Unreal Nature

September 24, 2016

The Tactile and the Poetic

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… Materiality, representation, and imagination are not separate worlds …

This is from the essay ‘Terra Fluxus’ found in The Landscape Imagination: Collected Essays of James Corner 1990– 2010 (2014):

… apparently incoherent or complex conditions that one might initially mistake as random or chaotic can, in fact, be shown to be highly structured entities that comprise a particular set of geometrical and spatial orders. In this sense, cities and infrastructures are just as “ecological” as forests and rivers.

… We have yet to understand cultural, social, political, and economic environments as embedded in and symmetrical with the “natural” world. The promise of landscape urbanism is the development of a space-time ecology that treats all forces and agents working in the urban field and considers them as continuous networks of interrelationship.

[ … ]

… There is simply no point whatsoever in addressing any of the above themes for their own sake. The collective imagination, informed and stimulated by the experiences of the material world, must continue to be the primary motivation of any creative endeavor. In many ways, the failing of twentieth-century planning can be attributed to the absolute impoverishment and incapacity of the imagination with regard to the optimized rationalization of urban development practices and capital accumulation.

[line break added] Public space in the city must surely be more than mere token compensation or vessels for this generic activity called “recreation.” Public spaces are firstly the containers of collective memory and desire, and secondly they are the places for geographic and social imagination to inspire new relationships and possibilities.

[line break added] Materiality, representation, and imagination are not separate worlds; political change through practices of place construction owes as much to the representational and symbolic realms as to material activities. And so it seems that landscape urbanism is first and last an imaginative project, a speculative thickening of the world of possibilities.

In conclusion, I would return to the paradoxical separateness of landscape from urbanism. Neither term is fully conflated into the other. I do believe that this paradox is not only inescapable but also necessary to maintain. The failure of earlier urban design and regionally scaled enterprises was the oversimplification and reduction of the phenomenal richness of physical life. A good landscape architect must be able to weave the diagram and the strategy in relationship to the tactile and the poetic.

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




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