As I migrate over to Archinect, a few highlights from 2012:
Gunther Vogt opened his lecture last Fall with a conversation about working in Europe and went on to discuss the Swiss Alps as an urbanized landscape. Within this context, he posed a series of questions: what is the difference between a city and a landscape? How does landscape function in the formation and endurance of regional identity?
From the lecture, City as Territory as Landscape ©Vogt
Vogt spoke about sparsely inhabited, European landscapes, especially Apulia and the Swiss Alps, and the role the Alpine region plays in Swiss culture: at once connected by a network of paths and set apart, an extension of urban life and a refuge from it. The lecture also included the striking image of vacant lands in Southern Italy. According to Vogt, abandoned and underutilized land has not been mapped by the European Union, resulting in a scarcity of publicly available data on the subject. Nonetheless, it appears to account for up to 40% of particular regions, such as Apulia, for example, as illustrated in the lecture by a series of maps.
Eurostat: European National Statistics ©Vogt
Vogt describes his work in pairs of terms: distance and engagement, miniature and panorama. These pairs imply a both a critical eye and shift of scale from architecture to region. Vacant land represents a growing opportunity for design intervention, and high instances of abandonment in rural and post-industrial Europe warrant attention. An un-described field lies in the wake of urbanization and “urban studies.” We would do well to examine its politics and the prospects it holds for architects and landscape designers.
In his 1983 essay, Prospects for a Critical Regionalism, Kenneth Frampton, advanced the thesis that architecture can represent regional culture and propel it, in a dialectical sense, by both drawing on historic sources and engaging in a globalized discourse. He envisioned the region as a culturally specific, contextual, reference point and called for an anti-centerist politics in architecture.
Twenty-nine years later, the world is further globalized, the call to enact specificity more acute. However, the scales of intervention have also changed, engulfing the reference points. Designers are increasingly working at a regional scale. The move from miniature to panorama poses the danger of abolishing those distinctions (urban and periurban, metropolitan and alpline, Swiss and Italian) that make great cultures unique, what Paul Ricoeur called the “ethical and mythical nucleus of mankind.”
The studio-based curriculum at Harvard GSD runs in parallel to the school's evening lecture series. While material from the studio finds its way into the Q & A, the most thought provoking talks do not always have direct expression. I propose this blog as a forum to hone the casual post-lecture discussion in the trays into a record of the most exciting and ephemeral aspects of an architectural education. Follow @kongsgaarden. Views are my own.