Harvard GSD Landscape Architecture (Andrew)

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    Architects and Nature

    By anti
    Apr 1, '10 10:00 AM EST

    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.


    • Yeah i think perhaps nature can be assisted by or grafted onto architecture/infrastructure but certainly it isn't a required support for.

      And more accurately it isn't nature but greenery...At least in most cases. Nature is more all encompassing. Moreover, nature already exists and in fact I would argue includes those non green/vegetal places/buildings/infrastructure.....

      Think of the term non-human nature... Emphasizing the fact that nature includes humanity and it's creations..

      Apr 1, 10 11:51 am  · 
      Lian Chikako Chang

      Hi Andrew! I felt slightly guilty for writing such a content-free post about this lecture, so I'm glad you were able to take a break from planting your grass to deal with this.

      My impression (or at least my hope...I wasn't at my most alert and attentive last night) was that Picon was not so much suggesting that nature needs us to provide it's infrastructure, but that we are the ones who need it, in order to interact with the fictions that we're calling nature.

      Maybe, on the one hand, architects are trying to co-opt landscape practices (or their reduced impressions of landscape practices) in their work. But could we also look at it another way--that ideas about nature and landscape are consuming architecture? Or that architects are becoming obsessed with the interaction between what could be called 'architecture' (the designed, the controllable, the interior) and what is not (the natural, the uncontrollable, the exterior), as we are forced to face the fact that these categories aren't actually that distinct (that nature is not a benign, infinite other)?

      Or maybe architects are just trying to co-opt landscape practices.

      I have to admit I don't know much about examples of really successful collaborations between architects and landscape architects in practice, or--at the GSD--about whether/how our departments interact. So I'm curious to know your thoughts on this.

      Apr 1, 10 7:59 pm  · 

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