Some of My Best Friends are Landscape Architects

Hills, Dales, Birds, Bees, Surf, Turf, and Beyond



Jan '12 - Oct '13

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    !A man a Plan a canal, Panama!

    Danielle Choi
    Apr 24, '12 12:15 AM EST

    Just got back from Panama. The Panama Canal blew my fucking mind. I guess the funny thing about sublime experiences is that they, well, really depend on experience. . . Sometimes artists attempt to approach a certain kind of psychological or perceptual immensity. I can remember the first times I really looked at a Mark Rothko color field painting (a gauzy, yet heavy feeling - like a late spring cotton mouthed high) or could not escape the reverberations of an Agnes Martin grid (a buzzing, ebullient trance) or was pummeled by X or NOU before getting weighed down again by taste or situating the work in this or that cultural context.  Other kinds of art addresses capitalism, technology, technologies of modern capital, important but blah blah blah. . . But the experience of seeing ships transit through the Panama Canal was so much more instructive, all encompassing, and yes, a technologically sublime experience . . . I dunno, I'm gushing. . . .  Just imagine a continuous tracking shot - near silent - in 3D and beyond your field of vision, and of a duration that exceeds the longest possible reel of film or (that I know of - maybe Marclay's "The Clock" has crossed this boundary?) capacity of digital media. . . Imagine a work of such physical immensity that is beyond the realm of what can be accomplished by mobilizing human labor with the persuasions of violence or political power alone that erected the monuments of antiquity. This is a work of such a scale that it can only be mobilized by capital - the bits and bobs of $.99 store junk being reeled out by factories in Shenzen, sleek wind turbines that you'll never see eye to eye again, chartreuse hatchbacks that are destined for the promiscuous and loveless life of an economy rental car. . . A man and a plan, what shall I do with you, Panama Canal?


    • SUBLIME. The essay that nails sublime for me is Kant's OBSERVATIONS ON THE FEELING OF THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE SUBLIME. There was much discussion of the sublime in 18thC aesthetics. A lot had to do with the feeling of scale. And nature. Quartmare de Quincy's quote "God is great because he can create huge mountains, vast deserts, deep Grand Canyons sort of is great too because he can build large structures. I suppose Hoover Dam and the Panama Canal fit that description. Giant machines, huge spaces too. My experience of how I fit into this vastness, of both observing and being in it, maybe the sensation as well. I did read once that there is a neuro-psychological basis for sublime, somewhat like an optical illusion, but that I would have to verify. Yeah, I guess this rates as sublime.



      Apr 24, 12 11:37 am

      I lived there for two years.  It was a great country and a great experience!  For me, the most fascinating part of seeing the canal was the immensity of the locks and the fact that they were built with such precision that they only require 2 25-hp motors on each side to open and close them.  I think that blew me away more than anything.  It will be interesting to see how the new lock expansion project pans out to accommodate the post-Panamax ships.  Were you down there for work or for inspiration?

      Apr 24, 12 1:07 pm

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About this Blog

Early 21st C. design pedagogy and practice privilege the blurring of landscape architecture, building architecture, and urbanism. While the integration of environmental and built systems holds great promise for designers, the generalist impulse can obscure the value of specialization and experience, especially when working in the medium of living systems. This blog seeks to demystify landscape architecture, working not to reinforce differences in title, but foster mutual understanding.

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