inspiration and [ http://www.flickr.com/photos/27859257@N05/sets/72157623124625027/show/ ] for the design.

  6. Tom Turner

    There are some open space diagrams but they do not focus on ‘bounded but unbound’ – so I have made a mental note to draw one!
    There are also some diagrams for greenways – which neglect the important point that spaces can be connectors as well as destinations.
    Although it is linear, my impression is that the Highline is more of a destination than a connector, despite is morphology.

  7. Christine

    At present the Highline is more of a destination than a connector. This is because it is an iconic project. Iconic projects often get very high visitation when they are first created…that is they are strong destinations in the popular imagination. It would be interesting to monitor if, how and when New Yorkers change their relationship to the Highline.

    The Highline will probably remain a tourism destination as a iconic project, but is inherently a connector.

  8. Tom Turner

    I don’t think linearity is enough to make a space into a connector: it has to join an origin to a destination. Many of the galleries in Elizabethan houses did not function as connectors – they were spaces for exercise in bad weather. One walked up and down, looking at the views and pictures.

  9. Christine

    I would disagree. How long is a piece of string? On the highline there are many origins and many destinations….

    However, it is true that there is no grand origin or grand destination to distinguish the Highline as a connector that is typical of traditional axial relationships.

  10. Rajan Mistry

    I agree with Christine’s comment that the High Line Project has many origins and many desitinations. Seeing as how its framework is based upon a former transit system, it indeed carries these aspects of its form into the current use.

    I love the idea of the city’s derelict bits becoming landscape again; whether horticultural or pleasure, connected to existing natural systems or completely seperate, it becomes an important urban space for the users; the users that actually use it, and even the “users” that sit in their New York lofts and watch the High Line and its daily scenes.

    But going back to my previous idea (that of landscape returning our rotten bits to nature), I think this is an important stage in the evolution and development of the city. An analogy would be that failing businesses going bankrupt is indeed healthy for the economy… that unproductive staff should not be fired…or that the spoilt food in the fridge should be tossed out. One could take it as far as saying that “well why don’t we quarantine and execute all the lepers?” (or indeed any other such diseased person)… to which I would argue that the city is an entirely different type of entity; more organic as a system than as a single being… and I would also make the analogy to chopping off a gangrenous hand rather than leprosy, but I digress…


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