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R&Sie(n) Teresa Moller Paisajes Emergentes Christian Groothuizen Daan Roosegaarde Rachel Armstrong Magnus Larsson David Gissen Liam Young

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Kerb is published annually by Melbourne Books ISBN 9781877096433 ISSN 9771324804163

Acknowledgements The editors would like to thank the following people for their generous assistance and support during the production of this journal:

All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the publishers. Articles, photography, images Š retained by the authors or original owners. Disclaimer The opinions expressed in Kerb issue 19 are those of the authors and are not endorsed by the Editorial Team or RMIT University. Each edition of Kerb is produced by a new student editorial team and is not related to previous issues. Editors Caitrin Daly Sarah Hicks Adrian Keene Ricky Ray Ricardo Graphic Design A collaboration between the Editors and Sean Hogan - Trampoline Design. Imagery Cover image by: Charles Negre Chapter page images by: Jorinde Voigt The editors would like to warmly thank these artists for their generous contributions.

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Rosalea Monacella, Program Director, RMIT Landscape Architecture. Caitlin Perry, Kerb 19 Supervisor, RMIT Landscape Architecture. RMIT staff members: Jock Gilbert, Bridget Keane & Andy Miller. Trisha Croaker, Australian Institute of Architects. Marianne Dela Roza, Kerb 19 Transcriber. Rob Sheean, Kerb 19 Technical Editor. Alan Berger Julia Czerniak Christophe Girot Rory Hyde Mark Smout & Laura Allen

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12-1554 Dr. Pia Ednie-Brown Plastic Futures

12-1576 Christian Groothuizen Ephemeroptera

56 Dr. Hélène Frichot When Things Get Wild

82 Brian Davis Mycorrhizal Extrastructures, Mycelial Urbanisms


12-1510 Dr. Koert van Mensvoort Nature is Dead: Long Live Nature! 16-17 12 Liam Young Specimens of Unnatural History: A Near Future Bestiary 16 David Benque Acoustic Botany 18 Teresa Moller Conversation 24 Claire Martin Uncanny Nature: The Post-Natural Sublime

60 R&Sie(n) Conversation 68 Biothing Phosphorescence 70 IwamotoScott Conversation

88 Scape Studio Oyster-Tecture 92 Dr. Rachel Armstrong Architectural Synthetic Ecologies 98 Magnus Larsson The New Order: Ionian Landscapes

26 Simone Ferracina Super Natural Garden

106 Paisajes Emergentes Conversation

32 Daan Roosegaarde Conversation

114 Jordan Lacey & Dr. Lawrence Harvey Pre-Modern Design of Post-Natural Soundscapes

38 Charles Negre Terra Incognita 40 Emma Hicks Manufactured Evolution 42 Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg & Sascha Pohflepp Growth Assembly 46 Brenton Beggs Seven Leagues Under Our Indistinguishable 48 Caitlin Perry & Cassandra Lucas The History of Earth Convolution 50 David Gissen Thoughts on a Heap of Rubble


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We are living in a postevolutionary world of extreme technological escalation. The complexity of both natural and technical processes can now converge. The outcomes of this convergence can

to embrace a new potential. We call for an expanded focus which encompasses holistic design and moves beyond isolated interventions that represent only mild reform. This shift could enable deep change to occur in our metaphoric understanding of nature – creating an approach to design which allows for symbiotic co-evolution.2


and the natural world.

1.1 We must assume a post-natural agenda that accepts the implausibility of recovering a pristine version of nature, while acknowledging that an ingrained ‘biophillic instinct’3 remains within human culture. In the construction of our habitat, we must move beyond the role of landscape as a decorative greening device, or merely pragmatic ‘sustainable’ infrastructure. A new framework must act as a catalyst of change, progressing us towards non-autonomous landscapes that emphasise and value the inseparability of ourselves from the environment. Design must become grounded in analysis of performance, arising from a deep concern and respect for natural processes and the experiential.4

The following ‘Manifestorial for Production’ suggests strategies available to landscape architecture practice which embrace the possibilities of the ‘postnatural’ – strategies which foster new bio-cultural inter-relationships. We make a case for the production of landscapes to move beyond technocratic authority, or singularly focused pragmatism, and

1.2 Speculation unlocks the confines of design boundaries and their subsequent realities. Advancing technology continually challenges what is considered achievable. Designers should approach the frontiers of design through a willingness to speculate and a determination to co-opt technological advances into design thinking so as to avoid getting stuck in the bog of

empower us to address today’s ecological imperative, ushering in a paradigm shift in our understanding of, and relationship with, nature. Our current challenge is to alter the binary that has persisted between human culture (our artefacts)


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conventional reality. Imaginative and collaborative relationships between diverse fields overcome inherent knowledge boundaries. The ideas of Daisy Ginsberg and Sascha Pohflepp expand beyond the limitations of their field by suggesting a future model for consumer goods. This cross-disciplinary proposal for biologically engineered products commentates on the impact of global transportation and advancing bio-technology, questioning the limits of possibility. In ‘Acoustic Botany’, David Benque proposes a lyrical transformation of the landscape, where plants are genetically modified to achieve a postnatural, advanced musicality. Such speculations indicate that to progress ‘beyond landscape’ will ‘require a cultural leap of imagination, where the built environment is recast as a shared global habitat.’5

Beyond 2.1 Life is messy. It does not fit into the neat geometries of an imposed architectonic order. With the introduction of new potential modes of architectural practice often comes a tendency to anticipate an idealised and singular utopian vision. Absolutist architectural inertia is non-evolutionary and resists change. In acknowledging our inability to determine every aspect of an outcome, we should not design with the intention of finishing. We should design according to conditions rather than conventions, and allow for contradiction. The architecture of ‘Dusty Relief’ – an installation by R&Sie(n) – deliberately augments dust pollution, assimilating with the

contradictory, ‘sub-natural’ forces of the city. These iterations of responsive design challenge an ‘anti-naturalistic’6 approach to integrate with external factors, and hence to be transformed by the unexpected. 2.2 It would be naïve to presume that all this wild speculation could not merely act to perpetuate a new aesthetic. Landscape architecture continues to change. It adapts through its associated tools and modes of production, but the technology it uses should never become a means in itself. Designers must be wary of falling into the seductive promise of a sleek new computational reality, disregarding broader design concerns to become ‘exclusively dedicated and trapped by tooling’.7 The emergence of parametric modeling and ‘Parametricism’ has enabled the generation of form and complex geometries that simulate natural morphology. Parametric modeling is championed as a new style that, via ‘ordered complexity and sense of seamless fluidity, is akin to natural systems’.8 However, in spite of this complexity parametric modeling essentially remains another process of form making.

Synthesis 3.1 As we confront the emerging realities of climate change, urban migration, and escalating world population, it is critical that design becomes more efficient than ever before. Given the inevitability of human and technological development, a preservationist desire to freeze time – or to replicate or mimic



Image: Jorinde Voigt, 2007.


The evolution of ‘new natures’ which evolve from the synthesis of the living and the artificial, enabling the hyper-experience of nature, both real and virtual.

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a conversation with: TERESA MOLLER

Punte Pite - Photography: Luis Callejas.


Punte Pite - Photography: Luis Callejas


Your project Punte Pite is a series of precise interventions in the landscape. What determines the placement of these insertions on a site?

The place itself. And it is always a way of thinking, because you design to provide people with public spaces to share within their community. In Punte Pite, I went there and I knew the place and I said: ‘listen, this is for everybody because there is such beauty.’ This public space makes everything better, for business, for nature, for the people, for everybody. I think that the place talks by itself. If you go there and walk along the coast as I did, you can feel that it’s a special place. So you build a path. Everything comes from the place.

It’s almost like you mediate a way for people to negotiate and experience these sites.

Yes, with one little line, it helps you to go from one place to the other but you don’t need more than that.

In terms of your process, when you design a landscape do you design piece by piece over time, or do you create a whole plan?

I make a plan because you have to have one vision, one idea. One vision for all of it and you must know that you want something to come from this place. You may go in different ways, but you have to know where you start and where you finish - it doesn’t work to go little by little. Because then it becomes like all different things together and you will never get the feeling of something that is a whole vision. For instance, a park design (named ‘Casablanca II’), started by discovering a circle that was there but you didn’t see it because it was hidden under many trees, I cleaned it and then suddenly I saw all these other trees that were also planted in a circle. Somebody made this many years ago. From these discoveries I make a plan. But if I start in one place and I do one thing and then another thing it doesn’t become one experience.

So you must walk and experience the terrain and landscape before you begin designing ...

Oh yes or else I can’t do anything ….

If you could tell us a little bit about how you approach a site?

I think it is very important to be in the place. Before doing anything, you need to be aware of what is there and what that place wants you to do. I think it’s really the most important thing. It is something that one cannot overlook. You can’t design a project without spending time in the site because your design is empty without being connected with the place. For instance we are going to Shanghai to design a project with a Chilean architect. I told the client that I can’t think of something without first being there, even if it’s a patio inside a building. I could design it on the computer and create all the plans, but how can I understand what I want - or what the place wants - if I don’t know the landscape. So we have to go, just to breathe the air in Shanghai, to know what we want to have there.


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Super-Natural Garden is an ongoing project aimed at the digital extension of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in New York City. Visitors looking at the Garden through the technological lens of smart phones and headset devices will discover it expanded by electronic ecologies, augmented by scattered digital performances: cybernetic dances, transformations and emergences. Electronic weeds will insinuate themselves into the life of the Garden, establishing varying degrees of dependence on realworld plants and on each other, from competition and parasitism to coupling and symbiosis. They will broaden and diffuse the boundaries of the Garden into a sort of cyborgian ‘extended phenotype’, an augmented geography of interconnectedness and interaction. Their invasive character, rather than symbolising the instinctual power of a holistic ‘Nature’, as in the weeds described by architect Louis Sullivan,1 will present visitors with the presumed paradox of a human-designed Nature.

seasons and diverse scripted durations. Archivers will record the life of a host plant – its sprouts and seedlings, buds, blossoms and withering – and play time-lapse movies of its strange mutations. Informants will digitally label plants with common and scientific names, provenance, history and further on-demand research. Attractors will puff up, glow in the dark and perform elaborate choreographies in order to captivate the attention of insect-like visitors – a reference to the ostentatious display of reproductive organs in the vegetal kingdom. Sounders will play back simultaneous or asynchronous sounds picked up at Times Square or at the Bronx Zoo. Interactors will respond and communicate with users: shy away when visitors approach, perform custom metamorphoses upon their request, or open up when ‘unlocked’ on a smart phone application. Underliners will frame and highlight host flowers while twirling around them. Substitutes will replace annual plants and draw visitors during the winter months.

Opposite: Glass Weed

Digital Herbarium

The mixed Garden will be delightful and uncanny, fictional and informative. Digital weeds will become electrobotanic interfaces capable of revealing hidden and invisible realities – imaginary, environmental, scientific and social. Writer Francis Ponge thought of vegetative life as an intermediate form between the mineral world and the life of animals.2 Similarly, the Super-Natural Garden will occupy the liminal space between plants and human cyborgs; a space of open-endedness, interaction, discovery, awareness and responsibility. It will put forward and engage an ecology of coexistence and interdependence, a view of the world as a ‘sprawling mesh of interconnection without a definite center or edge’.3


Electronic species will emerge, evolve, migrate and disappear according to designed cycles, curatorial narratives and feedback from sensors embedded in the landscape. Loose taxonomies will identify both species assigned to specific locations in the Garden and families characterised by similar morphology and behaviour. Indicators will transform according to the information collected by sensors in the Garden and elsewhere – data concerning temperature, soil composition, humidity, light, shadows, radiations and so on. Growers will mimic the immobility and heliotropism of plants and re-set their growths daily, thus generating environmental timepieces. Unseasonals will reveal time by changing colours and form according to fictional

Endnotes: 1. Louis H. Sullivan, Kindergarten Chats and Other Writings. New York: Dover, 1979, 86, quoted in David Gissen, Subnature: Architecture’s Other Environments. New York: Princeton Architectural, 2009, 154. 2. Ton Verstegen, Tropisms: Metaphoric Animation and Architecture. Rotterdam: NAI, 2001, 47. 3. Timothy Morton, The Ecological Thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2010, 8.


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A brief comment on the history of Infrastructure


Infrastructure is a modern term, first used in 1875 to denote the ‘subordinate parts of an undertaking, substructure, foundation, especially those pertaining to military installations’.4 While much of what we call infrastructure today – canals, roads, bridges, aqueducts, sewers, dams – long predates the term itself, it has nonetheless proved extremely useful and versatile in the industrial age, so much so that it now connotes all manner of structures and networks, from sewers and port facilities to cell phone towers and transcontinental communication lines.

will work like


Concomitant with the rise of technologies promising new capacities for movement, interpretation and intervention in the landscape, we are confronted with a morass of aging infrastructures, depleted mineral and biological resources, burgeoning urban populations, and high levels of environmental toxicity. It is a paradoxical situation. Rather than a series of ever-larger, faster, technophilic infrastructures, our situation1 calls for the development and deployment of mycorrhizal extrastructures. Hi-tech and lo-fi, specific and locally adapted, built by aggregation, these new structures will enable rich new potentials for managing production, expanding social agency, and adapting to fluctuating environmental and economic conditions. Mycorrhizal extrastructures will work like mycelium, coupling with existing forms – infrastructures, geologic strata, hydrological systems, botanical ecologies – to foster new symbiotic associations. As with the arbuscular mycorrhizae that pair with acacia trees growing on waste heaps, enabling them to resist toxic contaminants and absorb nutrients from mine wastes,2 these new structures will be constructed or cultivated to adapt existing forms for resilience and efficiency in local environments. It is precisely the pairing of these fast, specific extrastructures with existing infrastructures that will give rise to dynamic objects and organisms, catalysing new situations, opportunities and relationships. The result will be a post-natural city, one defined by synthesis, not artificial binaries3 and distinctions between technology and biology. The future city-builders will be equal parts brewmaster and botanist as well as architect or engineer – fermenting and foraging just as much as destroying and structuring.

Modern infrastructures have been designed according to the civil engineering paradigm, and they have been incredibly effective. However, the limitation of this paradigm is rooted in its origins at the French Army Engineer Schools. As Antoine Picon has noted: What the most advanced engineers tried to achieve was to understand and to master natural and human process ranging from the floods to the organization of labor on construction sites or in factories. As they lacked the scientific and technical tools which would enable them to control those realities, they used a provisional method consisting in a systematic decomposition of things and phenomena, a decomposition which should lead in due course to a more rational recomposition. It must be noted that, in accordance with eighteenthcentury political philosophy, they also interpreted society as something which could be decomposed into individuals before being recomposed in terms of institutions and nations… Territory as well could be decomposed and recomposed.5

extrastructures mycelium, coupling with existing forms – infrastructures, geologic strata, hydrological systems, botanical ecologies – to foster new symbiotic associations”


Fig. 01

Fig. 01 - The historical city of New Orleans was reinvented by the Army Corps of Engineers and the great drainage project enabled by the Wood Screw Pump. Despite being located in the shifting and subsiding delta of the Mississippi River, the utility and flood protection infrastructures of the city were constructed in much the same way as those developed for more stable geologies. In addition to the Hurricane disasters, the city now finds itself with massive pollution problems caused by leaking sewers and water pipes, and a seemingly untenable future situation.

Cultivated at Le’Ecole des Ponts et Chausée in France, and writ large across the North American continent by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, this infrastructure assumed a geology and a sociological situation that was stable over a given period of time with predictable and understandable inputs and results.6 However, in an environment with unprecedented global environmental, social, and economic pressures and cultural exchange, this paradigm is proving limited. The capital for new variations on the theme – faster trains, bigger dams, solar arrays across entire states – has evaporated, or never existed, and the earlier generation of great megaprojects are aging, proving costly to maintain and calling in to question their future integrity. In this precarious and contingent situation, a landscape praxis points a new way forward.7 And the metaphor of the mycorrhizae is one concept for developing this praxis.8

Mycorrhizal Associations The term mycorrhiza refers to a mutualistic association between fungal hyphae (Myco) and the roots (rhiza) of a plant. They are more the rule than the exception; 94 per cent of angiosperms have mycorrhizal assocations. The

association is typically symbiotic; the macrosymbiont (the plant) obtains an increased ability to exploit nutrients and minerals in the soil through, and the microsymbiont (the fungus) uses the carbon in the sugars created by the plant through photosynthesis for its growth and development. The great trees and flamboyant flowers of the angiosperms (flowering plants) have traditionally captured the imagination of the designer, the horticulturalist, or the urbanist. Roberto Burle Marx collected and utilised a sliver of the great botanical diversity of the Brazilian Amazon in his spectacular urban parks, and Jean Charles Alphand lined Haussmann’s Parisian Boulevards with beautiful plane trees. Currently, a great deal of attention is paid to the phytoremediation possibilities of sunflowers or the ecological benefits of urban weeds and native plants, yet the fungus remains largely ignored. While vital to plant ecologies for the last 400 million years, from the forests of the Pacific Northwestern United States to the expansive plains of the Argentine pampas, mycorrhizal mycelia are mostly an unknown agent. They are the white fuzz on the underside of a damp log in the woods, their individual form visible only through a microscope. Mycelia are

KERB 19 - Paradigms of Nature: Post-Natural Futures  

Kerb is the RMIT Landscape Architecture Program journal that provides a critique of ideas, projects and opinions of contemporary landscape a...