Tag Archives: context-sensitive design

Theorising the possible

Whatever happened to beauty?

Modern art turned the viewer’s gaze inward to the inner world rather than outward to the external world. In doing so, modern artists prefiguring existential and phenomenological accounts of perception highlighting that art is not only seen, it is experienced.

In this first post of a series, with thanks to Tom for his comments and suggestions, I shall explore the work and artistic legacy of the Futurists.

At the turn of the twentieth century a young ecletic group of artists in a hurry collaborated under the banner of Futurism. The Futurists in particular grappled with the role of perception in artmarking.

They were concerned to portray the world as it is experienced and viewed, and perhaps more importantly as it could be, through a richer perceptual lens free of the constraints of the academie which had become ossified and rule bound.

The Futurists in their abstractions were concerned with expressing the emotional state of the artist rather than depicting nature. This interest in the emotional state of the artist/observer of life arose from in part from the sculpturer Boccioni insistence on the work of art as an essential manifestation of reality, an aspect of sensation, rather than as an activity of the spirit.

It is thought that the philosophy of Bergson was an important influence on the Futurists. Berguson espoused two types of knowledge objective and subjective. Objective knowledge is “conceptual knowledge directed towards the requirements of our practical life and lending itself to the analytical procedures of the natural sciences” while subjective knowledge “is a projection of our intimate self-awareness onto the external world.” Berguson termed this intuition.

Boccioni attempted to describe the proces of intuition the ‘terrible tension’ as he experienced it:

“the artist seeks to maintain himself continuously ‘in the inside of the object, to live its changeability and to grasp its unity.”

See article by Brian Petrie, ‘Boccioni and Bergson’.  The Burlington Magazine Vol 116, No 852, Modern Art 1908-25) pp140147.

It is possible to unpick this concern of the Futurists with close attention to the disappearance of beauty from the discourse of aesthetics. Arthur Coleman Danto in ‘The Abuse of Beauty’ believes beauty lost its descriptive power with the early Logical Positivists. Instead the word came to stand for an expression of overall admiration. He says:

“Beyond what could be dismissed as ‘its emotive meaning’, the idea of beauty appeared to be cognitively void – and that in part accounted for the vacuity of aesthetics as a discipline, which had banked so heavily on beauty as its central concept.” 

The Futurists in grappling with these concepts enriched our understanding both of artmaking and visual perception.

http://www.uweb.ucsb.edu/~gnorton/Manifesto.html


Liveability: understanding quality of life

The Danish architects BIG (the Bjarke Ingels Group) have designed an extraordinary hybrid tower Scala Tower to house the municipal library, conference centre, shopping and a luxury hotel. It also provides public space to the city of Copenhagen.

Although it seems not quite fully resolved as to the programmatic and landscape elements, the way the building emerges from the ground ‘like a tree’ with a glassy bark trunk and yet sits well within the traditional urban fabric like a sinuous counterpoint is truly inspirational.

With a population of just over a million people and the famous Tivoli Garden, Kongen’s Have in the city centre  and the Fredericksborg Slot Baroque gardens in Hillerod the Danes have the benefit of aesthetics, cultural and recreational opportunities aplenty.

So apart from contributing to Denmark’s already stellar reputation for being on the forefront of design how does Scala Tower contribute to the quality of life in Copenhagen? Political measures of quality of life in liveability terms are both objective [divorce rates, safety and infrastructure]  and subjective [life satisfaction surveys].  So, the Danes have gained a great piece of civic infrastructure in a city which is already considered relatively crime free. I wonder whether that will show up on the next life satisfaction survey!


Zen: garden as house

the-garden-house1

http://www.archtracker.com/the-garden-house-takeshi-hosaka-architects/2009/04/

Apart from what looks what looks unfortuneately like artifical turf on the roof – the Garden House by Takeshi Hosaka Architects with its tight triangular plan is a surprise and delight! Definitely a garden for my soul! The living spaces are designed around the edges of an enclosed garden courtyard, cleverly stacked and arranged to take advantage of every square mm of space, create privacy and capture views. In the photographs the garden is very young…it would be fantastic to revisit the house as the tree grows and the potted garden matures.

If you can’t resist viewing more  maybe a trip to Japan is in order…





What is sculpture?

Sound Sculpture

Sound Sculpture

Source:  picasaweb.google.com/…/iF_6Zl5e9zEheng_JrD1rQ

There is considerable ambiguity around the idea of just what sculpture really is. There is not a clear distinction between Physical sculpture (http://www.dexigner.com/design_news/4241.html) embedded with debates about function and form/simple and complex relationships and Sound sculpture (http://www.rainerlinz.net/NMA/repr/Brassil.html) which is based on the ephemeral partitioning of otherwise boundless space (and time) sometimes made visible through its partnership with water in Water sculpture. What a wondrous medium artists have been given to explore and audiences to delight in….is interpretation really essential, when what can be revealed in so much richer than a few words can begin to express?

 



Urban, urbane or uber-urban?

Rosanna Vitiello & Marcus Willcocks, researchers with an interest on the relationship between the urban realm and our sensory coding, as part of their joint project ‘The Impact of the Unknown – Unravelling the Urban Lexicon’ speak of the Barking and Dagenham Council’s project as “an impressive regeneration programme” in their blog of October 2007.

Is anyone aware whether they have conducted follow-up research with ‘Participants’?

Context-sensitive landscape architecture in China

Tange River Park

Having criticized the lack of context-sensitive landscape architecture in China, it was a pleasure to find a contrary example: the Tanghe River Park Red Ribbon project:

  1. it is beautiful
  2. it is undeniably of its own time
  3. it is in sync with a long tradition of Chinese landscape architecture: the red colour, the dragon curves, the composition of walks with planting and water

So: well done to Professor Kongjian Yu of Turenscape 俞孔坚教授土人!

Old China had elegant concubines with bound feet strolling in lang corridors. New China can have fleet-of-foot girls bursting with energy as they race through the urban landscape.

Context-sensitive design is a problem for every country – or rather, one should say, for every region. Samuel Johnson remarked, on April 7th 1775, that patriotism is “the last refuge of a scoundrel”. Little did he know how nationalism was going to ravage civilization in the next two centuries. For landscape architecture, it is not so much that it should be “Chinese” in China as that it should be regional: there should be different approaches in Jiangsu, Guangdong and Xinjiang, relating to culture, climate, history, vegetation, geology, hydrology and habits concerning the social life of outdoor space. There can be no part of the world with such a severe shortage of landscape architects as China.

See also: landscape architecture competition for Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China 2009-2010

Context-sensitive garden design

Hort Park is in Singpore but it could be anywhere (photo Steel Wool)

Ken Yeang, the world-famous Malaysian architect complains that ‘Pursuing a kind of national architecture is a dilemma imposed by foreign architects’. He says that the Americans and Europeans can’t do it ‘Therefore, why should we define a national architecture, but these developed countries cannot?’. He is wrong. The architectural style known as International Modernism is really a North European style which just happens to be widely used in a context-insensitive manner.

For garden design and landscape architecture there is a far stronger case for a context-sensitive approach. Countries, regions and small localities have different geology, different climates, different hydrology, different flora, different fauna, different histories and, above all, different ways of using outdoor space. So why on earth should there be an International Style of Garden Design? The only possible excuses are the general lack of professional education in garden design and, in the case of landscape architecture, the general ignorance and lack of interest in design theory.

Curiously, the nearest thing to an agreed principle of landscape architecture is that ‘designers should consult the genius of the place’ (the genius loci). It is a great principle. But it has to be carefully considered and ‘though the genius must always be consulted she does not always have to be obeyed’. What most designers do is take a quick glance at the local character, find out a little about soils, find out some more about climate – and then do what they planned to do in the first place. The people should shout them down.