Unreal Nature

September 10, 2016

Material Cunning

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:40 am

… Fluid, pliant fields … are able to absorb, transform, and exchange information with their surroundings.

This is from the essay ‘Not Unlike Life Itself: Landscape Strategy Now’ found in The Landscape Imagination: Collected Essays of James Corner 1990– 2010 (2014):

… The idea of strategy, more generally, invokes the art of engagement, and intelligent, informed, coordinated actions to ensure success. However, to think solely in terms of ends is perhaps not accurate, for a good strategy remains dynamic and open and thereby assures its own longevity. It is more conversational and engaging than it is confrontational or assertive.

[line break added] A good strategy is a highly organized plan (spatial, programmatic, or logistical) that is at the same time flexible and structurally capable of significant adaptation in response to changing circumstances. Too rigid a strategy will succumb to a surprise or to a logic other than that for which it was designed, and too loose a strategy will succumb to anything more complex, organized, or better coordinated.

… Strategic technique — research, survey, mapping, projecting, decentralizing, bundling, networking, testing, shaping, sounding-out, and so on — are of enormous value to designers trying to expand the scope and efficacy of their work. At the same time, however, form, geometry, and material are precisely the physical media, the substrate if you will, through which any strategy plays itself out. In other words, there is no general strategy of battle, only a specific unfolding of battle as dictated or afforded by the specific contours and local conditions of a particular terrain.

Similarly, in designing pathways, corridors, patches, fields, matrices, meshwork, boundaries, surfaces, mats, membranes, sections, and joints — each configuration highly specific in dimension, material, and organization — we are constructing a dynamic expanding field, literally a machinic stage for the performance of life, for the propagation of more life, and for the emergence of novelty.

[line break added] In other words, arguments for staging uncertainty, for indeterminacy and open-endedness, for endless scenario gaming and datascaping — in fact anything to do with the whole notion of free flexibility and adaptation — do not make sense in a world without specific material form and precise design organizations.

The very performance of life is dependent upon a highly organized material matrix, a landscape ecology both robust and adaptable, strategic by virtue of its material cunning in diversification and survival. Fluid, pliant fields — whether wetlands, cities, or economies — are able to absorb, transform, and exchange information with their surroundings. Their stability and robustness in handling and processing movement, difference and exchange derives from their organizational configuration, their positioning, their arrangement, and relational structuring: in sum, their “design intelligence.”

My most recent previous post from Corner’s book is here.

-Julie

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