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LANDSCAPE GA RY STRANG

THE

Los Angeles

FORU M

Nonprolil OrganizatIOn

U,S. POSTAGE

PAID LOS ANGELES. CA

PERMIT NO. 104 1

FOR

835 NORTH KINGS ROAD WEST HOLLYWOOD CA 90069

ARCHITECTURE AND

NEWSLETTER Dece mber1995 IN TH IS ISSUE :

URBAN DESIGN

LeSley Marlene S"oel documents It,e personali za tIon of an ubIquItous ,'emen! ,n Los Ange les' urban Iindsc~pe Four arch,leCIS. John Chase. John I(ahs ko, M ohsen

MOSII I.v, I nd John Ounon se t OU I parameters lor ur ban de sign on Ihe la ce oll.le cap rl.l,hsm Gary Strang oroposes deSIgns lor an eng Ine ered landscilp e

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URBAN LANDSCAPES ThiS issue of the newsletter is devoted to the renewed debate concerning the formation and definition of the urban landscape and the rethinking of our attitudes toward intervention. We reprint here introductory remarks from three recent symposia on urban issues which, while presenting distinct approaches, all confront the ultimate inseparability of landscape, culture, politics, technology and urban form. Opening discussion sessions during the Urban ReviSions symposium sponsored by MaCA and the L.A. Forum, John Kalis ki and John Chase both focus on decentering the role of urban design in the fabrication of cities. Chase celebrates the ad hoc contributions of city residents to the formation of urban space, and cautions against the false optimism of comprehensive urban planning. Kaliski situates urban design in relation to theory and culture, arguing that from above and below, respectively, both must factor into a designer's vision . These comments are set to appear in expa nded form in

an upcoming collection of essays, "Everyday Urbanism Will Always be the Newest Urbanism." Another nexus for the discussion is the point at which landscape and the city were thought to meet. In his introduction to the symposium Denaturalized Urbanity, held at Harvard 's Graduate School of Design, Mohsen Mostafavi addresses the impossibility of attempts to draw clear distinctions between concepts of nature, suburb and city. Concurrently, a call is made for an increased awareness of the spatial conseQuences of social and cultural forces acting upon the urban fabric. Finally, John Ounon presents background for the l.A. Forum's summer lecture series, "Natural Productions: Landscape and Nature in the City." Landscape is approached conceptually, as the mediating element between the natural and the urban. A broad range of speakers uncovered myths, critiqued our existing culture of landscape, and presented possible directions for the future. -eds.


URBAN CULTURE CONFRONTS URBAN DESIGN JOHN CHAS E

The common theme of the morning IS the force. the eUecI. the primary Importance of human actions In shaping the city Just as urban deSigners make in terventions In the fabric of the city so do the city's reSidents' IndiVidual aCliens become collective inlerven tl ons IllS IUS! as lIk.ely that the sense of a cit y corner Will be changed by the 1llflval of slree t vendOIS as th at 1\ might be changed by the millions of dollars

Invested In crea ting a subway slallon at that sile ThiS porlion of the sympoSium IS a reminder of these interventions and the power that these actions have 10 take 011 a life of thelf own, Asfound space IS transformed by human activity An unused parking lot becomes cordoned of! Into the patchwork pieces 01 commerClallUrf that make up a swap meet The spontaneous deCISions by which Citizens make places for themselves WIthin the Ci ty IS a hfe force Ihal has ItS own balanCing and regulaung mechanism, a human ecology that compensales for and ohen renders Irrelevant Ihe amenities proposed by the architect or urban deSigner When a nelghbmhood changes demographically, the ways In which space IS used and the sense of shared, communal li fe can change drasuca!ly, ofte n comple te ly Independem of any archi tec tural revISions or renovations In the phySical environment The grOwth of the average household size can be far male Important tha n new construcuon as a fo rce that alter s the cadence of li fe and the SOCial geography of a neighborhood The Illegal converSion of garages Into hOUSing units IS as hke ly to alter a commu' nl tles sense of place as the cons tr uction of an offiCially sanctioned 10w'lncome hOUSing prOlec t The positioning 0 1 urban amenities, controls over land uses, and the placement of bUildings and spaces IS only part of what determines the sense of the city PhySical Infrastructure eXis ts as a trame for reSidents' acuvlty and not Just as a set o f ma terial artifacts People's actual use of the bUilt environmen t and the space of the City has an Inherently didactiC fu nction. Our experience of hfe IS mysteriOUS, multi face ted and ever<hanglng Dally hfe IS always the correction, the competl tron to the efforts of urban deSigners. The way people hve may not necessarrly fit the conventlOOS of urban deSign, but urban deSign nonetheless needs to take account of Ihe way people hve, and the ways that people use space tactica lly, to CirCumvent or supplement olllClal strategies. Not only the use, bu t even the understanding of a ci ty by ItS users. their ability to identify with and claim part of the City, IS based on a psychologica l reahty that eludes offiCial boundaries. such as zoning The city IS a psychological landscape made up of districts of attraction and repulSion, cr eated by a personal relationship between individuals and the aspects of the ci ty that move and engage them . In the final analYSIS, the mos t profoundly moving, the mos t deeply felt relationships to the ci ty are based on personal history. on chance, and on the construction of a personal tra,ectory I would not propose as the point of thiS session Ihat urban deSigners somehow co-opt this kind of indiVidual declsron-maklng, to copy It. to effect a direct cOllespondence between w hat happens on the Side 01 the boulevard, the freeway off ramp, the parking lot. and their forecasts for the fulUle direction of the city. Even urban deSign In the broadest sense IS always gOing to accommodate somethIng less than the sum total of urban hie. And Indeed, would It not be horrifYing If sophisticated urban deSigners ac tually could meet every Single SOCial, economic, recreatlona!. spimual. and logistical need of city reSidents without any direct action on I he part of those citizens? But at th e same time the culture of urban deSign needs to be aware of the larger. uncontrol路 lable world thatll'1habits, trans forms and completes the cityscape.

URBAN THEORY CHALLENGES URBAN DESIGN JOHN KALISKI

As much as we may want to believe that the ci ty IS an autonomous work of art. architecture the mother of urban design, and archItects and planners the deSigners of the urban enVIIOnment, all who have tried to deSign an aClUal city know these are fIctIons, The goal of thIS sessIon IS to explOfe how urban theory challenges the place and practice of urban deSign as well as some of the conundrums which aflse when theory overwhelms the expeflence gleaned from everyday hfe In thIS shor t IntrodUCtIon, I w,1I attempt to clarIfy defInItions of culture and theory, and relate them to concepts of urban deSIgn At f'lsl glance, theory, hke culture, challenges urban deSIgn because ItS Ihetorlc and practices. when set Within the conte.t of the pluralistic City, dimIniSh the need fOI design or deSigners to shape the meanrng of place. In a cl l y such as Los Angeles. where many are unemployed, the envIronment is fouled and civil unrest lu rk s beneath the surface, priority for the

phySIcal deSIgn of the cIty IS mInImized The body POhllC beheves that more pressing Issues ex.st In spite of hmlted deSIgn successes. many of whICh are on view in MOCA' s ga\tefles (Urban ReVISIons E)(hlblt, t994 ???I, ulban des.gn IS tYPIcally the frostIng on the cake of a largel and more pohtlclzed CIty-bUIldIng process where the archItect Of planner is lil\le mOfe than a spectator. Howevef. If ufban deSIgn IS defIned as a practIce of cltymakIng wh ich stfaddles cultural and theoretICal practices, perhaps a more empoweltng lole for the urban deSigner can be staked out To do th IS one must first dlsllngulsh the m eanIng and place of culture and theory, and only I hen define the place of urban deSign in relation to both. First, culture: typIcally de fined as the ideas. Skills, artS, etc .. of a gIven people In a gIven period, the concept of culture also suggests "nurturing " fas in cul tivation!, as well as that leap of fa ith associa ted wit h strong beliefs and cul t worship. What is common

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DENATURALIZED URBANITY MO HSEN MOSTAFAVI

In recent years. Amencan archItecture has generally deemphasized il spe<:ific and intended relationships with Ihe contexts and SltuBtlOns of new bUildings In the ciry. The term conrel(t, when used, has invariably been limited to a sense of describing the physical and formal attributes of a site Independent of Its cultural and political resonance. At the same lime, some of the more provocative theoretical research on the Socio-9conomic. polttlca1. and cul tural dimensions of Amencan cities has been neither translated. nor translatable into actual prOleCtlve schema 101 urban Intel"o'entlon.

Caught In architecture's formal Bnd SOCial dichotomy, Ihe late Manfredo Talun declared the difficulty if not the Impossibility of a socio-pollllcal arch,tectu,e until such time that the actual political Circumstances governing the production of architecture had changed HIS work cntlcally calls Into question the IllUSive ambitions of those architects who might have oth erwise hoped for a revision of the modernist agenda: an architecture looted In social and political ideals. Tafuri's hypothesis, which appeared first In the periodical COn/roplano In 1969, was later modified arld expanded in hiS book Archllecture and Uroplaof 1975. "What is of Interest here: he writes, "IS the precise identification of those tasks whICh capitalist development has tak.en away from architecture That is to say, what is taken away from architectural prefiguration With thiS. one is led almost automatically to the discovery of what may be called the 'drama' of architecture today: that IS, 10 see architecture obliged to return to 'pure archi tecture,' to form withOut utopia; In the best cases to sublime uselessness.The origins of this 'puflly' can not only be traced to the Enlightenment but also 10 Ihe writings of the theologian turned theorist Abbe Laugler and hiS pronouncements during the mld-tllghteenth century regarding the fOfmal and aesthetiC simllarrtles between garden deSign and urban deSign. According to Laugler: "Whoever ~nows how to deSign a park Will have no difficulty In traCing the plan for the buildings of a City , .. there must be squares, crossroads, and streets, There must be regularity and lanu'lSy, relation-

ships and OPPOSitionS. and casual unexpected elements that vary Ihe scene; great order In the details, confuSion. uproar and tumult in the whole." laugler's application of naturalism and the antl-organic Iheofles of the picturesque to the ci ty radlcaHy modified the naditional and historic divisions between Ihe cIty and the country by introdUCing the idea of the city as discovered or methodized nature. Laugler's formulation further contribu ted to the erasure of dls!1nct dlHerences and disparities between the City and nature and, according to Tafun, between "the value accredited to nature arld the value accredited to the City as a productive mechanism of new forms of economiC accumulallon. " Needless to say, these reciprOCities be tween CIty and landscape were also at the heart of Le Corbusler's ideas about the modern city. proposed as a vanallon 01 urban naturalism, and subtly transformed jfI contemporary practice into a form of "natural urban-

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Thus, among the formative frameworks of our sympoSium, "Denaturalized Urbanity," has been the Implicit task of uncovenng the role of urban naturalism In the schema of contemporary Amencan cilles. as well as the exploration of more speCifiC SOCial and critical spaces resulting from the dlalactlcal connectlons/dlsconnecltons at the Interface of city and landscape The French archi tec t and wmer, Paul Vinlio, +n dealing With the continuous transformations of the City and of urban boundary asks: Docs a metropolis still have a facade? At wha l moment can (he ci ty be said to face us? For Virilio, "The popular expression '(0 go in to the City,' which has replaced last century's 'to go to the city,' embodies an uncertainty regarding relations of opposItes (VIS a VIS arld tace to face), as toough we were no longer In Iront of the city but always inSide 1\ . .If the metropolis stili occupies a piece of ground," Vililio continues, "a geographical poSition, It no longer corresponds to the old diviSion between City and country, nor to the opposi tes between cen ter and periphery The 10calizallOn of the aXiality 01 the urban layout faded long ago. Suburbia was not Single-handedly

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responSIble for thiS dissolution. The very OPpoSlllon IntramuraVextramural was itself weakened by the revolullon In transportation and the development of commUnicalion and telecommunication Yet, despite this weak ening of OPPOSites, much of the recent debate on contemporary urbanlzat!on In the US has been devoted to suburbia as part of the ci ty/suburb dichotomy or 10 the rise of the purportedly new "edge cities" In this nominally "progressive" march towards new frontiers of suburbanlzatlon/urbanizatlon. the "traditional" core city IS left behind, often as a relic of ItS former glory The urban debate, bamng the problematic "renaissance" of US Cilies In (he 1980's, has been pnmarily focused on the clly's Ills, the legitimacy of disurbanlzallon, and the fligh t to the more "pure" landscapes of the suburban fronuer ThiS picture, consistently supparted and constructed by political and economic policy has transformed bo th the city and citizens' collective conSCiousness of ItS criSIS While we should not underestimate the expliCitly construed and the ImpliCitly enforced state poliCies on family life, gender domlnalion, and labor dlSIJlbullon. there are other alternallves The time of cnsis IS also a time of potenllal transformation According to Manuel Castells, spatial forms Will also be earmarked by the resistance from explOIted classes, from oppressed subjec ts, and from dommated women And the work of such a contradictory historical process on the space Will be accomplished on an already mhellled spatial form, the product of former history and the support of new mlerests, proJects, protests, and dreams. ,. What are the Implicallon of the urban CflSIS for us architec ts, landscape architect, planners and urban deSigners? What IS our role In the process of reSIsting certain SpaMlitles, while 路projectlng" others? To address some of these Issues. the symposium Will focus on the Amellcan city as a "landscape" Within a -regional" ma!llx. The conSlderallon of the City as pall 01 a regional terrain and policy IS bo th deliberate and necessary for the constructIon of a more collabora ti ve and less diVisive prOlect of urbanity (I.e., ci ty vs. suburb). The term landscape is used 10 lI S cultural, as well as phYSical sense The mtent IS not 10 separale these two condllions and meanings of landscape, but rather 10 examine through both Ihe phySIcal and cultural landscapes of Ihe city the ramlf,callons arld Infelences of one on the olher, theu common grounds 10 uncommon places Among the implications of dealing With the tenSions between phYSical and cultural urban landscapes IS the recognillon of their uilimale inseparability. Geographical landscapes are as much cultural construCIS as cultural landscapes are physical and spatial. One of the main interesls of the sympoSium will be to debate the Interface between the projects of deciphenng urban landscapes as domains of "covert cultufe," (Leo Marx) and theu receding through future architectural, landscape. and urban design prOlects: the topographical Sites of our future everyday Imaginings The overall theme of the conference will be Ihe tenSions between the spaces of represen tation and the representations of space Ithe localtons of cullure). speCifically developed through he spallali tles of race, gender and ethnlClty, As a prOjec t the symposium Will construct a fragment of an urban landscape - the City, as the hope of democracy. Though It IS a hope that cannot be fu lly leahzed, neverthe less we can move towards an understanding of the dilemmatic spaces of the city as the new sites o f collaboration and contestation. The reahzallon of the Incompletion of such a prOject of urbanity IS a necessary condition of its construction and one would hope a rebuttal worthy of Manfredo Tafuri and the cui de sacs of the formal and the social.


INFRASTRUCTURE AS LANDSCAPE GARY STR ANG

The goal of transforming th e emllronmem may be ancient, bu t our ability to realize thaI goal IS unprecedented. In the late 20th century, our technologies less and less resemble 100is - discrete objects thaI can be conSidered separately from thell surroundings - and more and more resem ble systems thaI are IntertwUled wi th natura l systems. sometimes on a global scale. In 1947 a WPA worker named Harry Granld published Underneath New York. the f,lst book to describe the anatomy of a modern c ity. Working In cooperat ion with representatives from nineteen different public utilities and municipal agencIes. GraniC,," conveyed the wonder of the hidden SHucture wh ich converts nawral resources Into the energy that allows urban culture to be pOSSible. Just as your brain, nerves. heart. lungs. and stomach are hidden from View, so il lS w ith the clly. Its nervous sys tem. the v.tal organs wh ich prOVide It With heat. water. light, and air; ItS intestines. WhiCh, like yours. eliminate its wastes; its great arteries of rapid tranSit. which carry Its stream of life to all ends of Its body; all these and more are out of Sight under the pavements and waterways. The purpose of thiS paper IS to focus a!tentlon on the vast network of hidden and silent technology that pervades our surroundings. ThiS great machine has grown Into an org anizational complex beyond any IndlVIdual"s understanding or direct Influence. The traditional concept of sustainable land stewardshp. which requires the partiCipation of the indiVidual. has been replaced With a centrally controlled delivery system. which transports resources hundreds of miles to urban centers. The contemporary city can be seen as an elaborate plumbing system, transporting resources with a regulaflly and dependability that obscure the variability of nature. I will argue for a teaching and deSign ethiC that accep ts this hidden and Silent infrastructure a an artifac t worthy of seflous consideration. Infrastructure requires realis tiC and understandable expression In the landscape. as opposed to liS denial Ihrough landscape beautification. The purpose of thiS approach is to redefine a basis for understanding

what the contemporary landscape has become. to reest ablish a connection between mdlvlduals and the workmgs of nature; and to acknowledg e Ihe po te ntial for c reatmg ne w myths and meanlnglul spaces by usmg this given Infrastructure as one of the baSIC ra w matenals of landscape deSign I 11'1111 make a case for employing the phySical presence of Infrastructu re to define space to meet needs and deSires, while simultaneously e~poslng enVironmental problems If It were pOSSible to generate meantng through the expreSSion of technology, working In concert with nature. then we would have a Virtually unlimited supply of raw matellal With wh ich to w ork. Grantck's New York. fOI example. rests on a foundation of tangled plumbing as deep as the Chrysler BUilding IS hrgh. On the top lies a three-Inch mat 01 asphalt. undtlrlaln by ten Inches of concre te. Below that. a few Inches of SOil soak up ch emicals from the street. In the next three Inches are the wires - telephone. electriC. streetlight. fire alarm. and television cable. Gas lines puff away another foot below. water mains are at four feet . steam pipes are Sl ~ feet under _Sewer pipes are above the vaults of the subway. which vary from a few feet to eighteen stories below. Water tunnels, running between two hundred and eight hundred feet down, occupy the farthest man路bUllt depths. For anyone who has ever peered Into a New York City street dUring *surgery, ,. there IS no need to explain the difficulty 01 finding an uninterrupted volume 01 SOil large enough to support a tree lor the twenty to Ihlrty years that cons titute ItS average life span (Gr anick 1991 f. If New York offers more opportunities for cultural exchange than any other American city. then the existence of Its complex infrastructure gives meaning to architect Adolph Loos's observation that the plumber. brings civilization (Loos 1898f. His enthusiasm lor plumbers as the pioneers of cleanliness is the result of Loos feeling the weight of the preindustflal age when the earth was swept by vast waves of plagues which traveled thousands 01 miles before their forces were sllent_ At limes, a third of the populc:tlon of the known world was lost to disease_ The plOject of civiliz ati on. as it is curren tly expeflenced depends on a landscape

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techno logy that IS little exposed and understood by those who benefit from control of the random catastrophe of nalure The attempt \0 make nature more predictable - to prot ect ourselves Irom Innumerable natural occurrences such as disease fne, flooding. drought, and even the darkness of nlghtfall- has crea ted a technology that must mediate between ourselves and the Infinite vallablll\y 01 nature. The resultmg urban machine has begun 10 take on some qualilles of nature Itself . It has the cap <ICily to grow and to ca talyze growth, and to conduct resources. water, and energy. as rivers and trees conduc t flUids and nutllents But most Important. perhaps. IS the IroniC fact that the resuiling Infrastructure IS so complex that It presents the same threat of random catastrophe as does nature According to Williams. "The paradox IS that the bUilt envlfonment can Itself become a pflme source of fisk" {1900. 190L " Technology has not so much replaced nature as il has become a second nature With Its own attendant pleasure and hazards." It IS we ll kn own that a Simple broken water main In Manhanan can tllgger what IS known In ecological Circl es as a feedback loop; an environmental alteration tngg ers multip le subsequent alterations. That IS, the problem is compounded by being directed back into the system. resulting In additional an magnified effects. The water main break results In a stalled subway. forcing traff ic to the streets, whIch culminates In gridlock. Commerce comes to a halt and repau ellorts are frustrated . which lead to further flooding and damage. In more extreme cases. such as the recent gas explosions In the sewers of Guadalajara, which leve led twen!y路five square city block. the result of tech nological malfunction can be a catastrophic loss of human lile. I! Callforma was once a land of flash floods and drought. the entire state has, in lifty years. been transformed into a huge ca tch ment basin. where the Sacramento and San Joaquin River systems now function as an elaborate plumbing system. Water flow IS monitored from Lake Shasta in the north to the Mexican border in the south. One of the most celebrated examples {on a scale larger than anything yet conceived by the likes of Smithson, Heizer, or Christo) is the Owens River. It f lows through a pipe on a mesa above its ancient canyon to a larger aqueduct downstream that provides Los Angeles wi th about 25% of its water . In an att empt to deliver water south at uninterrupted levels dUllng dry years. reservoirs have been depleted to unimaginably low levels. Salt water has intruded into the San Francisco Bay delta; the Chinook salmon IS on the verge of ex tinction: and. Ironically, drought and environmental problems 11'1111 likely continue years after norma l rainS return The tentacles of the machine reach far Into watersheds and geologiC layers. to mine resources and tra nsport energy hundreds, some times thousands. of m iles to the City to be metabolized. In 1947, Grantck tells us. the power fr om electriCi ty alone (not to mention energy supplied by gas, steam. and 0111 prOVided every man, woman, and child in New York w ith the power of SIX InVISible slaves working twenty路four hours a day. seven days a week (Granlck 1991 f. transforming the sIxteen-hour workday Into a leisurely eight Although this Infrastructure extends I rom the urban setting far into what wa s once quaintly referred to as "the hinterland." the deSigner 's garden has, In modern history, denied the ubiqUity of the support system - water, light, power commUnica lionS. and waste removal- which makes It pOSSible Presum路 abl y a microcosm of our culture's reialionsh ip With nature, a contemporary garden enga ges pfimailly In horticultural and architectural and beaulilicalion. thereby ref using any direct correspondence be tween the domestication 01 the landscape and the resuiling geologiC Impact and depletion of natural resources .


Kenneth Frampton recognized the problematic results of this contradictory design philosophy. Citing Jean Starobinski: While techn ical exploitation tended to wage war on nature, houses and parks attempted a reconciliation, a local armist ice. introduc ing the dream of an impossible peace; and to this end man has continued to retain the image of untouched natural surroundings. (1991,421. Degenerate permutations of the picturesque landscape as a mask for technological expansion have been embraced as the favored sensibility. while the ~im peratives of economic development and instrumental reason have effectively laid the world to waste (Frampton 1991, 60). If it is possible to entertain the idea that categories of style such as the picturesque are strategies employed to exclude the difficult and the unwanted, then perhaps it is not such a great leap to see t hat a tastefu l landscape of denial through beautification facilitates th e exploitation of the landscape through its inability or unwillingness to question the role of powerful institutions (Ross 1991 1. Frampton's assessment brings to mind Lewis Mumford's, in his 1924 classic Sticks and Stones. where he criticized architects for glorifying a romantic notion of technology while ignoring vernacular elements ri

New York rests on a foundation of tangled plumb ing as deep as the Chrysler Building is high.

of Infrastructure fi ke the wa ter tower and the subway. Consequently. he attacked the City Beautiful moyement for obscurin g important structural and social developments, comparing the style to "the icing on a birthday cake which "de tracts from the realism needed for the colossal task of the renoyation of the city." ILeFalVfe and Tsonis 1991. 20). Where he alive today. he would find updated styles obscuring a system of infrastructure yastly and impractically expanded beyond the boundaries of the city. multiplying the task of maintenance and renoyation beyond comprehension. What Mumford recognized nearly seventy years ago as an outgrowth of his many books on the history of technology is that the systems which support cities and gardens are the tools we haye employed to create our unique place in history. As such they are perhaps more complex. interesting. and potentially meaningful that the landscape forms deSigned to mask them. We haye yet to acknowledge thelf contribution to the city and the landscape. The possibility is precluded. then. of generallng the will and understanding necessary to bring these technologies Into a more comprehensible and sustainable relationship w ith nature. where quality of lile takes precedence oyer efficient living. and where the individual can acknowledge the direct environmental implications of his or her daily conveni ences. The logic of these systems remains inaccessible and inarticulate. Moreover. the makers 01 gardens afe frequently charged with hiding and cosmetically mitigating the intrusive effects 01 this infrastructure on which we depend. Apart ffOm the need to leaye fOOm for It. landscape architects and architects are supposed to concentrate on other things. But what other things are there? Without a coheren t strategy for designing with infrastructure, our towns and landscapes bear witness to the manife stations of an unbalanced environment: traditional towns and landscapes are disfigured by double yellow lines. meters. transformers. junction boxes. traffic lights. and overhead wires. New construction ignores the technology by neatly concealing it. along with any traces of nature, in formula ic homogenized settings. The buill environment cannol continue indefinitely to make only superficial adjustments to the imperatiYes of this landscape technology. Whether above or beneath the surface. a Brazil-like N

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IS GREAT LESLEY MARLENE SIEGEL

Names maner The dliference be tween nammg a hapless mfant Mortimer 01 Hercules charts the destiny of that child The same 15 true for pets They have names because they are the object of human affection The pet's name subsumes the animal persona of the pel Wllhm the human milieu If your new kitten's fur IS soft and long, yOu call 11 "sllky," and you thonk 011\ as fluffy and pell<lble. rather than as 11 VOraCIOUS lillie carnivore. Naming a pel IS an act of curatorial edl\o:shrp thai repOSitions how thai pel w,lI be treated by lIS owner A dog named "Duchess" ineVitably inspires 11 different reaction than a dog named "DaiSy Affection can be laVished upon inanimate objects as well. par!lcularly objects With domestiC connotations The apartment bUlldmg signage photographed by Lesley Marlene Siegel confers a personal relauonshlp between bUildings, and the ll owners and occupan tS JUSt as pet names do between pet owners and pets The occupants 01 the "Starlet" apar tmen t house probably have a slightly different mlndset about who they are. where they live. and what their lives are all about. tha n do tbe occupants of, say. "The Diplomat." At the same time, some apartment bUildings In Southern California present themselves as rleutral containers of hOUSing. As such they are available to receive narrative meaning They present little or no obstacle to themlng, or to the Incorporation of props and Iconic decorative elements, such as overscale lamps and slgnage. The blank box IS a backdrop, personalized by lighting, planting, paln\lllg and cosmetic frames around fenestra ti on and bUilding edges. Words that have escapist associations With recreation or entertain路 ment, such as "Palms, Sands or Riviera," lend romance to bUildings that might otherwise appear as prosaic sh elte r.

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". The willing observer IS manipula ted into accepting an environmen t as being tre d \0 ano ther era or place. Wuhou t names the Simply constructed and detailed bUildings would not otherwise convey these meanings. Architecture as a plastiC medium becomes fla ttened to a two dimenSional tabula rasa on which the naming, landscaping and lighting confer personality and Identity Their decoration and themlng are ohen divorced from the construction of the base bUilding, occurring as a separate and final stage Lesley Marlene Siegel ac ts In the role of cur ator, or an director, taking eXisting as路 found meaning and rearranging It, amplifying It, and commenting on

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what she finds . She )olns toge ther the IndiVidual elements to demonstrate the way In which names become a reflection of the larger world surrounding these apartment houses. Siegel begins al the pOint at which the bUilders of these apartment houses have comple ted their role In the crea tion of their onglnal Intended meaning She arranges them as part of a larger se t of names In her compOSitions of named lacades Siegel reveals the underlYing themes common to many of the developers. whrle at the same time she reinterpre ts the artifact as an observer, giving It new meaning by grouping IndiVidual bUilding names In\o


larger thematic associations. She appropriates them and repositions them in terms of her own set of visual and symbolic linkages. The most sympathetic understanding of the function of the sign8ge on the buildings that Siegel photographs is that It simply creates a metaphor tha t otherwise would not be there. The buildings they adorn were construc ted in the commercial vernacular of their period. as a means of housing people as inexpensively as possible. Blowing up the scale of the building name and utilizing it as a super-sized decoration is a costeffective method of allowing its tenant. and those who pass by It. to understand the building in a more playful. fictional sense.

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MONAC .. ,,路 856 7

Siegel further humanizes these named bUildings by demonstrating how thelf facades olten represent specific moments in the lives of the people who created them: buildingboard tflbutes to children. spouses. events and institutions important to them. Her photographs and interviews with the developers and builders of the stucco box analyze the relationship between public and private realms. These public facades offer up their names to the world outside. while Siegel's reportage reveals what private meaning the names hold. -John Chase

When they arrived from their native Germany, Ray and Maria placed the name of their yoong daughter on the apartment building purchased as income property. Janine hoped to ooe day write her name in the cursive style of the sign which seemed so big to her while growing up. She learned to swim in the courtyard pool to the delight of neighbors who tossed in dimes for her to find . Janine Apts. has now become her "small, yet peaceful oasis in the middle of a huge metropolis."

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Since 1990. arllst and photographer Lesley Marlene Siegel has been documenting Sou/hem Califorma's apartment building names of the 50's, 60's and early 70's through her project, Apartment Living is Great. Her work has been featured in gallery exhibits. the Wall Street Journal. Los Angeles Times and Interna/ional CNN.


k a lis k i continued from page 2 to all of these defml1lons IS acceptance of the idea that knowledge IS generated from direct e ~pe flence and wisdom of dally hfe gleaned fr om social Intercourse. Hence. the lorm of the cl ly IS primarily nurtured by and responsive to cultural vOices and cus loms that are everywhere around us From the perspective 01 the urban deSign and planning profe sSions. which pflvilege speclahzed knowledge and techrllQues. one might say tha t cul tule and liS many sUb-cultur es challenge Irom below. One tactic towards an empowering urban deSign practice IS for the deSigner to lllOfe actively embrace the sUb-cultural vOices of the city and to propose forms that allow the e~presslon of those voices. On the other hand. a myopic culturalism can Quickly lead to localisms that exclude full participation In the actiVi ty and design of the city. Theory can at times serve as a buffer to counteract this type 01 destluctive separallsm but in doing so challen ges culture. as well as urban deSign, from above. A theoreucal perspective grants a contemplative and mental viewing of ideas w ithout the necessity of social intercourse which culture suggests Theory allows for clear statements of pflnclples and the creation o f Interpretive and speculative frameworks descflbmg phenomena that may transce nd the daily experience of life. The reve latory possibility 01 urban theory, however. is abstract m companson to a strictly cul tural perspective . Theory reQUlles a distan ced view and only becomes pro-active when revealed phel"lOmena. which sometimes are not even VISible to the persons effected. are maniJ}\Jlated. A conundrum for urban deSigners or pl anners eXists when laclle embracing of theoretical positions leads 10 formalisms distanced Irom the more immediate concerns 01 cultural practices. In real ity, the urban deSigner's or planner's role in the making 01 the ci ty is weakened when purely theoretical positions are taken Without an understanding 01 cul tural constrains. To move beyond the conundrum of bemg either too mass-oflen ted or too abstract to be relevant to the concerns 01 coty-maklng, the urban deSigner and planner must l it directly w ith in the concerns o f the city as opposed to Viewing them from either above or below. Perhaps It is best to th ink of urban deSign as the three dimensional projection of cmlcal discourse into the environment. That definition allows us to experience as physical design. for e~ample, Ihe Rodney King Civil Disturbances of 1992 as well as debates about l iscal poticy or air Quality. These situations become ac ts of ci ty design due to the fact that the look, feel and e~perience 01 the ci ty, its open spaces. as well as its indiVidual bUildings. are Impacted. Without particlpallon m these simUltaneous conversauons from above and below, the act of planning and deSigning the City is re legated to Irrelevance. The ~ passlve aggression ~ of much urban deSign and plannmg is ultimately due to del,nltions of urban deSign which emphasi2e political accommoda tion In the absence of either cultur al or theorellcal pOSitions. The discourses of culture and theory are the pincers wh ich define the uses of urban deSign as a phYSical art form . An Incorporation of both IS paramount If phYSical deSign and architecture are to be meaningful Wllhln the conte~ t of the city and not Simply private aCllvllles carried on With pleasure by a prrvlleged or self路selected elite In essence. the city deSigner. as opposed to the archltec\. has to constan tly Incorporate the cult of profeSSional knowledge Within and between cultural and theoretical practices. If the goal of thiS session is to explore how urban theory challenges the place and practice of ulban design, then the objective of this session is to e~plore the bal ancing act between culture, theory and practice and to determine wha t the designer's role becomes when theory engages the urban and becomes a social and cultural ingredient in the conceptuali2ation of place. In this context tWO Questions arise : Is the city designer stiU consigned to irrelevance when theory engages the city. or more positively. does theory allow the city designer to become a medium and resource for other voices and cultural positions?

San Fernando Valley. 1950.

NATURAL PRODUCTIONS JOHN DUTTON The Forum's summer lecture series. Natural Productions , featured eight speakers who addressed the issue of nature and landscape In the city. Such an Issue IS particularly complex in Los Angeles. which more than almost any other AmerICan clly has promoted itself. thlough the prodUClion of seductive myths. as a natural paradise. an oasIs In the desert surrounded by mountainS and oc ean. That most of the se "natural" attllbules- the r.ontinuous sandy beaches. the groves of orange trees, the blankets of green lawns punctuated With palm trees, the lushly planted developments amongst the canyons and hlllsides- do not e~lst m some essential and unadulterated state. but are rather cons tructed With as much wOlk, vISion. and capi tal as Ihe laYing of a freeway or the cons truction of a building. IS eaSily. even deliberately. fOl gollen The perpetuatlOfl of the myths of Los Ange les as a nalural parad ise In fact fuels the destruction 01 much upon which these myths are based. Hlstollan Mike DaVIS reveals. for e~ample, how the very oran ge groves whose Images lured many to Los Angeles were at the same time being destroyed and developed to accommodate thi S new in flu ~ of Angelenos. Such images became. therefore. nostalgic representation of how l.A. once was. and. hopes the homebuyer, might be. How we see nature in the city IS of course an ideological phenomenon. M uch of the way we have traditionally perceived nature has been Informed by artists. especially wnters and painters. Landscape painting. a genre which emerged in the seven teenth century. appropriated particular images of nature and presented them as ~ Iandscape ". worthy of

8

being depicted and sold as art. as well as Imitated In garden and park design. Landscape must therefore be seen as a cultural construct; II IS an Ideology which frames the way we perceive nature. and therefore Informs the way we treat and make It. Cilles. on contrast to nature, have traditIOnally been envisioned as the realm of culture. The hlstonan Leo Mar~. author of The Machme in the Garden, has outlined the numerous myths which have governed the way America ns port ray nature, all of which depend on this essen tial distinction between nature and ci ty. One of the more potent myths is the ProgreSS ive betref In man'S destiny over nature: the ImpoSition of CIVilization. refinement. and order over an untamed. savage. even menacing nature. Very different . but as powerful, is the pastoral percepllon of nature as a place of harmony, serenity, beauty. and even divinity. In contrast to the corrup tion, chaos. and oppression 01 Cities. 80th constructions of the idea of ~ nature ~ are still to an extent relevant and inform much 01 the cu ltural and political debates today. If cities have historicaliV been seen in contrast to nature. it is "landscape" wh ich has mediated be tween the two. The idea of landscape makes nature acceSSible to the city dweller. as an urban park. a private garden, a landscape painting in a museum, Of even a Club Med billboard luring weary urbanites stuck in rushhour fraffie. The nineteenth cen tury notion of parks as the lungs of the city, or Olmstead's view of the civili zing mission of urban parks, never really fook hold in the sprawling. privatized world of Los Angeles. and given current fiscal and social realities probably never wilt.


But In the confuSion of today's urban, suburban and exurban conglomerations we lind another landscape, one of freeways, parkrng lots, Irontlaw ns, concretebanked rivers, high-tenSion wire towers, billboards, decaying Industrial zones, palm tree allees, scraped hilltops, and the cenlrllugal sprawl of plaiting for development . It has been described by many as a landscape deVOid of tradi tional characterrstics, a wasteland Some of the speakers, such as architect William Fain and architect and landscape architect Walter Hood, see opportunity In thiS wasteland for a reintroduced "nature," an ameliorating layer oflandscape upon urban scars. Fain'S proposal utilizes post路 industrial remnants such as railroad right-of-ways as we ll as portions of the Los Angeles River as sites for a con tinuous four hundred mile linear public open space system of parks and recreat ional space. Hood's work in Oakland utilizes similar leftover spaces as sites for new parks. Hood specifically addresses the legacy of Urban Renewal programs, both the spaces and peoples marginalized by these programs. Sited at freeway otframps, park.ing structures, housing projects. emp ty lots, and decimated neighborhoods, Hood's projects use landscape and urban design to create spaces for those typically excluded by the spatial politics of the contemporary city. Hood designs, for example, parks for scavengers of recyclables, streetwalkers, malt whiskey drinkers, dreamers. loners, and lovers. Cities have appropriated nature, subjugated it, altered, and utilized it as essential components of a complex infrastructural system supporting the myriad functions of the contemporary city. Hidden, but complex and ubiquitous systems of pipes, wires, tunnels, and aqueducts such as electricity, storm drainage, and plumbing are seen by Gary Strang as almost organic in their role of giving life to the body of the city. Strang's work {installations, professional work, and writings~ attempts to render the invisible

Visib le, to educate. demysti fy, and provoke urban denizens Into undersmndlng the repercuSS ions and connections of speCifiC Isub~urban acts With aspects of nature. Strang'S work also collapses tradi tional distinctions between landscape architecture. archltec路 ture, and CIVil engineering for a more compreh ensive approach to deSign in today's citi es . In a similar manner, the Idea of "CIVII H In landscape architect Pamela Burton's deSigns acknowledges the sense of the original Latin root CIVIl. or "citizen", also the root of "civiliza tion. " like Simon Schama's theSIS In his recent Landscape and Memory, Bur ton uses landsca pe as a medium of both phySical trace and symbolic allusion In an attempt to evoke not only the inVISible but the forgollen. The foun tain in her Biddy Mason Park in downtown Los Angeles, for example, brings above ground what is usually below. The fountain consists of exposed, vertically cantilevered pipes with water running down outside their walls instead of flowing w ithin: a playful adaptation of the vast systems of water wh ich exist below our feet. The desire to control water in Southern California has resulted in some of the most extreme contortions of nature. such as the concrete entombment of the Los Angeles River by the Army Corps of Engineers, primarily as a means of preventing flood ing by ch anneling storm drainage. Once a source of life for the original pueblo of Los Angeles which was founded along the river's banks, the natural river is now a major public workS project. urban infrastructure at a vast scale. Author. poet, and Friends of the LA River co-founder Lewis MacAdams is persuasive and tenacious in his quest for recognition 01 the River. For MacAdams. the River must be seen as a grand work of art which instead of being ignored and invisible, should be confron ted. used, even celebrated. His collection of poems in progress entitled The River, evokes William Carlos Williams ' long poem Pa terson which uses the form and

Oil wells crowding out houses and palm trees northwest of downtown at the turn of the Twentieth Century.

symboltsm of the Passaic River as a means of understanding the cl\y of Paterson. Twenty years later. the Passaic River was also the focus of a serres of photographs by the ar tist Robert Smithson Ironically entitled " Monuments of the Passaic," Smithson documented the decaYing Industrral aspects of the rlver- concrete abutments, derricks, sewer pipes. storage tanks and debris. Similarly. Stephen Callis' black and whit e photographs document the Los Angeles River In all ItS fact ual glory of concrete banks, barbed wire fences, high-tension wire towers, and railroad bridges and tra c~s . CalliS' beautiful, haunting work provokes us to see anew elements of our ci ty which are so easily overlooked, or dismissed. Both Callis and MacAdams attempt to bring the river into the everyday consciousness of Los Angelenos. Art istic represen tations of nature have had a strong influence on the way we perceive and create landscape . The relationship of landscape painting with landscape design was at its strongest In the eighteen th century. The ideal Arcadia n paintings of Claude Lorraine were embodied in Picturesque gardens by W illiam Kent, Humphrey Repton and others as a serres of carefu lly choreographed scenes for the viewer. W ith the Invention of the Claude glass. a small brown lens which would soften views of nature to imitate a Claude painting, any aspiring tourist to the country could "make " their own picturesque landscape. In today's Los Angeles. however, with the ever-present haze of smog, artist Kim Abeles hardly needs a Claude Glass to obscure the view of her subject, a pea~ of the San Gabriel Mountains as seen (sometimes~ from her downtown loft. In "Moun tain Wedge," Abeles photographs the barely visible mountain everydaY until finally, 14 months later. it is clea rly viSible through a smogless sky. The final image of th e clear mountain. in all ItS factual clarity, is not, however, mechanically reproduced as a pho tographic print. but rather represented by an oversize impressionistic painting, an image lodged in her memory iike a great ruin . Abeles Smog Col/ector series f urther attempts to make the invisible (well, hazy~ visible by using the particulate matter of smog as the medium of her artistic productions, The revelation of smog is the revelation of the human hand affecting our environment, and a commentary on nature as mitigated through ecology and politics, The speak.ers in this summer's Natural Production series, helped us to realize that there is a cul ture of nature. Our society'S ability to alter and affect nature, from recombinant DNA to plas ti c surgery, from theme parks to virtual reality is so pervasive that the "real" in nature is slipping inaccessibly beyond layers of hype/real. Perhaps logically. the industrial era which saw the destruction of so much of the natural world has been replaced by a post-industrial service-oriented world which promotes tourism of a repackaged, reproduced and re-presented nature. Nature is becoming more and more something that we visit on the week.ends or watch on an IMAX screen. There is a distance from , perhaps negligence of, nature that has a long history in Los Angeles . M ike Davis showed us how the few serious planning attempts \0 balance both nature and urban growth, such as those of Olmsted Brothers. Robert Alexandflr, and Garrett Eckbo, fa iled primarily from lack. of political leadership and the pressures of speculation. Such neglect of the "real" nature of Los Angeles IS perhaps not exceptional given the Indus tiles of simulacra w hich reSide here (Disneyland, HolIVV"ood) and the city' s foundation upon SimplistiC myths of nature . The lecture serres intended to address thiS negligence and distance by provoking Issues which challenge the way we see nature. for how we see nature In turn determines how we produce it. protect It. and use It In the fu ture. Lec tures o rga nized by the Forum Events Commmee : JOhn Dutton, cha ir Joe Day DaVid Leclerc Th eresa Rorlrigues Jennifer Siegal Julte Silliman Mike Sy Peter Tolkln

9


s t ran 9

continues from page 5

resolu tion of abandoned and newly Installed systems IS working Itself out. where the Infrastructure tend ~ to overwhelm the amenity II was Intended to provide The complexlly of this Issue IS rare ly noticed within the discipline. Infrastructure IS rendered invisible by a conspiracy of Indifference which seems to filter its undeniable presence ou t of critical discourse (Pawley 1988). While architects and landscape architects sidestep the problem of deSigning Wi th infrastructure. they are also eXCUSing themselves (rom being relevant . It IS no wonder, the. that deSigners putting forth thelf best efforts to mitigate technological Intrusions sometimes find themselves perceived by the publiC to be accomplices to capital ventures. puuing a happy fa ce on environmental degradation and the evaporation of meaning from the landscape Developing an architecture of landscape technology could be cen tra l to reinvigorating landscape design with meaning. An examination of prelndustrral strategies Implies that some of the most profoundly moving landscape spaces were nothing more than the Irrigation. domestic wa ter supply. sanitary sewer. and flood control systems of therr time, elevated to a POSi tion 01 meaning by allOWing the works of nature and humanity to be revealed in an eloquent way A preindustrral urban lountaln Illustrates this connection . In the tiny Inca Village 01 Wlnay Wlna In Peru. a manmade fountain was the orderrng system for the town. Its diagram IS Similar to Machu Plcchu and many of the high Andean Villages. An amphllhea ter of agrrcultural terraces ta kes ItS form from a bowl In the topograpfl\ while an elaborate stair and fountain connects a temple at the top With a compact cluster of houses and storage buildings below. The fountai n Intercepts the flow of a nearby dralnageway With a serres of stepping water baSinS whose volume can be held or released depending on the seasonal flow (Strang 1985). The logiC of the watershed was then eVident within the urban conte xt. whereas a con te mporary foun tain, With a loop of recirculating water. functions Irrespective of rainfall and gravity, and IS wholly Independent of the organization of the town. If the flow of a fountain IS not diminished In the absence of rain and has no bearrng on urban form. the n the splntual as well as the practical connection between the city and nature has been lost on the user I am not propOSing that we live like Incas. or even that we rein ve nt the way cities are made, but that we begin to reveal something of the process by which we receive our water and Other resources . In January of 1991, an exhibition was mounted at University of California at 8erkeley to address the problem of the rn fr astructure which IS burred In the earth and emerges spon ta neously to confound efforts to create serene and meaningful spaces in the landscape, Starting With the utilities rn the Environmen tal Design buildrng that are exposed for educational purposes, our group attempted to redefine the space of the room with scaffolding. by engaging the utilities and following them out beyond the bUilding With photographs of Industrial landscapes. The goal was to draw a relallon between the comforts of the bUlldrng and its corresponding impacts on the environment. In Apr il of 1992. a second Installation was mounted at Fort Mason In San FranCISco. Surrounded by other exhibitions of native plan ts, rhododendrons. and so on. we located the bUlldrng's water main. which sustained all the other gardens. and bUil t a sort of contemporary urban water system following the traditional logiC of exposing some key components. Our premise was that the conception of nature as an entity lOde pendent from man is now 10 the process 01 being erased. and new legible models need 10 be prOVided to illustrate how nature curren tly works and doesn't work. Intertwined. as It is, With technology. There are no perfect examples of strategies for deSigning With Infrastructure But perhaps there IS some direction Implied by fa rmers and other pragmatic realists who, as a matter of course, employ a certain smartness In design. by using matenals at hand to resolve complex technological and horticultural problems in an ellicient an beautil ul manner. Another possibility IS to look for relevance In the work of those designers who incorporate refere nces to the tatt ered urban environment as a way of talk ing

"Water Works" Installatloll , FO i l Maso n, San FranC ISCO. Aprrl 1992.

about the world and confront ing our POSition With in I\. Hugh FerllS. working In New York In the 19205, published The Metropolis of Tomorrow, which included a number of proposals for Incorporating freeways inlO hiS claSSical VISion of the contemporary city Jacob Tchernlkov. the RUSSian conStruc tiVist who was a contemporary of Ferrrs, saw fit to toss out the classical language completely in favor of a language based on the new spatial pOSSibilities of the technological expanSion. In sou thern California. where the base realiti es of 'cheap and timely' govern the bUilding Industry most inte nsely, Frank Gehry has developed an architectural language which fundamen tally reveals and reinterprets those difficult bUilding conditions. Zaha Hadld. In her competition entry to the Parc de la Vill ette, used the "periph路 erique" (the freeway skirting the park) to generate forms and spaces to unify what could not be masked. In a project for an open chapel and cemetery In Houston. which I am currently deSigning With architect Daniel Solomon. the fifty to one hundred Inches of rarn which falls on the roof each year will eventually be captured in a huge elevated gutter which doubles as a portico. The rainfa ll Will be released seasonally Into a pool that over fl ows to a combined arbor walk/drarnage structure The problem of dr<llnage and flooding in Houston IS seen as an opportunity to organize the site and to confront the cycles of nature Given the magilltude of changes occurrrng Within natural systems worldWide. a positIon that links human survival to the preservation of pristine nature is rncr easingly difficult to visualize. Nature is a dynamiC process which is now rarely Independent of human interaction . Recognizing thiS prinCiple may be necessary in order to maintain our species. Little to be gained from holding on to the idea that it is possible 10 protect oneself fr om the invasive reach of modern science and technology. We have passed that Rubicon.

10

Acknowled ging the potential for Incorporating technology with new landscape deSign offers pragmatic and immediate advantages. Funding for the renova tion of public in frastructure far exceeds the amount that will likely come available for parks and open space The state of Texas. for example. plans to spend five billion dollars in the next ten years on infrastructure improvements in the Houston area alone. Future urban amenities will likely be provided following on the heels of utihtallan projects. where one's ability to accommodate the demands of technology will be central to the success of the design. "The historian of religion Mircea Eliade has reminded us that the NeOlithiC shift from nomadic to agricultural civili zation provoked upheavals and spiritual breakdowns whose m agnit ude the modern mind find s it ImpOSSible to conc eive," notes Williams. "It is not only Imaginable bu t probable that the current shift to a predominantly technological environment has provoked a similarly, prol oun d spiritual crisis .... We are now embarked upon another period of cul tura l upheaval. as we look back to a way of life that is ebbing away" 11 990. 2). However. a landscape ethic based on the marriage of nature and technology is not so much a compromise of our traditional strategies and sensibilities. Rather, out of this ulmpossible peace" emerge new spatial possibiliti es based on using infrastructure as one of the fundamental matenals of landscape archi tecture, with the unique myths and fltuals associated with th e healing aesthetic of celebrating the hidden. I conclude with a 1916 quote from La Corbusier's magazine L'Esprit Nouveau. which is of equal relevance to landscape architects and architects: ~ The artist cannot content himself w ith being the rectifier of the engineer. The artis t and the man of science ought to labor in a single moment, and herein lies the immense difficulty of archi tecture. (Caron 1916). N


Gary Leonard Strang & Michael Roche In collaboration w ith Robert Hewitt

Steam Temple Proposal for Allen Street Malls, Lower East Side, Manhattan San Francisco-based architects Gary Leonard Strang and Michael Roche propose a synthesis of the urban and natural worlds. Through theif architectural

practice. Strang and Roche pay particular allenlion to the systems of infrastructure in our city landscapes. The revealing of thIS infrastructure, and in particular New York's steam heating system, IS celebrated through their proposal for Allen Street Malls in Manhattan's Lower East Side. Traditionally, the tools that insured human survival and comfort were obiec!s of great reverence. The chaos of the contemporary city. may in part be due to the fact thaI our tools, now great support systems of infrastructure that are intertwined with natural systems, have no formal realization which expresses their importance to society, The intent of the SteanfTemple proposal is to express the wonder of New York's vast infrastructure and its relationship to nature, A landscape is proposed which uses infrastructure as one Of the basic raw materials of the urban garden, The garden varies with the seasons; in winter, warm steam rises from the earth while in summer, irrigation equipment doubles as a cooling device, In each case the microclimate is modified With products Irom the underground: the mystery of the contemporary garden is partially revealed, The chosen site is 8 degraded median strip on Allen Street below Houston Street with a double row 01 sycamore trees, This long th in site clearly expresses the linear movements along the avenues that have come to characterize New York. Beneath these avenues, the tentacles of New YOfk's vast infrastructure reach far into watersheds and geologic Layers, to mine resources and tra nsport energy hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles to the city to be metabolized, Nature and technology wOfk in concert to provide the buildings and gardens 01 the city w ith water, natural gas, steam, and electricity, while removing the waste products of the metabolism,

11


DENATURALIZED URBANITY MO HSEN MOSTAFAVI

In recent years. Amencan archItecture has generally deemphasized il spe<:ific and intended relationships with Ihe contexts and SltuBtlOns of new bUildings In the ciry. The term conrel(t, when used, has invariably been limited to a sense of describing the physical and formal attributes of a site Independent of Its cultural and political resonance. At the same lime, some of the more provocative theoretical research on the Socio-9conomic. polttlca1. and cul tural dimensions of Amencan cities has been neither translated. nor translatable into actual prOleCtlve schema 101 urban Intel"o'entlon.

Caught In architecture's formal Bnd SOCial dichotomy, Ihe late Manfredo Talun declared the difficulty if not the Impossibility of a socio-pollllcal arch,tectu,e until such time that the actual political Circumstances governing the production of architecture had changed HIS work cntlcally calls Into question the IllUSive ambitions of those architects who might have oth erwise hoped for a revision of the modernist agenda: an architecture looted In social and political ideals. Tafuri's hypothesis, which appeared first In the periodical COn/roplano In 1969, was later modified arld expanded in hiS book Archllecture and Uroplaof 1975. "What is of Interest here: he writes, "IS the precise identification of those tasks whICh capitalist development has tak.en away from architecture That is to say, what is taken away from architectural prefiguration With thiS. one is led almost automatically to the discovery of what may be called the 'drama' of architecture today: that IS, 10 see architecture obliged to return to 'pure archi tecture,' to form withOut utopia; In the best cases to sublime uselessness.The origins of this 'puflly' can not only be traced to the Enlightenment but also 10 Ihe writings of the theologian turned theorist Abbe Laugler and hiS pronouncements during the mld-tllghteenth century regarding the fOfmal and aesthetiC simllarrtles between garden deSign and urban deSign. According to Laugler: "Whoever ~nows how to deSign a park Will have no difficulty In traCing the plan for the buildings of a City , .. there must be squares, crossroads, and streets, There must be regularity and lanu'lSy, relation-

ships and OPPOSitionS. and casual unexpected elements that vary Ihe scene; great order In the details, confuSion. uproar and tumult in the whole." laugler's application of naturalism and the antl-organic Iheofles of the picturesque to the ci ty radlcaHy modified the naditional and historic divisions between Ihe cIty and the country by introdUCing the idea of the city as discovered or methodized nature. Laugler's formulation further contribu ted to the erasure of dls!1nct dlHerences and disparities between the City and nature and, according to Tafun, between "the value accredited to nature arld the value accredited to the City as a productive mechanism of new forms of economiC accumulallon. " Needless to say, these reciprOCities be tween CIty and landscape were also at the heart of Le Corbusler's ideas about the modern city. proposed as a vanallon 01 urban naturalism, and subtly transformed jfI contemporary practice into a form of "natural urban-

"m

Thus, among the formative frameworks of our sympoSium, "Denaturalized Urbanity," has been the Implicit task of uncovenng the role of urban naturalism In the schema of contemporary Amencan cilles. as well as the exploration of more speCifiC SOCial and critical spaces resulting from the dlalactlcal connectlons/dlsconnecltons at the Interface of city and landscape The French archi tec t and wmer, Paul Vinlio, +n dealing With the continuous transformations of the City and of urban boundary asks: Docs a metropolis still have a facade? At wha l moment can (he ci ty be said to face us? For Virilio, "The popular expression '(0 go in to the City,' which has replaced last century's 'to go to the city,' embodies an uncertainty regarding relations of opposItes (VIS a VIS arld tace to face), as toough we were no longer In Iront of the city but always inSide 1\ . .If the metropolis stili occupies a piece of ground," Vililio continues, "a geographical poSition, It no longer corresponds to the old diviSion between City and country, nor to the opposi tes between cen ter and periphery The 10calizallOn of the aXiality 01 the urban layout faded long ago. Suburbia was not Single-handedly

3

responSIble for thiS dissolution. The very OPpoSlllon IntramuraVextramural was itself weakened by the revolullon In transportation and the development of commUnicalion and telecommunication Yet, despite this weak ening of OPPOSites, much of the recent debate on contemporary urbanlzat!on In the US has been devoted to suburbia as part of the ci ty/suburb dichotomy or 10 the rise of the purportedly new "edge cities" In this nominally "progressive" march towards new frontiers of suburbanlzatlon/urbanizatlon. the "traditional" core city IS left behind, often as a relic of ItS former glory The urban debate, bamng the problematic "renaissance" of US Cilies In (he 1980's, has been pnmarily focused on the clly's Ills, the legitimacy of disurbanlzallon, and the fligh t to the more "pure" landscapes of the suburban fronuer ThiS picture, consistently supparted and constructed by political and economic policy has transformed bo th the city and citizens' collective conSCiousness of ItS criSIS While we should not underestimate the expliCitly construed and the ImpliCitly enforced state poliCies on family life, gender domlnalion, and labor dlSIJlbullon. there are other alternallves The time of cnsis IS also a time of potenllal transformation According to Manuel Castells, spatial forms Will also be earmarked by the resistance from explOIted classes, from oppressed subjec ts, and from dommated women And the work of such a contradictory historical process on the space Will be accomplished on an already mhellled spatial form, the product of former history and the support of new mlerests, proJects, protests, and dreams. ,. What are the Implicallon of the urban CflSIS for us architec ts, landscape architect, planners and urban deSigners? What IS our role In the process of reSIsting certain SpaMlitles, while 路projectlng" others? To address some of these Issues. the symposium Will focus on the Amellcan city as a "landscape" Within a -regional" ma!llx. The conSlderallon of the City as pall 01 a regional terrain and policy IS bo th deliberate and necessary for the constructIon of a more collabora ti ve and less diVisive prOlect of urbanity (I.e., ci ty vs. suburb). The term landscape is used 10 lI S cultural, as well as phYSical sense The mtent IS not 10 separale these two condllions and meanings of landscape, but rather 10 examine through both Ihe phySIcal and cultural landscapes of Ihe city the ramlf,callons arld Infelences of one on the olher, theu common grounds 10 uncommon places Among the implications of dealing With the tenSions between phYSical and cultural urban landscapes IS the recognillon of their uilimale inseparability. Geographical landscapes are as much cultural construCIS as cultural landscapes are physical and spatial. One of the main interesls of the sympoSium will be to debate the Interface between the projects of deciphenng urban landscapes as domains of "covert cultufe," (Leo Marx) and theu receding through future architectural, landscape. and urban design prOlects: the topographical Sites of our future everyday Imaginings The overall theme of the conference will be Ihe tenSions between the spaces of represen tation and the representations of space Ithe localtons of cullure). speCifically developed through he spallali tles of race, gender and ethnlClty, As a prOjec t the symposium Will construct a fragment of an urban landscape - the City, as the hope of democracy. Though It IS a hope that cannot be fu lly leahzed, neverthe less we can move towards an understanding of the dilemmatic spaces of the city as the new sites o f collaboration and contestation. The reahzallon of the Incompletion of such a prOject of urbanity IS a necessary condition of its construction and one would hope a rebuttal worthy of Manfredo Tafuri and the cui de sacs of the formal and the social.


Newsletter, December 1995