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land scape architecture

urban landscape Prof. Antonio di Campli

USAC, Turin, 27 june 2012

“to have a feeling of landscape you have to lose your feeling of place.� denis cosgrove

Analogy rural landscape > urban landscape. What happens to a city, an urban area, if we see it in terms of landscape? Crushing into scenes. > The inhabitant becomes someone who operates scenic montages.

The invention of urban landscape as the result of anxiety about the emergence of a form of habiting without belonging, an unfamiliarity with the context, a form of detachment.

Thinking about the city in terms of urban landscape is a research aimed at finding new combinations and categories to think about urban space; no more a combination of materials, of buildings and roads, but a second level logic.

picturesque legibility / imageability


serial vision / materials

mestizo public spaces

total work of art hybrid landscapes new picturesque urban landscape

olmsted reloaded

01 claude glass

When the city acquired a metropolitan dimension, for the first time appear the first difficulties in habiting and living in the city, apperars neurasthenia and discomfort of living in these kind of spaces; to inhabit the modern city was like to a continuous shift between states of terror, excitement and pure banality The significance of this condition is intensified by the loss of the device that was always called into question for the traditional cities: the body, a paradigm for urbanism and architecture. From the similarities of Francesco di Giorgio Martini until the imitation of the Vitruvian body chosen by Le Corbusier for the plant model plan of hins Ville Radieuse.

The link between the body politic and the city was in the humanistic tradition something recognizable, not a simple comparison: The Rome of Sisto V, Wren’s London, the Haussmannian Paris. The loss of this metaphor has led to the appearance of diseases such as agoraphobia, homesickness, the desire to return into a safe interior space.


“Recently, we found evidence of a nervous disease of a very particular kind: agoraphobia. Countless people would be affected; they feel that a certain fear, a discomfort each time they have to cross a big empty square. Let’s complete, then, the observation of the physician with that of the artist. The characters in marble or bronze, hoisted on monumental pedestals, seem affected by the same evil, they prefer to be placed on a small old square rather than a large open empty space. But what size should have giant statues to be placed in such a big squares? Least two to three times more than human, if not more. Some finesse in these artistic giants are therefore to be excluded in advance. We understand that agoraphobia is a recent disease, because in small old squares we feel well. If our memory retains the memory of a very large area, it is because in our fantasy artistic impression bigness has replaced the real size. In front of the boring emptyness and oppressive monotony of giant squares, residents of the lovely old towns are affected, too, bt the new disease. In their memory, in fact, those big squares slowly disappear and the end a very vague memory is left, but ultimately still too important in relation to the nullity of their artistic effect”. Camillo Sitte, City Planning According to Artistic Principles, 1889. His was an attempt to offer an alternative viewpoint to isomorphism, according to the idea that the design of the city should not proceed according to modules and unified scheme. The attempt was to link urban design and context, to observe historical and environmental conditions. The concerns about the ismorphism did not lead him however, toward new-medioeval positions expressed, e. g., by the German bourgeoisie of the late nineteenth century; Sitte frequently referes to Wagner and to the concept of “total work of art,” Camillo Sitte thinks in terms of picturesque.

Plan for the city of Auschwitz, 1942 (Total Landscape Plan)

The concept of urban landscape is described within the studies of landscape critic as an oxymoron because it brings together two seemingly opposing concepts: city and country (Franco Farinelli). Despite this uncertain status, the concept of urban landscape has found an operative dimension in the context of urban studies that it is possible to explore starting from some 60s Anglo-Saxon researches : Townscape by Gordon Cullen 1961, and The Image of the City (Kevin Lynch, 1964) and italian 90s researches: Paesaggi ibridi (Mirko Zardini, 1996)

In its contemporary declination the concept of urban landscape, starting from its ability to challenge the opposition between town and country, has found relevance in the discussions on the territorial dimension that has acquired the contemporary city rearticulatting around the concept of picturesque identified as a tool able to promote the design of highly individualized architectural and urban scenarios. Keywords: fragment, power, floorscape, elementarism, tourism, genius loci, picturesque.

urban landscape

When it emerges: Georges Rodenbach, Bruges la morte, 1892 Victor Hugo, Notre-Dame de Paris, 1831

The Sky Under Berlin,

descriptive anxiety of contemporary city Wim Wenders

Lisbon Story

Palermo Shooting.

fight to live in a modern urban landscape Pasolini, Mamma Roma

70s conservative discourses

Pasolini, La forma della cittĂ (La forma di Orte), 1973.

Nanni Moretti, Caro Diario


Urban Landscape is a concent that works well in extreme situations: Diller & Scofidio, Tourism of War

L’Aquila 2009 earthquake tourism.

Urban Landscape is a concept that naturalizes the city seen from a distance and put into a frame, transforming the city in a event, it is a drift of the description urban landscape is what builds a fragmented vision of the city > a picturesque vision. > Recombinant Urbanism (Grahame Shane).

3 books

Gordon Cullen, Townscape. 1961

urban materials, the floorscape, outdoor rooms.

His aim is to reinforce urban density vs residential sprawl, vs the prairie planning that affected Great Britain in those years> Urban Landscape defins urban inner rooms (archizoom and no-stop city) During those same year Cedric Price designed the Fun Palace and Jane Jacobs wrote The Death And Life of Great American Cities

Kevin Lynch, The Image of the City, 1960

legibility, imageability (the view from the road, Francine Houben) theories of perception, letters and symbols (Bob Noorda).

Mirko Zardini, Paesaggi ibridi, 1996

neo pictoresque, fragmentation.

Gordon Cullen, Townscape, The Architecural Press, London, 1961 (The Concise Townscape, 1971). Gordon Cullen began to develop the idea of Townscape at the end of the war in 1945 when he joined the Architectural Review as an assistant editor. In 1961 he publishes the book Townscape; the index is a long list of seemingly disparate terms that from time to time refer to ways of observing, to kind of sites and materials, to affirm a particular way of reading, and plan the city, all centered around the idea of perception.

he city in this investigation is seen as a particular form of landscape, a position which contains a great variety of implications and declinations. His research deals with the “visual impact of the city” intended as a set series of open spaces and buildings, his attempt is to define different ways of practicing “the art of relationship” for all the different materials that compose the city. But in order to assume the perception as part of the project the ways in which the environment produces an emotional reaction to the inhabitant must be defined.

3 keys of interpretation of urban space: serial vision in motion corporeal relationship with the physical characters of the site and examination of its contents, namely its materials and the different elements which composes the site. synthesis of gathered information

the objective is to establish a new art of the game and the elements to play with: a repertoire of urban open spaces, streets, squares, gardens, a text that stands as a sort of hybrid manual, hybrid because it does not give unique code but suggestions, examples. This book does not present urban models but wants to establish new principles linked to a performancebased approach of urban space, leaving the design process free. Serial vision. Walking in a urban space with an uniform pace, provides a series of revelations; walking and observing as a cognitive process related to a emotional reaction, to a chain of accidental events: to design the city from the point of view of the person who walks defines the city as a plastic experience, a journey through empty and compressed spaces,a sequence of exposure and enclosure, constriction and relief. In the background of this investigation there is a question about the ways and the sense of appropriarion that the inhabitant has reacting to the forms and to urban spaces. To do this, Cullen’s attention goes to the open spaces which have a purely internal feature, closed space even if not necessarily by walls: “outdoor rooms”. The outdoor rooms are the “base unit” where quietness and human dimension is contraposed the chaos of the movement environments. But to translate these principles into physical space one must go into the details of the materials with which define such environments: looking for the nuances of scale and style, texture and color ensuring that the environment could not express conformness but “reciprocal action of this and that”. It is on the spatial and conceptual contrast between different elements that the planning works. The art of the relationship is based on the strengthening of mutual relations between the elements that can not be dissociated from each other. > Importance to floorscape; wallscape. > kinetics units.

To understand the townscape as an art implies a reading of the urban environment capable to highlight its aesthetic connotations: the object of reflection is the city in its entirety, as the area of security and happiness. Construction of the city then is not just a technical fact, urban planning is intended as a situational art.

This philosophy has its roots in the vision of the picturesque theory developed in the late eighteenth century a Visual philosophy that is specifically English. The objective is to talk no more of building and roads separately, but to define new figurative situations.

Kevin Lynch, The image of the City, 1960

His attempt is to address in different ways the terms of legibility and imageability of an urban structure viewed as support for design changes. The reference is to the American city made of enclaves. The text suggests that through some analytical procedures and based on a number of criteriam it is possible to give an interpretation of how inhabitants perceive a city, how they find good or bad parts of it, how to develop methodological guidelines and content for better urban design focused on readible urban spaces, filled with identity, it an approach marked by a strong gestaltic component. Legibility and imageability of an urban environment are central concepts in his research. This is a set of issues that challenge the authority of the designer educated in a pluralistic, “multicultural�, society.

The book is about the appearance of the city, the importance it can have and the ability to modify it.

“To give a visual form to the cities is a figurative problem of a special nature and of a rather new kind”. These issues are addressed from three cases: Boston, Jersey City and Los Angeles. The city as object of perception and enjoyment, as “anchor for life,” subject to a fragmented perception to a montage process. His aim is making American cities more beautiful, to anchor the inhabitants to the site.

Legibility The book examines the visual character of the American city analyzing the mental image of it that citizens possess, the attention is on a particular visual quality: clarity or legibility of the urban landscape; with this term Lynch intends the ease with which its different parts may be recognized and organized into a coherent system, seen as a unitary system. To do this, to conceive legibility as a tool for urban environment design, the city must be considered not as a form but how it is perceived by its inhabitants. A good environmental image gives its possessor a sense of emotional security, to establish a sense of emotional security with the context, not to get lost in it. Better if the result is not a final order but a open condition, capable of continuous developments.

Image formation The environmental image is the result of a reciprocal process between the observer and his environment, this can be analized into three components: identity, structure and meaning. A functional image requires the identification of a subject, its recognition as a separate entity. This is called identity in the sense of uniqueness. The image must then include the spatial relation of the object with the observer and other objects, then this must have some meaning for the viewer, the meaning is itself a relationship, but other than the spatial or schematic one.

Imageability The three questions lead to what is called imageability: the quality that gives a physical object an high probability to evoke a strong image in any observer; the formation of structured environmental images. A highly figurative city invites residents to participate more in urban life, lends itself to being known as a system of continuity with many distinctive parts interconnected. The question is how to manage the transformation of the physical environment at large scale. Herein lies the problem according to Lynch environment imageability, see the whole mountain not just the sidesm this is the problem of the leap in scale, of the construction of large scale artificial environment. Lynch and Archizoom. The image of the city is distinguishable in 5 elements: paths, edges, districts, nodes and references. They are at the same time slements of analysis, reading and project. Their composition is intended to define the shape of the city as a whole. (Unitary Urbanism). Large scale environment with sensible form.

A recomposition of different urban materials: not simply road and building but a recombination according to different, landscapist, parameters; the focus is not only on materials but how the mind selects and reconstructs them. The city as a park (see The rules for the human park, Peter Sloterdijk). In this process urban landscape becomes a horizon of reference for reading and processing. The picturesque.

Mirko Zardini, Paesaggi ibridi. Un viaggio nella cittĂ contemporanea, Skira, Milano, 1996 Mid ‘90s. The text is presented as a collection of speeches produced during a bus trip along the A4 between Milan and Venice with the aim of observing, discussing, how to understand (and transform) the contemporary city that is possible to observe through the window. The book consists of 7 essays linked in a single conglomerate, picturesque, text. The book proposes, in the words of Ciorra, a renovation (scientiae) urbis built by superposition of multiple languages and modes of observation: cinema, literature, music.

neo picturesque Among the several issues which in thas period became relevant to understand the transformations of contemporary cities such as diluition processes, the primacy of infrastructure, the diffusione of the so calles non-places, a question, apparently minor, seems to be one that allows the author to define the strategy-conceptual device to operate in new condition. The theme is the relationship that the logic of urban and territorial transformation of those years had with what Zardini called “American culture�. The reference to this issue is taken up few times in the text but it permeates in a subterranean way each assay and is probably what pushed the author to advance its operative strategy based on the adoption as operative field within the disciplinary practices of transformation territory, of the concept of hybrid landscape, replacing the now inadequate concept of city.

The concept of hybrid landscape has been declined by Zardini resuming the tradition of the picturesque. An Anglo-Saxon and American traditions (Leo Marx), who finds in the juxtaposition of different materials, its main features. The abandonment of a Cartesian or perspective order who aimed at creating uniformity, is aimed to define points of view capable of grasping the design logics of the contemporary space. The picturesque is, in the words of SolĂ -Morales, the conceptual trick for the recovery of Gothic sense of space (of interesting distance), considered more able to understand and intervene in the transformation of contemporary city. Operationally Zardini, coherently with the landscape discourse, proposes to reflect around the concept of the park, seen as the kind of space capable of receiving and holding together, in an order picturesque, the different materials of the contemporary city. Looking at the city as a settlement of hybrid landscapes can recover some of the concerns for the city project developed in Anglo-Saxon countries during the 60s (Lynch and Cullen) reversing their operational proposals: not a desire for uniformity, not even that noticeable through the eyes, but a work on diversity, on contrasts, heterogeneity.

The city is made up of minorities (Zucchi), lives in places that are expansions of the Banham bubble, where it is possible to find behaviors that are understendable only by minorities. In the 90s the focus is in urban enclaves and on their functioning; these are kind of immunitary spaces based on logics marked by architectural languages (Ciorra) that refers to that “land of the Baroque” already stigmatized by Quaroni in the 60s when discussing the affirmation in Italy of neorealist or villagers architectural languages. Languages whose disclosure does not distinguish between metropolitan and provincia felix, spaces rearticulated by the strenghth if non-places like malls or convenience store (Desideri) capable to become the real collective spaces of contemporary society. The spread of these hybrid machines have nothing in common with that Fun Palace designed by Cedric Price who in the 60’s reflected on inner and demicratic urban spaces. The big container (Boeri) is the space where the resident goes to recognize himself in the crowd, to stage, “thanks to full visibility of the area and its non-focusness” its clanic, cultural, group diversity. An immunitarian condition of consumers that are “distant” from the context of consumption, a population distracted from the spaces that run through.

Zardini hybrid landscape is not the culture saturated urban environment of modern urbanism, nor the culture saturated space of current landscape urbanism. It is a third dimension related to the perception (and opinion) of population, on the recovery od the concept of Picturesque.

picturesque. olmsted reloaded

A new picturesque. The works of Burle Marx, Yves Brunier and OMA, Gilles Clement. These are works characterized by the search for a “free spontaneity of nature” and the idea of a “machine of illusion”, both central principles of the idea of the picturesque. The picturesque look to the city as a natural phenomenon, the city is a forest (Laugier, Milizia), perceived in the enthusiasm of the senses and memories when the modernism he will say: forget all! Again the city is seen as a total work of art. This shows its fertility as a reference for contemporary architectural production characterized by loss of sense of grand narratives, by overcoming the polarity of the modern, from a revived pragmatism, acceptance of transience, fragmentation, discontinuity: > interest in the environment as a biological-ecological space. inclusive nature of the architecture in which we combine archaeology gardening, ecology, topography attention to the processes of growth and change > overlaid volumes with cuts, stratifications. The notions of the picturesque poses the question of public space in modern sense. See Olmsted and Central Park. The picturesque has helped to expand the concept of ‘changing the relationship between subject, city and nature: > Again Olmsted and Central Park but also in the Baron Haussmann Paris Jean-Charles Adolphe Alphand created the Buttes-Chaumont park in a former quarry, one of the more radical picturesque manifesto where tunnels and rails were recycled to build a new public space.

IĂąaki Ă balos, Atlas pintoresco, 2005. Modernity, writes Abalos, produced the notion of landscape-object, a landscape that is observed but with which one never settle a relationship of equality, a landscape-object based on a purely visibilistic relationship, observed with a total sense of detachment and abstraction.

Against this modernist concept of landscape Abalos proposes another relationship, more subjective and therefore sensitive, a more complex cognitive process. An approach that aims to build a new kind of contemporary public space. The conglomerate is the image he uses to describe a new relationship between beings and things, a democracy extended to things (Bruno Latour).

His argument is constructed by combining 2 images, Olmsted Central Park and LC Ville Radieuse. This comparison is built to define new relationships between architecture and environment, defining mestizo (hybrid?) public spaces ss picturesque conglomerates (on the ambiguity of the term mestizo, see Glissant). Relationship between the concepts of hybrid landscape(zardini) and mestizo space (Abalos); The parliament of things described by Bruno Latour as a space for a dialogue between humans and nonhumans. Ecomonumental architecture The picturesque as a startegy to give places an active role. Incorporate biological processes in the project.


environment / architecture

Diller&Scofidio, Blur Building, Yverdon-Les-Bains, 2002

mestizo public space

Elias Torres, Solar pergola, Barcelona, 2004

Buckminster Fuller, USA pavilion, Montreal, 1967

technology / architecture

bubbles, spheres, neverending interios

Gordon Cullen, Townscape, The Architecural Press, London, 1961 Kevin Lynch, The image of the City, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 1960 Mirko Zardini, Paesaggi ibridi. Un viaggio nella città contemporanea, Skira, Milano, 1996 Iñaki Ábalos, Atlas pintoresco, GG, Barcelona, 2005 Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America, Oxford University Press, New York, 1964

Peter Sloterdijk, Sphären I, Blasen, Microsphärologie, Frankfurt a. M., Suhrkamp 1998;Sphären II, Globen, Macrosphärologie, Frankfurt a. M., Suhrkamp 1999; Sphären III, Schäume, Plurale Sphärologie, Frankfurt a. M., Suhrkamp 2004


urban landscape  

urban landscape