Lian (Harvard GSD M.Arch.I)

I graduated in 2013, but still blog here once in a while.

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    Live Blog - Günther Vogt, "City as Territory as Landscape"

    By Lian Chikako Chang
    Oct 4, '12 6:37 PM EST

    Hi Archinect!

    I'm in Piper for Zürich-based landscape architect Günther Vogt's lecture. From the GSD website:

    Günther Vogt will present a talk on the nature of outdoor spaces, making reference to his projects, which approach landscape in the context of the city and urbanization. Vogt has collaborated with notable architecture firms, including Herzog & de Meuron on the Tate Gallery of Modern Art and the Laban Dance Center in London, as well as the Allianz Arena, Munich; he worked with Gautschi Storrer on Zürich's Masoala Rain Forest Hall. [...]

    6:37: Landscape Chair Charles Waldheim calls things to order. "Over the course of the last decade or so, he and his colleagues have embarked on the production of an extraordinary array of public squares and spaces..." His work embodies a tangency between a tradition of landscape that draws on perception the senses, as well as an urbane sensibility. His projects have been at a range of scales. The first piece of his that CW saw was at the Tate Modern, "at the same moment fragile and materially availability, relatively tiny in the face of all that architecture," but it had the forbearance to stand up in that demanding context.

    He's a practitioner, teaches at ETH Zürich, and a scholar. He has two books, Distance and Engagement, and Miniature and Panorama, which have the same trim size but different orientations, covering much the same years.

    6:43: GV: "I decided I have to be a bit open minded so my students can criticize me tomorrow, so I go a bit to the edge."

    "Landscape architecture today talks too much about design, and not enough about the conditions that define our daily work." So he'll talk about London vs. continental Europe, and what is different in those contexts.

    In European cities, a process of urbanization, especially in Switzerland. In London, it spread out some centuries ago. We can still find fortifications, but they've spread out past them for a long time. So questions of inside and outside aren't as much in play. Londoners have an "erotic relationship to grass and landscape." For Europeans, it's different--it's a piazza.

    GV cites Henri Lefebre's The Urban Fabric.

    Though London and Switzerland are very different, they're both very democratic--among the most democratic countries--so you really have to talk with people when you work there.

    Why is this? Slides showing industrialization, regional specializations in Europe before 1914, European national statistics, centralities and land use.

    What is the different between city and landscape? Especially at the GSD, everyone is talking about Mumbai and Sao Paolo, but nobody is talking about the abandoned landscape. There are abandoned alpine landscapes in Switzerland that are important for Swiss identity.

    6:52: "We constantly have research, not at the ETH but in our three offices." Description of work for the Venice Bienalle. They reproduced this smallest building type, which is a place where water used to be given out.

    They invited students to propose projects for the kiosks. As they couldn't sell things at the kiosks, they made it an exchange of meanings; they interviewed people and in return gave (? water? knowledge? I'm having trouble following, with Vogt's accent and soft voice.)

    They also had collaborations with Olafur Eliasson, and other artists, often younger and less famous ones. Artists have a completely different approach than architects; and they like to have different disciplines working with them: architects, landscape architects, biologists, geologists, etc.

    Vogt asked an artist (Eliasson, I think he's talking about) who approached him to collaborate on an exhibition why he wanted to collaborate with him, as he's not an artist but a landscape architect. The artist said that museums are really brutal to deal with, and as a landscape architect he's used to dealing with architects.

    Chek out Vogt and Eliasson's The mediated motion. "Peter Zumthor didn't like it at all, I have to say" when they changed the height of the floor, sloping it from one end to the other, destabilizing the feeling of the walls.

    7:09: Now he's showing Rectory Farm. It's the biggest park in west London over the next 20 years; instead of starting with design in terms of what it looks like, they started with what it means and what can be done there.

    Parliament in London. The budget was 19 million pounds, established by the government before they knew what program they wanted for the space. They had come to that amount by calculating how much time commuters would save based on improved traffic flows. At first, GV thought they wouldn't be able to design anything there, but they got interested in the geology of the place--all the layers of older eras pressed up close under the top layers of soil.

    The proposed design involves a slight hill and an enormous table, like the table for parliament but for the people.

    7:25: Novartis campus in Basel. Inspired by local geology. Perception tricks; it feels like you're going up or down when you're not. "Instant landscape," by buying large trees and planting them.

    7:30: For the Novartis Learning Center in Risch, they worked with a photographer who documented the existing park (I think to help them and others see it anew).

    Archinect, it's a bit hard for me to hear, so I'm sorry that my account tonight is sparse and probably often incorrect; the video should be posted online soon. A closing comment, though: it was interesting how Mr. Vogt seems to draw distinctions between "design" vs. "landscape," as well as "landscape" vs. "parks." Not sure what's up with that.

    GV closes his lecture with comments about how he likes the way the GSD is set up, like at ETH, where there are multiple disciplines together. So we have to learn together and learn to talk to each other.

    7:35: End. Charles Waldheim takes the first question, and comments on the tension between wanting to collaborate with other disciplines and maintaining the disciplinary identity of landscape. He comments that at the GSD, it's "in our DNA" to consider the disciplinary identity and roles of each of our disciplines; and that the landscape department may be a bit insular right now, in the face of disciplines that are larger (heh) and more capitalized.

    I ask about Vogt's distinction between design and landscape, and landscape and park (which seem subtle to me), and the more expected contrasts between landscape, art, and architecture. In his answer, two things Vogt touched on are (I think) the fact that theoretical discussions of this kind tend not to take place as much in European schools; and that the answers to these questions aren't simple today. Landscape architects work in urban contexts; real estate developers use the words "park" and "landscape" interchangeably (selling their projects in terms of allowing people to live "in" or in proximity to "the landscape").

    Thanks for reading!


    • 1 Comment

    • John Tubles

      I missed this lecture because of our studio.. thanks for the great blog post!

      Oct 5, 12 9:09 am  · 

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About this Blog

This blog was most active from 2009-2013. Writing about my experiences and life at Harvard GSD started out as a way for me to process my experiences as an M.Arch.I student, and evolved into a record of the intellectual and cultural life of the Cambridge architecture (and to a lesser extent, design/technology) community, through live-blogs. These days, I work as a data storyteller (and blogger at in San Francisco, and still post here once in a while.

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