Sparking the imagination

city visualisation by concept artist mark goernerCity visualisation by concept artist: markgoerner
The visualisation shown is by conceptual artist Mark Goerner. It would be interesting to surmise what premises might underlie this vision of a possible ‘future’ city? Although Mark is neither an architect or a landscape architect he has produced a vision of a probable reality that both architects and landscape architects can recognise and respond to.
I sent this picture to Tom after realizing I had confused the terms ‘aspect’ and ‘prospect’ in my previous comments [see where is this landscape?]. Tom sent through links to Repton’s discussion of aspect and prospect and Loudon’s response.
Perhaps the oversight (in not first checking terms) leading to this discussion is more valuable than I first realised. It is unfortuneately relatively common in architecture to deal with issues of sustainability by modifying climatic effects using techonology (green or otherwise), often without first having planned the use, proximity and orientation of spaces in an iterative manner. [In this discussion also no regard has been given to topographic (and other) concerns ie. founding materials, volumes and degree of incline etc on the arrangement of space.] This way of proceeding, if Repton’s comments are anything to go by, is hardly new. And, if Loudon’s response is correct (and I believe it is), this oversight is a constant source of chargin to architect’s who seek to optimise (the positive) and minimise (the negative) by design.
Prospect is an essential part of the visual experience of a building from the interior; as much as it is an essential part of the visual setting (perhaps approach…but not always) of a building. Aspect is essential to the bodily experience of a building from the interior; as much as it contributes to how the building and landscape meld in harmony to form a composite at a myriad of viewpoints and scales.
Where might this city most probably be located? Why is it situated and arranged in the way that it is? What is the relationship of built form to landscape? What sort of a place would it be to live in? Is it a sustainable city?

10 thoughts on “Sparking the imagination

  1. stefan

    these projects always remind me of science fiction movies, in that they extrapolate the present in a very dramatic and ‘cool’ way, and seem plausible. the future unfortunatly always turns out to be a lot more compromised and mundane.

  2. Tom Turner

    It is true that most design work is mundane but part of the problem is the narrow artistic, technical and professional constraints imposed by the educational, licensing and cartel aspects of the professions. Friedensreich Hundertwasser and Tadao Ando, for example, were able to break free because they grew, lived and worked outside the conventional constraints. It may be that 3D CAD modellers will prove more creative than ‘the professionals’. The most innovative and altogether forward-looking building designer of the nineteeth century was trained ‘only’ as a gardener, though he also had the inestimable advantage of following in Loudon’s footsteps. I refer, or course, to Joseph Paxton’s design for the Crystal Palace.

  3. Christine

    Joseph Paxton is a ‘giant’ in architecture circles, as I have no doubt he is also in landscape circles for his ground breaking work in revealing the potential utility and beauty of iron and glass and methods of prefabrication and assembly in construction. I quote ‘A World History of Architecture’ (Moffat, Fazio & Wodehouse 2003);

    “Joseph Paxton (1801-1865)was a landscape gardener by training, acquiring through experience his skill at building with glass and iron for greenhouses. He revolutionised architecture with the unsolicited design he submitted for a building in Hyde Park, London, to house the first modern world’s fair in 1851.”p441.

    The socio-cultural context in which the competition for a greenhouse arose was this (Moffat, Fazio & Wodehouse 2003);

    “Iron was most elegantly employed in landscape gardening. Victorian England, prosperous from the wealth of its empire, had a fascination with tropical plants that were brought back from India, Africa, and the Far East. Keeping these specimens alive in the cool, overcast climate of Britain required structures that could reproduce the humid heat of their native countries, so builders and gardeners set about erecting greenhouses large enough to contain palm or banana trees. Unfettered by ancient precedent, the builders turned to lightweight iron framing systems with glass infill panels.”

    Similarly, Tadao Ando, is ‘huge’ in architecture. Landscape? Again I quote from the domaindesign website (;

    “With no formal architectural schooling Tadao Ando developed his design sense and style through studying and visiting significant architectural strutures in Japan, United States, Europe and Asia. After flirting with careers as a professional boxer and training as a carpenter, Ando established his own architectural firm Tadao Ando and Associates Architects in Osaka in 1969.”

    Ando’s aesthetic is described as;

    “..seeking to combine a building with its surrounding environment using natural light, wood and concrete as staple materials…the use of light and space to create a spiritual feeling and connection with nature has also become Ando’s architectural signature.”

    Clearly both Paxton and Ando are talented designers. How is it possible to identify ‘talent’ outside the otherwise necessary ‘constraints’ of professionals structures?

    Why do I say necessary constraints?

    I don’t really know how constraining the architectural profession is in terms of education (I am incredibly grateful for mine), licencing (ditto at best it gives you a professional practice framework, a set of colleaguial relationships and enables public confidence in a minimal degree of knowledge, expertise and professional responsibility) and cartel arrangements (the returns for effort and expense of practice are not so great for the majority of architects.) Booms and busts are a constant feature of practice life.

    Service competition has proved to have had a negative effect on the quality and public interest focus of work produced by architects and the self-confidence of the profession. The best simile I can think of here in terms of outcome and consequence is between cosmetic and plastic surgeons.

  4. stefan

    i dont blame the designers for the future being mundane! (well, not totally) its just the future is impossible to predict, and utopias, as we know always fail. thats why visions of the future themselves tend to become dated (hence my reference to science fiction movies), because they come up against hard reality and the unpredictable nature of events.

    and people often dont share or appreciate someone elses vision of the future, or even want it. and why should they?

  5. Christine

    Sometimes other people’s utopias are very hard to explain – even when you have experienced them first hand! Paronella Park in North Queensland is like that.

    Nothing can prepare you for it. Photographs do not adequately capture the experience. I don’t know if you have ever walked into crystal clear water teaming with fish, turtles and platypus, swum in lagoon like waters and sat under a waterfall in a tropical environment?

    I also don’t know how to describe the feeling of leaving the office in London when the tubes were just about to start running in the morning, and the streets of London as they rarely are, are desereted. And there is an ‘urban’ freshness to the morning and the sense of anticipation of a great city just about to wake up.

    Nor the mad joy, of having to jump onto the pavement while you are enjoying your drink at the local hotel in Soho because the pavements are too narrow to contain all the patrons, so they spill out onto the street regardless of traffic.

    You are right the future is impossible to predict. However, the past always has moments and places of magic, so I suppose the future will be have too!

    I guess I am an optimist because I believe it is possible to share a vision of the future…sometimes it just takes time to appreciate what that vision is…and requires a commitment to work together towards shaping and achieving it.

  6. stefan

    strange that Tom should mention Hunterwasser and Tadoa Ando. they’re probably my favourite two architects of recent times, but its hard to imagine two people whose style is more different. each individual seems to have found the room to express themselves as fully as possible. having said all that, i dont think i’d want to live in an entire city designed by either of them. Andos would be too purist ( i dig his philosophy but not everyone wants to sit around watching the light change colour, in the end all that concrete would make me want to let loose with the spray paint) and a Hunterwasser city would be way tooooo crazy, like living inside someones personal hallucination. i guess its impossible for everyone to share the same aesthetic vision – we cant expect people to live inside our own dreams

  7. Christine

    Over time I can see the very strong distinction being made between the embodied experience of a space (occupation) and the aesthetics of a place (image). And it is very interesting that both provoke strong responses! I guess this gets back to my underlying instinct that often when people (even professionally trained persons) speak about these things they have intuitively connected with different aspects of [the] phenomenon.

    I think I would name the underlying impulse longing if I had to – part of the attraction of the mythic – whether it takes the form of a ‘Utopia’ or an ‘Arcadia’.

    I think this insight is very rich. For the reason that it gives the possibility of exploring experience and vision more fully. [Is it based on something one has experienced or seen or something one would like to experience or see?]

    And surprisingly, as with most ideas about beauty (and I suspect in this instance beauty has both a material and spiritual dimension), there is always room for disagreement…as much as there is often an incredible amount of consensus!

    Saying that, I wonder whether dreams are more about experience than vision?

  8. Christine

    Tom or Richard might be able to help me out here….What language are we speaking? Is there an English language version? {I tried to view and understand the model but it is a little difficult to decipher from the graphics alone.)


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