This entry is a response to the Return of Nature lecture series here at Harvard, such as the Diller / Picon lecture last night that Lian touched on but also a general reaction to the relationship I observe here (Hi Lian ;):
Just Mostly About Grass
Picon had some interesting things to say about how "nature" may be the new tectonics for architecture. By which he meant it has become the thing architects now like to lie about. Just as Sullivan or Mies lied about the structure to reveal a "higher truth" about tectonics, it is common practice to fictionalize conceptions of nature in today's practice. He went on to say that architects now considered nature to be "just another building material." Last week I wrote an assignment Rosiland Krouss' expanded field and its implications for architecture and landscape architecture and reference OMA"s Parc de la Villette entry which talked about his subject: "In (OMA) treating the two elements (traditional architectural materials and natural systems) similarly there is a confusion of categories and thus an attack on historical binary ways of thinking. I interpret this differently. While vegetal “greenery” is treated similar to architectural elements and this may cause some type of categorical confusion the manner in which these elements are deployed are architectural in nature. There is confusion but also sublimation. The landscape becomes not an equal structure but just another material in the architectural material kit, which not only keeps the controlling binary opposition alive but co-opts it completely."
Picon's other, related, main point of speaking was this idea that "nature used to support infrastructure but now infrastructure must support nature." This, as Diller mentioned, is a remarkably modernist idea. I find it to be a silly proposition. Picon showed examples of how infrastructure and buildings have become a kind of scaffolding to allow vegetation to grow in urban environments. That is all well and good but its ludicrous to suggest that nature is such a limited concept that it would not exist with out this scaffolding and that it somehow needs help from architects.
I have more thoughts to add in but I hope we can have a decent discussion in the comments.