Space in landscape design
Space in landscape design refers to a set of theories that address the meaning and nature of space as a volume and as an element of design.The concept of space as the fundamental medium of landscape design grew from debates tied to
modernism, contemporary art, architecture, and ultimately, to German aesthetic philosophyof the 1890’s. By the 1920’s, Einstein’s theories of relativity were replacing Newton’s conception of universal space. Practitioners such as Fletcher Steele, James Rose, Garrett Eckbo, and Dan Kileybegan to write and design through a vocabulary of lines, volumes, masses and planes in an attempt to replace the prevalent debate, centered around ideas of the formal and informal, with one that would more closely align their field with the fine arts.
Adrian Forty[Adrian Forty, "Words and Building: A Vocabulary of Modern Architecture" (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2000), 256-275.] , the term “ space” in relation to design was all but meaningless until the 1890’s. At that time two schools began to develop. Viennese Gottfried Semperin 1880 developed an architectural theorybased the idea that the first impulse of architecturewas the enclosure of space. Camillo Sitteextended Semper’s ideas to exterior spaces in his "City Planning According to Artistic Principles" (1889). Concurrently, Friedrich Nietzschebuilt on ideas from Kant which emphasized the experience of space as a force field generated by human movement and perception. Martin Heideggerwould later contradict both of these schools. In his 1927 "Being and Time" and 1951 “Building, Dwelling, Thinking” he claimed that space was neither a construct of the mind nor a given, but was “that for which a room has been made” and was created by the object within a room rather than the room itself. Henri Lefebvrewould call all of this into question, linking designers’ notions of themselves as space-makers to a subservience to a dominant capitalist mode of production. He felt that the abstract spacethey had created had destroyed social spacethrough alienation, separation, and a privileging of the eye. Elizabeth K. Meyercites Claude-Henri Watelet’s "Essay on Gardens" (1774) as perhaps the first reference to space in garden/architectural theory. [Meyer, lecture notes: “The Spatial medium of modernism between open space and figural space/Kiley’s articulated spaces and multivalent landscapes: abstract modern grid and contextual response/The grid, the bosque, the allée. Planted form as spatial device”. ] Andrew Jackson Downingin 1918 wrote “Space Composition in Architecture”, which directly linked paintingand gardensas arts involved in the creation of space. James Roseand Garrett Eckbo, colleagues at Harvardin the 1930’s, were the pioneers of a movement which adopted ideas about space from artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Kurt Schwitters, Naum Gaboand the Russian Constructivists, and from architectural ideas based om Mies van der Rohe’s free plan. Seeing gardens as outdoor rooms or sculpturesto be walked through, they prioritized movement. In analogy to paintingand sculpture, Rose in particular saw elements of landscapeas having architectural volume, not just mass: “In pure landscape, we drop the structural shell and the volume is defined by earth, paving, water and ground cover; foliage, walls, structures and other vertical elements on the sides, and sky, branching and roofing above.” [James Rose, “Plant Forms and Space” Pencil Points 10(1938), 227.] Eckbo adopted the grid of columnsand thin walls of the free plan to make a statement about the social function of the gardenas a place where the individualand the collectivecoincide.
By the 1940’s, writings about space in landscape design had proliferated.
Siegfried Giedion, in his "Space, Time and Architecture", reframed the history of architecture as that of the history of space. Erno Goldfingerwrote several influential articles in "Architectural Review" [“The Sensation of Space”, “The Elements of Enclosed Space”, and “Urbanism and Spatial Order”, 1941-1942.] addressing the subconscious effect of the sizes and shapes of spaces. He notes that perceptionof space happens in a state of distraction: we are required to move through a landscape in order to fully experience it. Dan Kileyabsorbed these writings and built upon the work of Rose and Eckbo, promoting asymmetry over symmetry, balance over hierarchy, multiple centers, and figure-ground ambiguity.
Minimalist art would have a profound influence on designers of the 1960s such as
Peter Walker, Martha Schwartz, and Hideo Sasaki. On the one hand, Sol Lewitt’s space-frame sculptures and Carl Andre’s floor sculptures of mass-produced objects allowed a re-thinking of the necessity for walls in the formation of space. Geometry, repetition, and changes in ground plane created a “field of making” in which walls and even plantings were questioned as essential elements of landscape. Equally at issue in applied practice was the perceptionon the part of Sasaki that landscape had come to be seen as “open space”, a white sheet of paper on which to display International Style buildings. This disconnection with the landscapewas especially notable in corporate office parks, and Sasaki and Walker addressed this through an attempt to connect interior and exterior spaces. James Cornerconsiders landscape spatiality to be one of the three things that distinguish the medium of landscape (the others are landscape temporality and landscape materiality). He refers to Gaston Bachelard[Bachelard’s "The Poetics of Space" was published in 1951 and had immense influence on designers and artists.] in emphasizing the role of scale and psychic location, which distinguish the space of landscape from that of architectureand painting: “the immediate immensity of the world from the inner immensity of the imagination, the inner space of the self [James Corner, “Representation and landscape: drawing and making in the landscape medium” Word & Image 8(July-Sept. 1992) 246.] ”. Augustin Berqueanalyses landscape space by comparing Newtonian universal spaceand Cartesian dualistic space, in which there is a distinct separation between subject and object, and Chinese mediumistic space, in which a unity of landscape and environment corresponds to a unity of mind and body. Thus postmodern thought brings together the concepts of space as product of mind, bodyand culture. Rather than being the negative of the objects that occupy it, space can be seen as its own volume with undeniable importance as a design tool. In contemporary design, it is considered a palpable, lived phenomenonthat contributes to our perceptionand experienceof the world in subtle but often intentional ways.
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