Michael Jakob, “Landscape Architecture and the ‘New Generic’”


Good evening, everyone. So glad you could make
it to this lecture. The chair, Anita Berrizbeitia
is involved this evening with the [inaudible]
Visiting Committee, so she’s asked me to introduce
our speaker this evening, Michael Jakob. And I do so with great
pleasure and honor. So just a very
quick introduction. In conformity with the
conventions of the genre, which typically allows
for a humility, inspiring, and/or numbing enumeration
of publications, projects, laurels, and institutional
associations, sometimes oddly constellated
and at other times forming novel intellectual geographies
including, in this case, the possibility
of faux mountains, first a few words about
our distinguished guest, [? vita. ?] A documentary
filmmaker and radio journalist, philosopher and scholar,
exhibition curator, and editor of a prominent
journal, COMPAR(A)ISON. Jakob teaches
comparative literature at Grenoble University and
history and theory of landscape at hepia. The latter, hepia, because
of, or rather in spite of my pronunciation– and I
should never attempt French when I’m nervous or rushed,
and at the moment I’m both– might at first sound,
might at first hearing sound like Hestia, the god
of the hearth, of the oikos or ordering principles
of architecture as such who was venerated
on the Acropolis. Rather, hepia is an acronym. As naturally rendered in
Helvetic family of type, universalizing and
unmistakable, it stands for the
[speaking french].. The highest ambitions
and underlying challenges internal to these
mutually supporting fields were examined in the
touring exhibition, The Swiss Touch in
Landscape, in which Jakob sought to establish– not to establish or validate
a school of Swiss landscape architecture, but
rather to identify a certain general idea. Lately, we speak and think
much of natural cultures, specifically and
perhaps troublingly what they once were or had been,
a tense discussion at that, but one made so more
compelling in Switzerland, a republic of four national
languages, three of them are officially recognized
by the federation, federal confederation,
a place Max Frisch once called a country without utopia,
a complication of geographies that unite in a collective
will to “work with necessity,” a phrase Jakob derives from
the Enlightenment era polymath Albrecht von Haller. A more recent literary scholar
to these remote places, Lytle Shaw saw in the
bridges of Robert Maillart and the photography of the
brothers Harry and Bruno [? wehrli ?] a struggle
against gravity. In [? shaw’s ?]
genre-bending account, the struggle is tragicomic. As for gravitation, we
are meant to understand from other more reliable sources
that it is a universal law. I think I’ve already
provided enough hints while presenting Jakob’s very
considerable accomplishments that some thought
needs to be given to the question of the
generic and the specific. We are, after all,
called tonight to hear about the new generic. As you’ll note on the lecture
program, the words in question, like a picturesque eye-catcher,
appear [non-english speech],, a sign, if any, that there is
perhaps more to it than first appears, or perhaps less. Literary theory, a field
in which Michael is just phantasmagorically
well-prepared and trained, provides the most relevance,
though arguably not the most comprehensive discourse
in the general and particular. That distinction belongs
to botanical and zoological semantics, in the service of
which nomenclature conventions make universal sense of the
Latin binomial system composed of the generic name and
the specific epithet. One of its fondest
literary proponents was the Genevan exile,
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, an [inaudible]. But certainly, the best known
of the literary critical flowers is [inaudible] discourse in
poetry in Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas, an epilogue
about happiness, to cite the name of a
relatively unfamiliar genre. The business of the
poet, Johnson writes, is to examine not the
individual, but the species, to remark general properties
in large appearances. The poet does not number
the streaks of the tulip, or describe the different shades
in the verdure of the forest. Needless to say,
there were dissenters from Johnson’s prescription
of these features, which one poet may vigilantly remark upon
and another carelessly neglect. William Blake, most
notably, disdained this latter platonic
theory of perception. “To generalize is to be
an idiot,” he exclaimed. “Particularize is alone
distinction of merit. And this all
sublimity is founded on the minute discrimination” George Saintsbury, the
literary historian and wine connoisseur– and I think that
latter attribution somehow matters in this context– was more measured
in his response. But despaired of the
potentially leveling effects, we are off to sacred heights now
if the poet must, in his words, “consult the laziness and
dullness of his readers by merely portraying prominent
and striking features.” Such an accommodation
would rather rule out poetic strangeness. It would rather make convention
and familiarity the keys the poetic kingdom of heaven. Who am I to say,
but entering heaven, which is said to be above,
should not be that easy. What I can say most assuredly
is that Michael Jakob was not Samuel Johnson’s man. He is vigilant, careful,
but also, more importantly, a creative and playful
observer, every marker, to use Johnson’s phrase, a
phenomena, capturing not only that which is apt
to be overlooked, but also finding what no
one else thought to look for and making his recorded
discovery as fresh as the new found thing in the world. To read his most recent book,
The Bench in the Garden of 2017 is to recognize instantly and by
turns what a gifted storyteller he is, which is what any
engaging interpreter hopes to be. What is the new generic? Is it merely the newness of
it that makes it particular? Can the generic in
itself be specific? I can’t wait to hear. So I will take my
very unbench-like seat in the audience and invite
Michael Jakob to the podium. Thanks a lot. Thank you. Thanks. [applause] Thanks a lot for the invitation. The general idea of
this presentation is a rather simple one. And it’s a straightforward one. Can we speak today of the rise
of a new generic in landscape architecture and,
more generally, in the planning disciplines? Are we faced to an
ongoing standardization with the result of a
more uniform landscape? Does contemporary design
produce a banal reality? And if so– and I really
believe that at least partly, it’s the case– for what reasons? And should designers
react to it? And should we educators react
to it as the world around us becomes more uniform? My idea is to put it
differently and to say it right now that we are,
indeed, confronted with the strong and negative
impact of a new generic that fabricates an increasing
number of extremely similarly designed landscapes
everywhere around the world. The terms we use in order
to describe the world are, however, never neutral. And they need some form
of initial explanation. Banal, ordinary, uniform,
uniformity, standardized, generic, the same, sameness,
homogeneous, there is a lot, there exists a lot of
different categories which we can use to describe the
phenomenon I’m interested in. Banal, for instance,
originally from French, banal, common to all, means so
lacking in originality as to be obvious and boring. Generic is that which
is not specific, lacking imagination or
individuality, the original, if you want. Ordinary is something with
no special or distinctive features, the normal. The ordinary is not
interesting or exceptional. It is commonplace. Standardized is something
that conforms to a standard. Sameness means lack of variety,
uniformity, or monotony. This extremely rapid
survey shows us that there is a system
which implies both value judgments and
formal criteria when we deal with the
phenomena I have in mind. We could organize it by a
strictly dualistic system of propositions– original versus unoriginal,
variety versus monotony, interesting versus boring,
specific versus common, individuality versus standard,
special versus commonplace, distinct versus uniformity,
exceptional versus ordinary, and so on. The term I find
most interesting, at least in order to
begin with, is standard because it relates not only
to a noun, but to a verb, to standardize. I don’t want to start with
moral or aesthetic or formal criteria, but with
standardization, given that it suggests
at the same time a process, a general framework,
and a historical background. Let’s initiate therefore
with the last element, a brief survey concerning
the history of standards and standardization. Standardization begins, as
we know, in Great Britain with a small object, the screw. The first national
standard worldwide was the one regarding this
screw thread in 1841 stating thread angle of 55 degrees. Joseph Whitworth, the promoter
of the British Standard Whitworth, or BSW,
was so successful that the British railway
adapted his system. Standards go from the tiniest
screw to railway systems and then to the English
Standard Committee founded in 1901, that is, to
the first industry standards. From the beginning,
standardization is, however, not limited
to the production of industrial objects. It is rather a process of
articulating and influencing technical knowledge. Multi-disciplinary by essence,
standardization touches several aspects at the same time– economics, politics, science,
technology, labor, business, and even culture. If we consider
units of measurement as another essential
element of standardization, we get aware that it touches
even our Weltanschauung, the way we actually
look at the world. As for measurements,
we should not forget that [? condicere, ?] the
French ideologist of the meter and of other standardized
units links standardization with the French Revolution
and the idea of rationality shared by everyone. This is the original meter
in Rue de Vaugirard in Paris. Another aspect we have to
take into consideration– and I’ll come back
to it later on– is the almost
immediate application of standardization to the
most advanced technologies of communication. We can easily trace a
line from the development of the global
telegraph standard, and a very important instrument
of British imperialism, to the railroad system
and to electricity and to the contemporary
internet standards. Standardization is,
however, never neutral. On the contrary. Think of standardization
of, for example, an industrious– or here if have
some examples of the railway system and
standardization becoming more and more important
with the railway system and what happens when things
are not so much standardized. And standardization
is never neutral. So it thinks of
the standardization of industrial parts in American
armories for the production of muskets, for example. And once standardization
became a major trend in the 20th century, the
danger of the application of mass production to
biology, for example, very well suggested in Huxley’s
Brave New World where, I quote, he speaks about
“standard men and women.” Or we could think here again
standardization of mankind or think about Westworld and
the perfect cyborgs and so on. A relatively recent example of
a successful standardization is the container. Containers existed already
in the 19th century. But standardization
really became important in the 20th century. While the first international
standard was adopted in 1933, the new ISO standard,
what are now usually 40 foot or
12.2 meter containers, was imposed only after an 1960. This kind of centralization
raises, of course, no real questions. The disappearance of differences
and of variety in containers is no problem. But it’s, rather, the
solution of a problem. If it comes to objects
where aesthetics matter, things are, however,
more complicated. In an important book
few people read today, The Shape of Time by George
Kubler, it was, I think, Robert Smithson’s
favorite book, Kubler puts up a very interesting
theory of things. His main idea is that objects
exist always in series. The series begins
with prototypes which permit the development
of different models. And then the series lives on
until, at a certain moment, the series comes to an end. The series of
containers, for example, start in the 19th century. And once the international
standard was adopted, every possible development
inside the series comes to an end. Let’s come now to
a second way to try to enter the problem
of standardization, so the relation between
identity and difference in three fields relevant for
landscape architecture. What about difference, variety,
individuality, first of all, in architecture, then in
a history of the city, in urbanism, and,
certainly, in the built environment in general? Dealing with architecture
at the very general scale, we could speak of
standardization or uniformity by highlighting several aspects. Take the formal
uniformity of buildings, the reproduction of almost the
same form in time and space. Examples could go from the
classical and neoclassical architecture to the
international time style. It is typical, for instance,
not to recognize immediately the age of neoclassical
architecture. Normally, when we see
these examples, we always– we say they
all look the same. Another example
of uniformization is the use of the same material. Still another one is
stylistic uniformity. Here the results
are so standardized that the general
pattern works rather as a model than a real type. Still another aspect
concerns production, constructions built by applying
the same standard procedures. Quite often, all these aspects
exist parallely and overlap. Think, for instance, of
the infamous Plattenbauten, or large paneled
system buildings of the former East Germany. Plattenbauten, a type
of building consisting of large, prefabricated
concrete slabs, became, after a [inaudible]
project in Berlin in the 1930s, the standard methods is
to build the [inaudible],, the new development
areas of the country. The architects of this
kind of social housing– we could make, rather
say antisocial housing– developed subtypes
with poetic names like P2, WBS 70, or WHH GT 18. Models that marked,
for several decades, a general impression of
GDR’s urban landscapes. Here you see the material. And here you see
the result. Or here again, you know, these
extremely standardized places in the former German
Democratic Republic. Here again. But I ask myself if the
destruction of Pruitt-Igoe, the famous urban housing
project in St. Louis, Missouri in the mid-70s– you remember that Charles
Jencks always says postmodernism begins with the
destruction of these, of Pruitt-Igoe cannot be read
as a reaction against uniformity as well, besides the well-known
problems there of poverty, crime, and
radioactivity and so on. Here you have the famous image. After this first negative
example, we can now, of course, think of some positive examples. At least, take for example,
the British city of Bath. Bath, celebrated
as a particularly beautiful and picturesque
city and the only British city recognized as a
World Heritage site, owes its celebrity
partly to the uniformity of its material, golden
colored local sandstone, and to the form of
its identical facades. The effect of repetition
intended by architect John Wod was understood as
particularly fitting for a disposition responding to
the roles of classical decorum. One could, of
course, immediately add to these examples
those of [inaudible],, of many gated communities,
or anonymous urbanizations, of sprawl scapes, and of
many other sites marked by an extreme sense of
repetition and uniformity. Here again, examples of– whoops. What about the quality of
contemporary sprawlscapes– the one which we saw before– compared, for example,
to Olmsted’s Riverside? What happened between Riverside
and our contemporary urban landscapes and sprawlscapes? Let’s remark before continuing
with the architecture that the existence
of these patterns raises almost immediately
some fundamental problems of aesthetics, of psychology,
and even of ontology. Does the work of art has
necessarily to be unique in order to please? For Walter Benjamin,
for instance, the historical
situation changed once with the Industrial
Revolution and the possibility to reproduce the same object
infinitely once the work of art lost its aura. Erotic objects have a strong
identity and individuality, while post-erotic object
lacks such a quality. Or is Kant’s right when he
affirms that works of art touch us by their form
rather by content or idea, that the form of this
building, that it’s always the form of this building
which touches us independently of the other factors? Naturally, I will
come back to the sum of the idea of standardization
and the political impact of standardization raised
already by Benjamin. But there are other
examples which we can cite when we look
for a definition of order. Think of, for example, of Ernst
Gombrich’s The Sense of Order. Gombrich speaks about an
almost anthropological or universal need
for regularity. And he thinks that at
the level of our most fundamental perceptions, we
are always order-oriented. But is the role of patterning
or responsiveness to pattern, really universal or
rather the result of an order-oriented ideology? We know that Gombrich
borrows his sense of order from Karl Popper. And Karl Popper insists himself
on the role of schemata. So does this mean
that order is simply something inborn, is
something natural for mankind? Or is it, on the
contrary, an idea of the 18th and 19th century
which becomes fundamental only in the theories
of these people? Jay Appleton, for
example, adopted this idea in landscape studies
where he thinks that when we recognize a certain
pattern of landscape, we– it’s always recognizability
of this landscape which makes that, which
raises in us positive feeling. Is an urban landscape
enhanced by uniformity or is uniformity the best
example of urban beauty? There is, of course,
another aspect which is fundamental
in Kantian aesthetics, is the sense of autonomy,
the autonomy or individuality of the work of art. From the 18th century on,
individuality, originality, uniqueness becomes
a central value. And normally we expect now
from things that please us a high degree of uniqueness. And the same objects we
loved a moment ago become– don’t please us
anymore if they lack originality or individuality. Let’s add to this
first reflection a second layer, introducing
two new categories– the banal and the ordinary. Ordinary is something
that lacks originality, versus the extraordinary
where originality immediately calls for our attention. Things that are
banal should not be confused with ordinary things. Banal is that which
disappears in its context without necessarily
being ordinary. Something ordinary doesn’t
call for our attention as– something ordinary does not
call for our attention as well. But once we observe
it, we remark that it is isolated in its context. The opposite of something banal
is, for example, a monument, a construction that
requires– as in the case of the extraordinary– our attention. The French architect
August Perret was one of the
foremost advocates of a banal architecture. For him, the banal
was not the ordinary, but [non-english speech],,
that which seems always having already existed. A banal architecture is one
that one doesn’t remark, an architecture that, at least
at the first time, disappears. Perret would claim that his Le
Havre buildings, with their 6 and 24 meter scheme, are
banal, but never ordinary. Another aspect of positive
banality in architecture is the use of new
building methods. Le Corbusier, for instance,
was proud of using a general constructor for
his La Tourette monastery who just did the job. It was a constructor
who normally built dams in the Alps. So the making of the
construction was banal, but the result
was extraordinary. And Le Corbusier, as
we know, he really, very often liked to affirm
that God liked symmetry. And we see the trace of
this in his urban visions, like the [inaudible],, where
an extremely standardized, with its extremely
standardized building types. There are still
other factors we have to think about when
trying to define the horizon of our inquiry,
standardization or homogeneity. One essential element
is the introduction of samples or catalogs,
for more or less standardized architecture. The history of this
genre from the pattern books of the 18th century
to the manuals and programs of the Beaux-Arts style,
to contemporary catalogs where you can choose the
style of your building is still to be written. There are a few studies
about the influence of the standardization. And I think this would be, would
be very important to see how standardization, both in
architecture and in urbanism and in other disciplines has
really a starting point in many of these publications. Even in this famous photograph
of the Beaux-Arts Society in New York, we see that
the top of the buildings is, well, naturally individual. And it’s a skyscraper,
as we know, but the base is still
a very common language. We could cite, at the same time,
architects who powerfully tried to work against
standardization like Adolph Loos and his famous
Villa Moller, for instance, where we see
that Loos was always extremely critical of standardization,
of homogeneity, both in the eclectic
style and in what we called the modernists. And sometimes he went
so far that he even complicated infinitely
the function inside his constructions
in order to build something extremely individual
and completely against any possible standard,
even if some of these solutions seemed to not to be logic. Given that architecture
always exists in a context and that the main context
is that of the city, the problem of
standardization and uniformity can only be treated
in the vaster framework of the urban fabric. Even a very brief
analysis of the dialectics of uniformity versus
variety in the urban context confronts us immediately with
a very complex phenomenon. Let’s not forget, first of all,
that for Virtruvius, uniformity was an essential value
next to firmitas and all the other values, even if
his sense of uniformity has more to do
with symmetry than with architectural sameness. The Vitruvian
sense of uniformity reminds us, however, of
the quintessential category of order. The importance of order
comes from the Greek ideal of cosmos, that is, the
well-ordered universe. For the ancient Greek, we
live in a perfectly ordered, finite totality, built by the
first mover or first architect, the supreme god if you want. The seven planets,
the seven winds, and many other sacred
entities, marked always by the number of
4, 7, or 10 express the harmony of the universe. That utopic projects
of the perfect cities of Renaissance, for
example, [inaudible].. Here you see the four
elements, so the four elements as general structure or
order of the universe. These ideas will
influence, for example, [inaudible] ideal city, and
many, many other projects of ideal city, ideal cities
throughout the Renaissance. It is, however, only in the
19th century that order– the term order is, of
course, polysemic– becomes the key concept
of city planning. [inaudible]
[? haussmann’s ?] Paris is probably the starting
point of an operation that still influences
the design of many cities around the world. He received the city of
Paris, the [inaudible] of City of Paris, the body of city
of Paris being transformed, being destroyed by [? baron ?]
[? haussmann, ?] his architects and landscape architects and to
destroy the old organic Paris in order to transform
it into something new. [? joao ?] [inaudible],,
for instance, he understood immediately– maybe he was the
most lucid observer of this transformation– and he showed how the old
organic Paris, [inaudible],, was transformed into something
mechanical and marked by order. And Baron Haussmann’s project
at the same time militaristic with the boulevards,
hygienistic and economical, created the cityscape marked
by highly uniform [inaudible],, standardized boulevards,
squares, and so on. From the second half
of the 19th century on, stressing the importance of the
visual uniformity of the city became a fundamental goal. The new cityscapes
had to be legible. And this was not only
the case in the center, but in the margins
as well, as well as in the new standardized
suburban districts. Order and uniformity
became, at the same time, the condition or, if you want,
the synonym, if you want, of modern beauty. The French even invented
the professional figure of the [inaudible]. [inaudible] from
Latin, [inaudible],, the controller of the roads. In 19th century
Paris, especially in [inaudible] Paris,
there was this figure, the [inaudible] who had to
control, a sort of inspector, he had to control the roads and
buildings, squares and facades that corresponded to
a general standard. The uniform cityscape,
which survives in our contemporary urban
realities marked, for instance, by condominization becomes
visible in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Lang is, by the way,
very much aware– very much aware of the
political implications of an urban pattern
characterized by almost total uniformity. His deconstruction of a
dangerous European utopia highlights the contradictions
of two conquering systems with a strong tendency
for uniformity. There is, on the one hand,
communism and its desire to create unique and highly
standardized urban patterns. We saw the Plattenbauten before. You have architecture
and people standardized. And on the other hand,
the capitalist system with the power for
technologies is equally interested
in standardization, primarily not for political,
but for economic reasons. This is a general
background we have to keep in mind if
we want to remind those voices throughout
the 20th century that called for a critical
approach of uniformity, order, and homogeneity. Bruno Zevi, Architectura
Organica, Organic Architecture, published in 1945, can
serve as a first example. Zevi, who founded the APAO,
Association for Organic Architecture,
criticized frequently the excessive of tautology
in contemporary architecture. The principal aim
of his criticism was what he termed
fascist architecture. Fascist architecture is
indifferent to the social needs and forgets, quite often,
the most elementary functions of the building. It is characterized by
symmetry or an excess in symmetry, symmetry for the
symmetry’s sake and proportion. Most of the buildings
Zevi had in mind looked like boxes, [inaudible],,
statical [inaudible] entities with no
relation whatever to other buildings and the
immediate surroundings. 20 years later, Aldo Rossi
published L’architettura della citta, the architecture
of the city. Rossi interprets the city
as an architectural totality and as a main scene of
all human activities, he further underlined that
cities realize themselves thanks to the idea they have
of their own development. It’s a very idealistic
idea, a neo-Hegelian idea of the city building itself. Dealing with individuality
in the urban context, Rossi stresses
the essential role of monuments versus all
other mainly functional constructions. “A monument stands at
the center,” I quote, “it is usually
surrounded by buildings and becomes a place
of attraction. Monuments are always
individual, highly individual, while all the other
constructions are not.” Let’s take a source,
famous source for an advocacy for the
individual or non-generic in the urban context. Kenneth Frampton’s
highly influential paper, Towards a Critical Regionalism. Frampton starts with a citation
by the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur, worried about the
effects of universalization civilization giving rise
to a mediocre civilization. Ricoeur regrets
that with, I quote, “we find everywhere
world the world the same bad movie, the same
slot machines, the same plastic and aluminum atrocities.” And I would add today myself,
the same urban landscape, the same plazas, the same
squares, the same streetscapes, and so on. The contemporary lack
of quality in urban form is, according to Frampton,
in part predetermined by the imperatives
of production. Confronted to the victory
over universal civilization or what he calls the
burolandschaft cityscape, we should carefully opt for
a variant of regionalism being capable to combine
the local and the universal, the individual and the abstract. Critical regionalism
as a lucid form of resistance and
culturist strategy could be the solution
in order to mediate between universal civilization
and specific, local elements, providing a synthesis
between world culture, diversity, and universal
civilization, identity imposed by the system. Frampton calls, on the one
hand, for the desconstruction of world cultural intended
as a catalog of forms we have learned to mix,
a sort of mixed salad architecture or mixed salad
urbanism or very eclectic. And he invites us,
at the same time, to face critical
universal civilization, especially when we rely
too heavily, too heavily on technology. Before I come to landscape
and landscape architecture, let me mention still another
relatively recent theory. The French philosopher and
anthropologist Marc [? auge ?] has highlighted during
the last two decades a phenomenon identified by
him as non-lieux, non-places. In opposition to places that the
spatial entities that oriented mankind until very recently
on a worldwide basis, well-identified places bounded
and with a strong identity, hypermodernity, he speaks about
[french] develops more and more highly standardized realities. If Auge starts like Frampton
with a positive model of bounded places,
he nevertheless stresses that even these
places are in reality, are in reality social
and mental constructions. Places, lieux, have
three main qualities. They provide a
sense of identity. They are relational,
that is actively related to other places,
part of a system. And they are historical. They have a minimum
history which confers to them a sense of stability. Non-places, on the other
hand, have no identity. They are non-relational. And they exist in a
sort of timeless bubble. According to Auge, our
contemporary civilization produces an increasing
number of non-places. With non-places, he intends
two related phenomenon. One is a certain
type of such places, places linked to the transport
system– for example, airports, train stations, gas stations– or to commerce–
shopping malls– or to the tourism industry–
hotels and restaurants. The other thing which his
interest is our attitudes towards these places. When we actually find
ourselves in these non-places, we never really experience them. We’re never interested in
their identity or history. They have no history or form. We just use them. We’re simply there, but
we could be anywhere else. It doesn’t matter. Contemporary tourism–
arguably the first the industry worldwide– contributes to the dissemination
of even more non-places, ex-territorial spots
where we don’t really have any experiences. The anti-utopic quality
of these insular places becomes even problematic
if we consider the fact that most of them are linked to
privatization and to security. These appear on
the happy islands of the atmospheric
capitalism are in reality spaces of total control. And a culture of
control has, as we can add, in its turn,
a clear influence on how these places are
planned, built, or landscaped. With a final result that
[non-english speech].. So the non-places
create a sense– they never create a sense
of individual identity or relation, but
solitude and sameness. A counter example, for
example, for the non-places cited by Marc Auge would be
a gas station like our friend Nader Tehrani’s gas station in
Los Angeles or a shopping mall or a commercial center
like James Wine’s BEST. So we could imagine
other ways to define it. Let me now go a step further
and look for a moment to similar phenomena in
the field of landscape. At first hand, landscapes
seems the opposite of all these realities
characterized by standardization,
uniformization, sameness. Landscape, perceived
landscape is by definition a place of land, a piece of
land or nature seen by someone at a certain moment. It is, in order to use
[inaudible] formula, time flowing into space. Landscape is, therefore,
always radically singular and individual. It is unique. It is always this one
landscape in front of me. The English poet Coleridge
who toured the Lake District around 1800 and tried to fix the
singularity of the landscapes perceived was always desperate
because of the impossibility of finding the right words
for his unique impressions. I cite, “The Head
of Glen Nevish, how simple for a painter
and in how many words and how laboriously and
in what dim similitudes and how slow and dragging
circumlocutions must I give it?” He complains, “Oh,
for words to explain how slate and limestone lies. Silly words, I’m
vexed with you.” Impossibility to
tell what is singular and given only in a moment. Dealing with landscape,
we can, nevertheless, arrive to this
opposite finding too. Landscape experience is
never immediately given, but the result of very
complex cultural processes. We learned, in order
to put it differently, to identify a series of
particular landscape patterns and with it so only from
the 18th century on. Take, for instance,
a picturesque. In order to recognize it,
our ancestors of just two and a half centuries
ago had really to learn its new language. People like the
famous Reverend Gilpin actually developed a catalog
of landscape patterns. And it is in search for these
extremely similar landscapes that the tourists of the
18th and 19th century travel tend to– had to look out. See, there was a whole industry
of these publications, books so picturesque landscape
had to be explained in order to be seen. It’s not naturally given– and people naturally to
reacted to [inaudible] other of Gilpin’s publications. Another instrument used in
order to create similarity is a Claude glass. By using it, the traveler has
combined the formal identity provider by the scopic device
with a stylistic identity of a well-defined
landscape type. Here you see Claude glasses
in the British Museum, Gainsborough using
his Claude glass, or today’s Claude
glass, if you want. This is our contemporary
Claude glass. So we fabricate landscapes. And we learn to do
this and very recently. The reality of the impressions
discovered in the world out there correspond to a global
and highly Eurocentric model. That is, landscape painting,
of the landscape painting of the 17th century,
especially the landscape paintings of Claude Lorrain. In reality, the range
of pleasing landscapes is quite narrow. And it privileges repetition
or the recognition of the– recognition of the
similar patterns and aspects. We learn to appreciate
the bucolic, the romantic, the sublime, the
wild landscape thanks to painters like Claude
Lorrain and many others of the 17th century. British travelers, for
example, of the 19th century, before the 19th
century were never interested in the British
landscape in its individuality. They, rather, went to
control if the beauty of the British
landscape corresponded to the classic beauty which they
knew from the Italian models. So, in general, travelers
of the 18th and 19th century organized their tours
by mentally identifying and photographing
extremely similar– photographing in their
minds– extremely similar standard landscapes. The second effect of
the aesthetics of nature had even more
striking consequences. The pictuary style applied
to gardening and to landscape architecture went so far as to
produce on site an increasing number of landscapes that
looked very much the same. Worlitz in Germany looked
like Ermenonville in France or Stourhead in Britain. And they all looked,
more or less, like a painting
of Claude Lorrain. You never know where we are. So you’re picturesque. At first sight, we
think these are very, very highly exceptional
places, very individual with their owners and
a nice, very complex programs. But if you start
to analyze it, you see that it’s almost the
same image coming back again and again. So from Kent and Brown
to Repton and Olmsted, and up to our days,
we’re faced with the fact that we build landscapes
that have to be close, that have to be very
close to a general model in order to please. My point here is
that a certain degree of perceptive and
cultural standardization is characteristic for
landscape experience in general and that in dealing
with uniformity today, this has to be waved
against this tradition. So standardization
probably always existed in the
landscape experience. Take, for example,
Tuscany, Tuscan landscape. Tuscan landscape as we see it
and we love it more or less today is an invention
of the British tourists of the 18th century. Before this kind of
trees were not used. They were used
mostly in cemeteries. So this is a
standardized landscape. But today, it is taking as the
topical landscape of Tuscany. Naturally, with time,
new categories appeared. And especially in
the 19th century, there were many other
aspects of standardization. I don’t have the
time to enter this, but, for example, the invention
of the national landscapes in the 19th century– the French, the
German, the Italian– they invented their
national landscapes. And then they tried to keep– try to make everything possible
that the national landscape or something identified
as the national landscape had never to change. I will come now to
landscape architecture and to another way to
speak about the problem of standardization,
another way to confront it. Naturally, I will
try to give you some examples concerning
standardization in today’s landscape architecture. But before coming to,
it there is something which I always like to mention. Landscape architecture
is a strange discipline. It has existed
now for 250 years. Arguably, it starts with
Humphrey Repton, 1789. It’s the year of the
French Revolution too. And it’s his business card
with a very pragmatic sense. Every time he found a client,
he immediately gave him this business card. And he calls himself
a landscape gardener. So let’s say our
discipline existed now for two and a half centuries. And the strange thing is
that landscape architecture has almost no history,
very difficult to find a history, a
complete history of landscape architecture. Not very strong
in theory either. And even the corpus of landscape
architecture is not so clear. So I had the chance
to travel a lot around the world with this
Swiss landscape architecture exhibition. And I liked always to ask
colleagues, to tell me, what is your corpus? I mean, what are 10
works which really count? And even most of them stopped
at three or if there were– colleagues who were in
the business, world, they would cite their own work. Well, this is another work. But it’s very difficult. So I always say, it’s a
very strange discipline. Where if we were in– I don’t know painters– we could agree, there were some
people like Van Gogh and Monet. And they had some talent. So we won’t start again. But in landscape
architecture, no one knows what is the corpus? What is the standard? What is– where do we come from? So this makes it even difficult
to make presentations. I mean, what do we speak about? What is landscape
architecture, anyhow? So I think it’s– it’s
something we have to take into consideration. So and maybe– and this is
linked to my topic– maybe this has an effect
on homogenization and standardization. Because landscape architecture
doesn’t have a clear corpus, we don’t have a
progression, take it however in what sense you want. But there is not
a clear history. So very often, we are
dealing with repetition. The same forms come back again
and again and again and again. And we would like to ask
some of our colleagues, didn’t you see that there
were some guys like Sorensen or some other guys who
did some good work? So you should look to people
who work before you, but no. So this is– I think
this is a real problem. It’s not the problem I
want to deal with today, but I want to mention it. So what about difference,
individuality, and a culture of difference
in landscape architecture? So my main example
I will try to– I took one example by
our friend Paolo Burgi. I think you know his work. And this is Cardada
in Switzerland– in the southern part, in the
Italian part of Switzerland. And I like to show it
because I think it’s– it’s a polysemic object. I don’t think we have so many
polysemic objects in landscape architecture. So what do I mean by
polysemic objects? I will try very, very rapidly
to give you just an idea of what I take as a polysemic
object, something which is many things at the same
time and marked by difference. So this is an
observatory in the Alps. There is a first
platform and then there is a second platform. And Burgi built it. So this is a beautiful platform. And the starting
point for Burgi was what happens when
you go into the Alps and you’re confronted
to a place where you will experience
sublime landscape and you’ll see
something extraordinary? And his idea was well,
we have to do something which is not built out,
which is not ordinary, which is not generic. He wanted to do
something exceptional, but at the same time,
being full of respect for the local elements. Here you see the context. It’s on Lago Maggiore, not very
far from the city of Locarno. And when he started to
work on this object, he was very much aware
that there is a context. It’s a Swiss context, too. You know, Kenneth
Clark said this is the first painting in
European landscape painting and maybe in European– landscape painting
all together where you can recognize a certain place. It’s a Bay. It’s Lake Geneva. And you see [inaudible] behind. And so there is a history
behind the discovery of Alps in general and
of alpine landscape. And we have many,
many important steps. And when Burgi started
to work on this project to build the platform
where you have a dialogue with the
alpine landscape, he knew that the mountains were
hated until the 17th century, that they were interpreted
as the place of the devil and of, generally in a
completely negative way. And only in the 17th century,
things started to change. And then in the 18th century,
they become something sublime. This is Caspar Wolf. And Caspar Wolf made a very
important career showing us the sublime quality of the Alps. So when Burgi
built his platform, he related himself to the
history of the sublime and to the history
of, we could say, the modern subject, which
like to go to these places and to elevate
himself and to see the world from upside down,
which was something almost revolutionary. But, naturally, Burgi
worked at this project in the 20th century. And there is a history of the
view of our scopic relation to the world, which is
marked by our desire to look from upside down. And in the 20th century, for
example, aerial photography became extremely influenced. This was a photographer
and a pilot. He pretended that he would
both photograph and pilot his plane at the same time. I think it’s impossible with
his cameras which were barely, 20 kilogram camera. But still, he was extremely
powerful and influential. And so there is a history
of our way to see the world and to relate our world, to
the world through a vision. And Burgi creates this
platform by relating to many, many things. For example, this is
how in the 19th century our view from the
mountains was organized. You see these platforms,
these belvederes, which was very typical. Quite strange that
already people thought that it’s
necessary when you arrive at the top of the mountain
to have something, further step to go even higher,
to have this last step, which gives you the ultimate
possibility to conquer, really, site. And you see how tourism
organized this already in the 19th century
and how it became almost a ridiculous something. So what is– if
you go to the Alps, you will find hundreds and
hundreds of these places. They’re quite sad, very
badly built, extremely banal, I would say. And Burgi wanted to make
something very different. And I think it’s really
the depths of his knowledge which transformed this project
into something polysemic. For example, he knew very well
the tradition of the panorama, of panorama. When Barker invented
the panorama quite early at Leicester Square, he
showed some panoramas of the mountains. He remembered that the
panorama, the idea behind Barker’s project was, there’s
so many people who cannot afford to travel and even if
you can afford to travel, it’s dangerous. And why use your
money for traveling? And I will show you the world
and you come into the panorama. And panoramas became
very, very influential. And they influenced
landscape architecture and many, many
other disciplines. And so people went
into the panorama and then they could have a
360 degree view of the world. So Burgi tries to do
something very different. That’s what he had not in mind,
these sad constructions, which we find in the Alps. And he wanted to do
something poetic and complex. He was beware of the– almost the
responsibility to do what happens if we arrive
to such a platform. How do we look to the world? And at the same time, he
was attacked by some people. They said, you’re a
landscape architect. You like nature. And why do you use concrete? And what about concrete here? And he said, no
problem with concrete. I think I can live with it. And there is a
history of concrete. And concretes are stone. And stone is my theme. Because here we are
in an important place where two geological
phenomena, the African and the European
plate, comes together. You see the same landscape,
but actually the mountains are very different. Because one of the–
one mountain range is 380 million years
old and the other one is 120 million years old. And as the two– the African and European
plate, they touch each other. That’s why we have so many
earthquakes in Italy and so on. And he tried to explain this by
taking some samples of stones. And he integrated this
into his platform. So you’ll see it’s very– it’s
not very rhetoric, rhetorical. It’s very simple. It works with citation
and with other elements in order to let us
enter into this place. And I think was very
much aware too about what happened in the Alps,
and not only in the Alps, throughout the world. So in the 19th
century, we destroyed or transformed almost all of
our traditional landscapes. And this is the price, you know. These are the wonderful five
star hotels in the Alps. So you could here,
as a bourgeois, sit there at the old balcony
and enter into relation with wonderful landscapes. But that’s the price of the
transformation, an extremely brutal transformation
of the alpine reality. And it continues. For example, we have these kinds
of platforms and this kind. And that’s what he
didn’t have in mind. And I think the
complexity and the scale and the almost the poetic
quality of his platform is really the result
of a cultural approach of how you project this. And naturally, he
was very much aware of the discovery of the
mountains and of landscape. You remember Petrarch. Sometimes we read that Petrarch
was the first modern man. Jacob Burckhardt said this. And that Petrarch
discovered mountains when he went to [inaudible]. So the discovery of
looking from upside down is something very specific. And it has a history. It’s not given for in every
culture and at every moment. It’s a cultural possibility. And then take the round
form, the circular form, why did he choose it? I don’t think he had
Sorensen in mind, but we could think of
Sorensen’s [inaudible] and of [? noguchi ?] and
of many other examples. I think the round
form has something which we’d call agorotic. It’s like a forum. And therefore, to build his
observatory in this way is– there are many, many,
it’s like a poetics of citation and suggestions. So I create something that
looks very, very simple, but it’s not simple at all. And another idea
behind Cardada was– well, this is something which
seems only to float, floating. And the idea floating,
you know, in Rem Koolhaas it’s so important. And the idea of architecture,
this starts already with [? burle ?] and
many other people, [? ledoux ?] in
the 18th century, architecture as an elevation
and the desire to almost float above the world. And then the relation
to stones and to rocks and the aesthetics of rocks. This is, by the way, a painting. It’s not a photography. So I think he had a
very keen sense of, what do I want to keep
and how do I want to work? And there are many other stories
and many other [inaudible] too. I’m sure many of you know
Paolo Burgi’s Cardada. So they’re iconic
signs integrated. And they have something
to with history and time, especially philosophy of time,
the very long geological time, hundreds of millions
of years, our time, and the time when you come
as a visitor and you stop by. Or this is Monte Verita,
very important place in around 1900 where
artists, anarchists from everywhere to Europe
came to this place in Ascona. And they developed modern
dance and poetry and art and et cetera. And it is not very far
away from Cardada either. So all these themes come
together in Cardada. And at that place,
he built a fountain. And this fountain, you see,
he wanted to build himself. And here you see the fountain. And that’s how he choose it. So that’s the history
of this fountain. And that’s, again, the
making of the fountain. And that’s making of
the fountain again. And then it will
be installed there. So it’s something very
individual, very particular. And he spent a lot
of time to find the right place and the right– the right material. So it’s something
completely individual. And later it was destroyed and
so he rebuilt it another place. And one of the starting
points of my idea to speak about standardization
was that Paolo is working now in Geneva at the CERN. And he works on– there is a tram here. And so it’s an urban project. And here you see the plan. And he wanted to
build a bench here. And he told me, it’s impossible. I cannot build my bench. So he wanted to
draw a bench like he drew the fountain before. And he said, it’s impossible. Because they asked
me to do benches, to buy benches in a catalog. And he said, it’s not only
about standardization, so, but it’s about certification. He said, if you don’t have
the right certification, then you cannot go on. And so he had to– so he couldn’t do it. And it’s these kind of
benches he had to choose. So they told him, if you
want to have a bench, we’ll give you a catalog. And it’s almost impossible
for him to design it, even in Switzerland. You know, in
Switzerland, we’re not even in a European community. So we’re a very free country and
we’re very proud of being free. But it doesn’t work
anymore for many reasons– certification, standardization,
economic reasons. So this was– I think this is a
good example of what I mean by standardization and
the impossibility of being original. Then another example,
a contemporary example is square in Milan, Piazza
Gae Aulenti, quite recent. And Piazza Gae
Aulenti is, for me, an example of a really, very,
a sort of international style in landscape architecture
or in urban design. It was quite a poor quality. And you see we
are here in Milan. But we could be very easily in
Berlin too on Potsdamer Platz. And by the way,
the Italian journal said, oh, Milan is
becoming now like Berlin. So they said, finally
Milan became like Berlin. So you see how something
which maybe for some people is something extremely
negative, on the contrary, it was celebrated as well. We too, we have these new urban
plazas which are wonderful. And you see here. And if you look to it,
it could be everywhere. So it’s a sort of
Dubaization of Milan. And this Dubaization, you
can find it everywhere. You see, it’s horrible. I mean, it’s a sort
of urban nightmare. And people even celebrate it. They think, wow, it’s full of– and you see no life here, eh? So they celebrate it, but
still, there are some problems. And then, again,
Piazza Gae Aulenti. And you see– no,
let’s go back here. You see the solar tree. But this solar tree is
really something terrible. I mean, it should be forbidden. And it’s not [inaudible]
[? stephens’ ?] revolutionary solar tree of 1925,
you know, which was really a scandal, which
is something poetic, and which is a provocation, and which
is many things together. No, it’s really these kinds
of horrible solar trees. They should forbid it. I mean, they’re a tree. We still have trees. So why solar trees anyhow? And so you see the
standardization in solar trees. So that’s how Piazza
Gae Aulenti works. Or, for example, I was
in September in Morocco. And another standardization, you
see the whole lighting system. You see in the whole country,
the same lighting system everywhere. So you see the same
lamps everywhere. Probably it’s a wonderful
business for the one guy who does this in
the whole country. But for the whole
country as a totality, it’s an extreme standardization. And so we go towards
poor solutions. Or this is a wonderful
and completely ironic faux palm tree. So now the telephone companies,
they hide their antennas with palm trees. And you find it everywhere,
hundreds or even thousands of these things. So this, again, is
standardization. So we have in landscape
architecture and urbanism, generally standardization
is so powerful. And we have to ask ourselves,
where does this come from? Why are we confronted with this? Naturally, there are standards. And more and more
standards become important. And we have in the US,
you have these standards. But I think it’s more– the whole situation is more
complex, far more complex. It’s linked to globalization
too and to some corporations. Take, for example, if we
look to the important, really important international
architecture firms, et cetera. Or do you think SOM
is very proud of this? I mean, this very– this is the main example
for what they do, huh? And probably, I think they’re
really happy about this. But it could be, you
know, this [inaudible] could be everywhere. Or if you take AECOM, you
see again, it’s a plaza. It could be everywhere too, very
difficult to say where we are. Or here again, you
see where are we? And why do all these
places look the same? So maybe before coming to
really the final remarks, how can we interpret
landscape architecture? And how can we interpret the
urban reality all together? So as you heard,
I deal sometimes, I still deal with literature
and comparative literature, even if I’m mostly now
in landscape architecture and related disciplines. But I will make a short
detour by literary theory. Because I think what interests
me is, who is responsible? Who is responsible
for standardization? Who is responsible
for standardization in architecture? Who is responsible
for standardization in landscape architecture? Who is responsible in general? And I think we need to identify
someone who is responsible, at least to start to think about
how to understand the world. So if you take literary
theory, very, very quickly, in the 18th and 19th
century, everything was about the author. So we had the figure
which was the author. And the author
was always someone who was the author in the
very enthusiastic sense. So think of the parks of
the 18th and 19th centuries. They’re full of these sculptures
of Edgar Allan Poe and Pushkin and Tolstoy. So it’s the author. And what does the author– well, the author,
he writes something. It’s a text and a novel,
for instance, or a poem. And so the author, there is
a causality between the two. The author writes a poem. A composer composes
music, and so on. So the author is
responsible for something. So there is an author. And we can take him
for responsible. But at the same
time, hermeneutics in the 18th and 19th
century said no. Everything which,
Every discourse is a result, not only of
an author, but of a system. Take, for example, poetry. Well, when you write a
poem, you choose a sonnet. And the sonnet
doesn’t belong to you, but it belongs to literature. And it belongs to a
system of literature. And in the system
of literature, you have the system of
language, and so on. So every discourse is
both a result of an author and the result of a
system at the same time. And then Kant comes
in the 18th century. And he says, there is
something which we could call the autonomy of works of art. Once a work of art exists,
it doesn’t belong to anyone. Once the architect finishes
his building, it’s a building. And it exists like a poem. And it’s– well, he goes
on to do other stuff. And so it’s autonomous. And you have to interpret
it on its own basis. And this is the autonomy. Very important idea comes back
in the new criticism where they say, don’t
rely on the author, don’t rely on the system,
rely on the discourse itself. And so the author is something
you have to be careful of. The author, anyhow,
we don’t know anything about the intentions
of the author. And an author is
someone who is living. It’s far too complex to
speak about intentions. And but there is autonomy. And the system,
sometimes you have to be careful with
the system too. And then, in the 20th century,
we have structuralism. And what do I mean
by structuralism? Well, if you want to
understand the discourse, you have to understand
it on its own terms. So it’s what we
call reflexivity. It means that every object
which we produce, especially in culture, has to be
interpreted on its own basis. So every novel is the
implicit theory of itself. And every building,
important building has an implicit
theory of itself. And this is structuralism. It means in order to
understand that the discourse, you have to understand
its structure. And this became quite important
with the Russian formalists and many, many other people. And then came
post-structuralism. And they said, the
author doesn’t exist. We think that there are people
which we call authors, someone who wrote the book,
but it’s never the author who writes
a book, but it’s the system which writes books. Because the system
is something which– you find it in [inaudible]
and in many people– they say there is a general
system of literature and of the language. And it’s much
stronger as an author. You think you’re the author,
but you’re not the author. You think you’re the author,
but there’s so many constraints that you’re not author. And then so the actor
disappears almost. And then in the 20th century,
Umberto Eco and [? wolfgang ?] [inaudible] and
many other people said, well, there is
someone who is lacking here. It’s the reader. And there needs to be
someone, the spectator. And so now, finally,
we have a theory where we take all
these things together. So why do I speak about this? Because I think it’s
an interesting analogy. Because we can ask ourselves– ourself, what happens when we’re
confronted to standardization? What happens when we deal with a
work of landscape architecture? Who is the author? And how strong is the author? And naturally, we can
go from a weak author to a very strong author. Sometimes we have strong
authorship, even in urbanism. Think of Niemeyer
and Lucio Costa when they designed Brasilia. It’s strong authorship. And in many other cases, the
author almost disappears. And then we have the system
which can be very weak or it can be very strong. And then the reader. Well, the reader
or the spectator is normally extremely weak. There is a tradition of
architecture and, I would say, of planning generally that
the consumer, the user doesn’t really count. I mean, we’re still
in a tradition of architecture and planning
generally as production. And we’re very happy when
the production is solid and when it’s well done. And once we finish it,
once we finish a building, once we finish a square, once
we finish a project, well, we go on to the next one. So we’re never interested in
a real life or what [? jane ?] [? dixon ?] calls the afterlife. But we’re just in the
logic of production. And [inaudible] the
reader or the user is always the poor
guy in this triangle. And we have to ask
ourselves, if we’re dealing with standardization
and homogeneity, well, where does it come from? Does it come from the system? Does it come from the author? What happens or is
there happening– what happens here? So I think this model
is a very simple model. And it’s an extreme
simplification of many things which became extremely
complex in literary theory in the 20th century. But it’s– I find it an
interesting analogy in order to ask, who is responsible for
all this, for standardization? Who’s responsible for the
quality and the non-quality or the lack of quality
of today’s spaces? Who’s really responsible? And, well, I’m afraid that
all these things will become a little more complicated with
what I called here the BIM uber Alles or the super
BIM or the hyper BIM. You know that now we
go from BIM to LIM. And landscape information
modeling is somewhere there. And I think things may become
worse and more problematic. And I was three weeks
ago in a strange place, College Station in Texas. But the good surprise, besides
the fact that many students were armed, so it was a
bit surprising for me, even if in Switzerland, we
can buy arms very easily. But there my
colleagues told me, be careful what you say
because many of our students come with their Smith & Wesson. So I was– but I
went to their lab. And I saw the biggest BIM cave
of the world, so 120 degrees. And Julian Kang is
building now 360 degree– no 300 degree BIM cave. And naturally, it’s
really fascinating. And there is a story behind
BIM linked to standards. But in a perspective
of cultural history, well, I was amazed
concerning what happens here. Because it’s
somehow, it’s almost a promise to replace the world. I think it’s both a very old
history and something very new. Probably we’re still in the
Brunelleschian invention of modern space. And this is 16th century. How people imagined that
we can rationalize the idea of the great or what
the Italians call the [non-english speech],, so
how we can rationalize the size, the view of the world. So I think the BIM
and the BIM cave are representations of a
way to see the world which was born in Europe
in the 15th century and starts with Brunelleschi
and many other people. And then it became this link
between technology and vision. And one of the examples
is natural landscape. I think the landscape
view comes from here and from the 15th century. So this is a BIM cave. And here you see the grid. And it’s used in the– back in the 17th century. But the BIM cave
or the hyper BIM we’ll have in two or
three years, well, it has to do something
with the panorama too. Because this is the panorama
in Leicester Square, Barker’s panorama. And the promise to see the world
and these were these panoramas, you went to Leicester
Square and you could see Paris or
Jerusalem or any other town or any other reality. And the new BIM,
well, it’s really the promise of a
full of possibility to enter another world,
which is our world. And this will mean that
for planners and landscape architects and architects,
it’s even easier not to have any real contact
with the world out there. And it becomes even a reality. This is in Estonia
where people are very proud that this was done
with the last BIM technology. But at the same time,
you see it’s panorama. So how– and it’s naturally
a shopping center. So how all these
things come together– standardization, BIM, and so on. And, of course, the
thing which comes in mind is Plato’s cave because
the BIM cave is a cave. And well, you
remember that Plato argues that we’d
never see the world, but we actually
see only shadows. And so I ask myself,
what do we see? What kind of perception,
what is the influence of all this new
technology on perception? And do we see the world
or do we see only shadows? So probably the things I’m
most interested now is, how do all these
technologies transform our perception of the world? And I think that’s where
we have to start when we deal with these phenomena. Thanks for your attention. [applause] Thank you Michael for that
incredibly generous talk. And I want to turn directly
over to the audience. I know Michael’s very happy
to receive your questions, so. Please. Thanks. I was wondering about
standardization in the past. And I think that, for example,
in like a medieval European town as well as in
Haussmannian Paris, or something there is
always standardization. So within that, like Siena, for
example, all of the buildings will be built using the
same tectonic logic. And I think it’s true
around the world in a way. So now that the zone of
awareness for the people is global due to
communication technology, is there any– do
you really think there’s any way to
stop standardization without stopping communication? Well, two observations,
first, you spoke about Siena? Yeah, well, Siena is
interesting because I don’t think it’s standardized. If you look to the
good government, you know, the painting
1350, you will see that this is a portrait of the city. And the city portraits
itself, very interestingly. And all the houses
are different. And there is a
sense of difference, and I would even say a sort
of pride in difference. So the reality of the European
city in the 14th century is identity through
difference and by difference. And you have poor
house– you have some houses which are very
rich people and some are poorer people. And it’s almost programmatically
about variety in Siena And it’s quite late,
I think it’s really in the 18th and 19th century
that the idea of uniformity comes up and that it
enters the urban space. So I think it’s extremely
recent and probably linked to some ideologies. And your second observation,
can we stop standardization, can we avoid standardization? I don’t know. I try to understand
what happens. So I think I’m interested
at first in analysis and try to see, what are the
phenomena we’re confronted? And it’s not easy because
all these values– that’s one of the ideas
I tried to express– is that all these oppositions
are extremely ideological. So and especially when we
deal with landscape, so our landscape
patterns and what we define as beautiful landscapes
are always very much influenced by ideology. For example, people don’t
like to hear about this, but 20th century
landscape architecture, there is a history, a
very important history linked to ideology
and especially to far right ideology. Take, for example, [inaudible]
[? hamburg’s ?] famous [inaudible],, his book where
he speaks about the good that the bad landscape. And you see that a certain
idea of organic landscape can be interpreted very
easily as the ideological idea of some philosophers of
the 19th and 20th century. So I don’t think we’re– I think it’s far too dangerous
to think we are against, we’re for standardization,
we have to stop it, we don’t have to stop it. I’m interested in saying,
well, we are confronted to it. And let’s understand
what happens. And let’s see, in some cases,
we may react against it. And in some cases,
it may be OK too. So I don’t think it’s far too– maybe we can do some
intelligent criticism once we understand
the phenomenon in its full complexity. But we’re not there. And so it’s the same with BIM. So I went to this
laboratory because I was interested in the
critical impact of BIM. So I work now on a project, how
digital perception transforms our interpretation of the world,
and especially in studios. So we have a project ongoing
where we go into the studios– architecture studios,
urbanists, landscape architects. And I’m interested how
drones, programs, satellites, everything, Google Maps,
take everything together, how the digital
transforms the perception, so that actually people
see the world differently. And so I’m interested
in these phenomena before trying to judge it to
say I’m against it or for it. Yeah, thank you so much. I’m really interested in the
term generic as you use it and maybe to expand your, as
Ed said, very generous lecture. Many of the examples you used
to define landscape architecture seemed to either put it in a
position of framing landscape or viewing landscape or
more contemporary examples, you’re looking at items,
objects, hard materials that almost sit on or seem to
almost decorate the landscape. Whereas myself as a
landscape architect, I think generatively
of landscape as moving earth and planting
materials and hydrology and the very stuff of
the planet, if you will, and not the stuff that
sits on top of the planet. So I wonder if you
might be able to talk about the generic
vis-a-vis landscape architects in this missing
canon, which I couldn’t agree more with you about, such
as [? browers ?] in Holland or Capability Brown
in England or Olmsted in the United States, whereby
land itself was the design medium. So the generic in landscape
architecture, in the history of landscape architecture? Yeah, vis-a-vis moving
land, moving and be– and inhabiting the actual
cultural landscape as opposed to the view of an existing
landscape or the positioning of the viewer in terms of
contemporary landscape, which your examples used– viewing platforms, solar
trees, and vulgarities of patterns, which I
couldn’t agree more. However, it’s
maybe not the stuff of the very landscape itself. Well, the first idea
which comes to mind is that in the 18th century,
18th and 19th century, well, you have all these people who
move earth as you say already. Take Repton or Morel. Morel, who, by the way, an
engineer of the [inaudible].. And he became the first
French landscape architect around 1800. But the result they had
in mind was almost always something extremely generic. You remember when
the [inaudible] says if as a landscape
architect you want to work, you have to
create a tableau, a painting. And it’s a sort of
complete immobility. And it has to be
recognizable, because it has to correspond in
some way to patterns which you know from painting. So actually what they created
were living paintings. And they used all the
machinery and shrubs and trees and everything. But the result had to be static. So there is a
contradiction there because the
Anglo-Chinese garden, or picturesque garden
starts with the philosophy of moving around and
freely creating the reality where you walk. But at the same time,
the ultimate sense of a picturesque garden,
it was the recognizability. So the possibility to,
as you said, to frame it and to freeze it. And if you didn’t have frozen
landscapes, that is, paintings, living paintings, then
your garden had no sense. So I think that’s
one of the ways that standardization
worked back in the 18th and then in the 19th century. In contemporary, well,
contemporary landscape architecture is more
difficult because, as you said, what
do we speak about? So we should start
to have a corpus. And who does landscape
architecture? And who are the authors? And what is– there is a field
where landscapers and urbanists and planners– well, who is the
one who transforms the world? So what happens in these places? But I think another
thing I’m interested in– I don’t answer, but still– another thing I’m
interested in– or I answered only half– is the history, the influence
of software in the last 20 years on the form, the
Gestalt of architecture and of landscape architecture. So what happens,
how strongly did software and the
recent software really create certain realities? What happened there? And so what I
would be interested in is, how does everything
which is digital actually create the reality
on the ground? And with BIM, it’s fascinating
because, naturally, we can say it goes
really from the screen to the machine to the 3-D
printers and everything and to the production. So I think we go
one step further. Because now– while in
the 18th and 19th century the result was 2D, it
was a nice picture, it was a beautiful
picture– now it’s 3D. So you go from 2D to 3D. Yeah? Perhaps this is more another
thought on what you presented, particularly on the last– on that little diagram that
you are talking about– the system, the
forces, the publics. And I’m wondering if in the
present context, if it makes sense to rethink
about the forces that are producing this generic. Because exactly these landscapes
that you’re looking at, beyond the form and
the effects, they are the result of
certain capital demands, issues of marketing, issues
of creating a certain image. So I’m wondering if you have
further thoughts on expanding the conversation about the
systems and the constituencies, the stakeholders
that are generating these images of landscape
or perhaps if this could be a good moment to bring,
to unpack what system may mean. Yeah. Yeah, probably the sort
of systemic approach, so going back to what
we call the system would be important because,
as we all understand, author and authorship
becomes weaker and weaker. And the reader or spectator
becomes weaker and weaker. And the one reality which
becomes almost overwhelming is the system. But if we start with– we have to define what we– when
we talk about the system today, it’s very different than
what the structuralists and the post-structuralists
defined the system back in the end of the 20th century. So probably, is digital system,
for example, a possibility, to say that we have a sort of
auto-referential digital system which has become so powerful
that it doesn’t need us at the moment. So even we as designers
will disappear forever. And the system will design the
world without any need of us. And this would be a sort
of totalitarian system which produces– even our desire will
be controlled by it. So I think this is probably
one of the directions one has to inquire. But I wouldn’t have a system
theory, a ready-made system theory which I could cite
in order to apply it. But certainly, yeah, maybe
if you think about system– in hermeneutics, the
system was the language. So because probably the
inventors of hermeneutics thought that the language
is the most general way to define all the discourses. And language brings
us back to rhetorics. So probably, there is a sort of
rhetorics of the system which is extremely powerful today. And the rhetorics
would be a sort of non-written conglomerate
of implicit rules which actually shape the world. So I would– one of the
directions I would look into is a return of rhetorics. So that’s one of the
ideas I would have. But I don’t have
any other answers. Yeah. Yeah, thanks for your
extremely generous lecture. It was really fascinating. And Q&A sessions is great too. My question relates,
I think, to how you concluded the lecture,
which in my experience, the conclusion that you
provided seemed a little, a little depressing in a way. And I’m wondering if
that was your intent or if you think that digital
technologies, BIM specifically, could perhaps usher in
a new age of, say, even returning to Brunelleschi and
his model of the Florencian dome and using the model and
not the two dimensional drawing as the means to generate
architecture or landscape architecture. Whereas now, you know, you
make your fancy Revit model, but you still produce a
two dimensional drawing. You still hand that to
a construction team. You are still– you still have
that two dimensional to three dimensional abstraction. Whereas, potentially
with augmented reality, you could just live in the
model and design in the three dimensional and build in
the three dimensional. Is that a positive development? Would you see a return
towards non-standardization through the ability of the
craftsman to potentially have more influence
on what’s being built, more use of local materials,
et cetera, because you’re not abstracting to the
two dimensional, but producing a document set? I don’t know. Yeah, well, first of all, I
didn’t want to depress you. And I don’t want to sound
like an old professor. You know, already
Plato, you remember he said, oh, now all these
people start to read. It’s the end of culture. It’s horrible. Because before
everything was oral. And everyone had an
incredible memory. And now all these young
people, they are all– all these hipsters, they read. So it’s horrible. It’s always the end
of culture for– so I don’t– I’m not interested
in a sort of straightforward criticism of our tools. I think it’s like people
are crying about internet and everything becomes poorer. I don’t think so. We have to use it
in intelligent ways. So this is clear. And that’s why the link
with Brunelleschi, probably there is something very
Brunelleschian and extremely intelligent in
these technologies. But still, they are an
interpretation of the world. They’re not the reality. So it’s a very, very
powerful tradition. And many people like
Benyovszky, et cetera have said probably the
strength the extreme power of the Brunelleschi model,
in order to simplify, is because it’s an extreme
simplification of the world. If the world becomes
mathematical and geometrical, if I can control it, I
have a rational model. And it’s so powerful
because it becomes universal because it’s so
powerful, but it’s not the true model, et cetera. So when you speak about
the local and craftsmanship and other things,
I can speak only about the quality I saw in many
landscape architecture studios. And probably, this is something
very real, I would say. And even as students,
what I say to my students, you have to be at the same time
extremely rapid and extremely slow. And to be extremely
rapid means you have to use all the devices
which you have today. And you have to be the
strongest one when you use them. So you have to know everything
and to use everything possible. But at the same time, you
have to close your eyes and you have to take your time. And to take your time
means to, probably you have wonderful ways to use all
these technologies of today. But maybe the next day
you go back to drawing, something which you draw. And I think many
examples show us that probably the compromise
between slow and fast, technological and
something which you do, but I believe a lot in the
intelligence of the hand. And because I think it’s
not only about what you draw and what you do with your
hands, but it’s about time. You take your time. And when you take
your time, it means you reflect, so your reflection. And I think there is a distance. And when you have a
distance, well, then you look differently to
what you produce. And the danger of everything
linked to machines, to the digital is that you
don’t have the distance anymore. And so probably, we have
to be, at the same time, organic and mechanic
and fast and slow, but certainly not depressed. Festina lente,
make haste slowly. Will you all join me in
thanking Michael Jakob for this beautiful lecture? [applause] Thanks.

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