Moving Ground

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Abstract.
The research main question comes from the observation of the construction phase of landscape architecture interventions, from private gardens to public parks planned and realized in the south part of Switzerland, as an opportunity to think about ground movements connected to the realization of projects that deal with changes of the site’s surface and ground transformations inside landscape.

The first step of the investigation is indeed a critical recognition, through photographs and topographical drawings, that interprets both the physical and the inspirational aspects of a number of earthworks, resulting from the excavations for buildings foundations, from land leveling processes and embankments or, most of all, from the inert waste relocation inside depots. In particular the investigation scrutinize their effects inside everyday perceived and familiar landscape, to finally question how today, beyond economic concerns, earth management practices and soil resources assessments, environmental and sustainability programs on a global and on a local scale, this earthworks could enter the design process.
The critical observation proceeds together with the construction of a theoretical framework, from the founding meaning of re-shaping the land with earth, moving through Dinocrate, Vitruvio and Leon Battista Alberti, Gottifried Semper, Robert Smithson or John Latham and the shifting of the significance of ground inside ecological urbanism and environmental landscape design, up to examine more technical literature that underlines the fundamental role of advanced technological approaches and normative aspects about moving earth inside construction sites. The overview of on-going infrastructural projects, like the AlpTransit railway, that deeply affect landscape and imply complex building sites, allows the observation of great earth’s volumes often not acknowledged and not easy to recognize, spread as spoils inside the nearest territories. The research, trough maps, sections and topographical drawings, finally becomes a chance to sight, inside broad and heterogeneous environments, how it is possible to relocate, reuse and recycle earth.

Keywords.
Moving ground, Landscape architecture, Earthworks, Infrastructural monument, Construction sites, Topographical drawings

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Conclusion

The research is intended as an instrument to interpret and deepen the compositional, strategic meaning of moving ground actions inside the contemporary landscape design process.

Conclusions at this point of the research are intermediate, since the investigation is still in progress, however, the main objectives could be summarized as follows: • to foster a critical attention to the understanding of the landscape spaces resulting from ground movements during construction activities of infrastructures and to witness the effects of contemporary constructive actions on landscapes. • To claim the strategic value of design as a mean to find creative solutions between formal structures (revealing contemporary figurative and symbolic value of the ground) and fun tional requirements (as reuse of earth, reduction of C&D inert waste, optimization of construction sites in landscape, valorisation of new ecologies). • To evidence how landscape design interventions can inspire technical and ethical changes in infrastructures construction fields and vice versa. • To reflect on how, millennia after first ancestral earth mounds, earthworks inside landscape could today become part of a continuously renewed sublime collective imagination.

Details and Totalities

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Abstract.

This paper presents a sustained reflection on two large urban design experiments. The reflection describes an emergent effect named “epistemic reciprocity”. The latter part of the paper grounds its description in a body of design theory. The design experiments were carried out in Pendrecht/Zuidwijk (Rotterdam, NL) and Hellersdorf-Süd (Berlin, DE). Both areas are post-war urban expansions that are in need of an update in terms of urban sustainability. The design experiments were devised to explore and document the spatial possibilities of urban renewal and the epistemic potentials of architectural design. The reflection for this paper deals with the oppositional interplay between details and totality; large visions and tiny details; structural decisions and local details. This dialectic between the details and their totality can be couched in epistemic terms. Between the two opposites, an emergent effect of “epistemic reciprocity” occurs. Without details, the design proposal seems void; yet, it cannot be reduced to a collection of details. Dealing with totalities and details can be done in such a way that different scales of a given proposal reciprocally support each other. Knowledge from one level triggers insights on adjacent levels. Prudently switching between detail and totality enables these moments of “epistemic reciprocity”. The movement of zooming in and out on an idea is not only useful for defining details but is indispensable for developing parallel tracks of thought.

Keywords. 

design theory, architectural design, epistemology, research through design, urbanism

/…/ it follows that totality and detail exist on the same ontological plane. It also follows that knowledge production is not confined to fact-finding but can consist in other forms of insight. These insights are enabled through systematic design experimentation unfolding at multiple levels in parallel. This parallel development is a way to bring detail and totality together in ways that fit a situation. Yet, thoughtful detailing adds – at its own scale level – coherence and intelligible meaning to the totality. Designing, then, develops the many scale levels of a future world in parallel. Overall design ideas (totalities) intersect on user interfaces (details), creating insights that could not be obtained without a multi-level, conceptional process of making. In this process, in-formation becomes information. The knowledge derived from the searching process can be used for inferential reasoning, discursive practices and reflections on such topics as everyday usage, atmosphere, construction or ecology.

Enframing the Scene

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Abstract. 

This paper is part of a Ph.D. thesis. It originates in a cross-cultural observation, which is from the perspective of the contemporary architecture academic context to interpret one typical Chinese landscape spatial phenomenon: enframing the scene.

Starting from a discussion of frame1, both in contemporary architectural discourse and in retroactive research concerning Ancient Chinese landscape, this project aims to reveal certain similarities and differences in the use of frame between these realms.

Based on a cross-cultural methodological approach, we found a similarity in the use of frame in these two domains. They are both from visual habits. It is in one certain chain: ‘the way of seeing’- ‘the way to create space matching this seeing way’1. Due to the different visual habits, the cases from ancient Chinese landscape offer another way to see, and then another way to organize, the space by using frame. This “another way”, in this thesis, is defined as perceptual interaction between the users and space, happening in the user’s perception field.

In the present paper, it will discuss the possibility to employ the perception-phenomenology and visual psychology to demonstrate the feasibility and effectiveness of this perception interaction tool in contemporary spatial design.

The adoption of phenomenology is based on the assumption that human knowledge of space includes some a priori. This means that, excluding cultural differences, there should be some spatial prototypes that can serve people of varied cultural backgrounds.

Ultimately, the research will highlight how the perception interaction, used as a “design tool”, could lead to a higher context-sensitive spatial design practice in this contemporary extensively globalized society.

Keywords. 

Perceptual Interaction Design Tool; Contemporary spatial design; Ancient Chinese landscape architecture; Frame/windows and space/landscape

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Conclusion

Although this is a study based on the spatial phenomenon of Chinese gardens when we talk about the perceptual cognition, that is the essential and fundamental working mechanism, we actually touched on the commonality of the human being. We believe a more in-depth analysis of it in this process, mainly employing perception-phenomenology and visual psychology, will help us return to the context of contemporary spatial design discourse. It would help to convert it into a tool using in contemporary design.