Title Articulating Agriculture: a system of production
Study The Pearl River Delta and the terms by which a new sprawling state engages with existing agricultural land.
Author Rahul Paul MA Landscape Urbanism Architectural Association, London +44 79 42 84 53 99 firstname.lastname@example.org
Abstract Agriculture as a spatial experience or as a typology is undefined - almost in a state of delirium. It neither is nature that serves as the ‘wildernesses’ with the quality of the ‘sublime’ nor is it the ‘designed landscape’ that serves as an ‘object’ or an ‘artefact’ to be appreciated. This undefined spatial experience has subjected agriculture in a state of disjunction with the idea of urbanism. Urbanism in its physical space making has had the tendency to accommodate rather than integrate the notion of agriculture either as a buffer-scape or as in infill ‘zone’ in its planning ideologies. The tendency is also reflective in the metaphysical relationship between the city processes and the agricultural production exchange. The article seeks to redefine this existing notion of agriculture typology and recover the ‘productivism’ of agriculture as a verb, as process or activity. Agriculture as a spatial medium is envisioned through the lens of the Landschaft - which ‘comprises a deep and intimate mode of relationship not only among buildings and fields but also among patterns of occupation, 1 activity and space.’ Agriculture is deterritoralized as a means to ‘resist the homogenization of the environment while also heightening local attributes and a collective sense of place. In the context of the Pearl River Delta, China, which has transformed into a landscape of disarray, disassembly, dissociation, disclamation this recovery and reterritoralization of agriculture attains the condition of Bigness to ‘reconstruct the whole, resurrect the real, reinvent the 2 collective, reclaim maximum possibility.’ The agriculture thus, transforms into a system of production striving towards an ecological model to ‘seek something that runs counter to the normal order of things, a counter repetition which evokes other intensities to form new 3 existential configuration’ – towards programming the urban surface through a process that Ulrich Beck’s refers to as ‘reflexive modernization’.
Keywords Agriculture/Landscape/Urbanism/ Organization/Ecology.
Corner, James, Eidetic Operations and New Landscape, in Corner, James ed., Recovering Landscape: Essays in Contemporary Landscape Architecture, pg 154, 1999, Princeton Architectural Press. 2 Koolhaas, Rem, Bigness: or the Problem of Large in Jencks, Charles and Kropf, Karl ed., Theories and Manifestos of Contemporary Architecture, pg 307-309, 1997, Academy Editions. 3 Guattari, Felix, TheThree Ecologies translated by Pindar, Ian and Sutton, Paul, pg 30, 2008, Continuum.
Introduction: Neither wilderness nor home Agriculture, if categorized through Eugene Odum’s compartmentalization of the total landscape would most best fit in the category which he classifies as ‘the productive area, where succession is continually retarded by human controls to maintain high levels of 4 productivity.’ The productivity stated here refers not to a collective system but rather a vector of singularized driven action of yielding food and crops – a unidimensional characteristic associated to the notion of agriculture. This categorization of agriculture alienates it from being associated within the field of landscape architecture which usually performs within the given notions of the wilderness with the quality of the sublime or the designed landscape – performing as an artefact – both related if not integrated with the idea of city planning or urbanism. Landscape, in the notion of city making or process is usually foreseen to play a dual role. On the one side, landscape provides the most visible expression and measurement of environmental atrophy – it is both victim and indicator – whereas, on the other side, it provides the ideal, arcadian image of a profoundly green, harmonious world, a world both lost 5 and desired again. These generic roles fail to comprehensively adopt the notion of agriculture within the domain of the landscape – it is relatable yet it is not imbibed in the principles – a condition of disassociation. This renders an unusual condition for agriculture as this undefined characteristic transforms or transcends or rather departs from a generic concept to a neutral medium or a flux medium yet to be networked within the urban trajectories. If interpreted in the words of Guattari ‘they are mentally (and physically) manipulated through the production of collective, mass subjectivity, they are nevertheless developing (or made to develop) their own methods of distancing themselves from normalized 6 subjectivity through singularization.’ This condition of singularization and disengagement is reflected ordially in the planning principles in the Modernist period where standardization inspired by individual aesthetic creation created a disjunction in the everyday life. `The model of the Garden City probably best exemplifies this disengagement and singularization of the agriculture zoning within the proposed clusters of growth. Garden cities were intended to be planned, self-contained, communities surrounded by greenbelts, containing carefully balanced areas of residences, industry, and agriculture. By definition itself, agriculture is realised not only as a singular entity but also distanced from the notion of the landscape which in this model would be shaped or realized by ‘Six magnificent boulevard>.. In the centre is a circular space containing about five and a half acres, laid out as a beautiful and well- watered garden; and, surrounding this garden, each standing 7 in its own ample grounds.’
Image 1: Garden City plan
Agriculture is perceived through a ‘perspective’ lens only to support the condition of productivity and thus only behaves as a ‘zoning regulation’ as a mere ‘belt’ or a buffer scape in the growth of the ‘functionalist city.’ A partial locus of singularizartion which remains rather than behaves within the given homogenous set. The undefined character within the field of
Lyle, John, Design for Ecosystem (1985) in Swaffield, Simon, ed., Theory in Landscape Architecture – A Reader, pg 178, 2002, University of Pennsylvania Press. 5 Corner, James, Recovering Landscape as Critical Cultural Practice, in Corner, James ed., Recovering Landscape: Essays in Contemporary Landscape Architecture, pg 14, 1999, Princeton Architectural Press. 6 Guattari, Felix, TheThree Ecologies translated by Pindar, Ian and Sutton, Paul, pg 23, 2008, Continuum. 7 http://www.library.cornell.edu/Reps/DOCS/howard.htm
landscape and the constant one-dimensional vision towards agriculture has advocated it to be 8 realized as an ‘isolated and repressed singularity (ies) that is (are) just turning in circles.’ This lack of definition, perhaps, potentializes the role of agriculture in the present scenario of homogenized environment, as an intermediate medium that can articulate processualy the disengaged living terrains into collective social experiences, firstly by deterritoralizing its own notion and subsequently by reterritoralizing the field in which it is situated.
China’s Urban Sprawl: agriculture in flux China is the most rapidly urbanizing nation in the world, and perhaps in history. Never have so many urban settlements grown so fast, nor has more urban 9 fabric been razed and reconstructed with such haste. China has indeed redefined the meaning of Joseph Schumpeter’s much quoted phrase “creative destruction”, razing more urban fabric in its twenty year building binge than any nation in peacetime – and easily surpassing the losses, human and physical, of 10 urban renewal in America.
Image 3: the motorization trend
Image 2: Sprawl in China
Cities in China are spreading out rapidly upon the landscape, undergoing a process of rapid centrifugal expansion. The factors driving the sprawl in China and this lateral expansion are many and complex related to both to reform-era land economics and Maoist policies meant to cultivate urban industry and limit the population and 11 physical sizes of cities. While the Chinese sub-urban landscape is very different from the United States, it is no less catalytic in enabling a car-dependant lifestyle of commuting and big box consumerism. The motorization trend has profound implications for the form and structure of China’s societies. It is helping to drive a complex process of land conversion on the urban fringe that yields a uniquely Chinese urban sprawl.
Sprawl in China is different from its American cousin, but no less land hungry. Between 1980 to 2004, nearly 44,000 square miles of agricultural land has been lost to development.12 Periurban zones in China have gained economic importance and attract domestic as well as foreign investment. “Simply speaking, peri-urban areas are where the forces of globalization and localization intersect” (Webster 2002). As a consequence agricultural communities are 13 often forced to adjust to an urban or industrial way of life in a very short time. In effect, to feed its 1.3 billion population with a per capita cultivated land far below the world average, China is already facing a great challenge of land scarcity. Accelerated urbanization along with explosive economic growth has further worsened the shortage of agricultural land over the
Guattari, Felix, TheThree Ecologies translated by Pindar, Ian and Sutton, Paul, pg 34, 2008, Continuum. 9 Campanella, Thomas, China Reinvents the City, in, The Concrete Dragon – China’s Urban Revolution and What it means to the world, pg 282, 2008, Princeton Architectural Press. 10 Campanella, Thomas, The Urbanism of Ambition, in, The Concrete Dragon – China’s Urban Revolution and What it means to the world, pg 15, 2008, Princeton Architectural Press 11 Campanella, Thomas, Suburbanization and the mechanical Sprawl, in, The Concrete Dragon – China’s Urban Revolution and What it means to the world, pg 191, 2008, Princeton Architectural Press 12 Campanella, Thomas, Suburbanization and the mechanical Sprawl, in, The Concrete Dragon – China’s Urban Revolution and What it means to the world, pg 15, 2008, Princeton Architectural Press 13 Zika,Veronika Praendl, Urban Sprawl in China – Land Use Change at the Transition from Village to Town, pg 1, The Vienna Institute for Urban Sustainability.
last two decades,14 prompting the People Republic of China, for the first time in its history to become a net importer of food. In parallel to this displacement strategy of engagement of the urban sprawl with the agricultural parcels, the change in food habits of the Chinese population is also initiating new trends of agricultural production. The emphasis is shifting from simple grain-focused production to more balanced composition of agricultural production. Consequently, soil resources formerly cultivated for subsistence crops like cereals and starchy roots are increasingly converted to more 15 Image 4: Cash Crop Emergence high-value crops and fresh water fishery. This change of agricultural pattern towards cash crop production is a paradigm shift from the normative practices transforming agriculture from an occupation to a business and more so transcending the physical aspect and space accommodation of the previously perceived agricultural subjectivity.
Image 5 : Agriculture Displacement
This coupled condition of engagement renders agriculture in a flux mode – where on one hand it needs to be sensitively displaced and on the other to integrate productively with the shifting needs. Thus, transmuting to redefine its condition as well as deconstruct the generic notion of the urban sprawl engaging with the static agricultural parcels. To rephrase the situation, agriculture ought to be perceived as a dynamic element which conditions possible futures to engage with the urban sprawl. A need to recover agriculture, as well as to recognise agriculture, as a medium towards generating an integrated and a productive society.
Recovering Agriculture: deterritoralizing as a medium The term recovery implies that something once lost, devalued, forgotten or misplaced has been found again, retrieved and brought forward with renewed vitality. Also implied are repossession, taking control, and the regaining of health and normalcy, as in a rightful 16 return . In the significance of the above mentioned implications the recovery of agriculture 17 generically lies in its realization as a medium to ‘construct situations’ rather represented as a zoning accommodated as for mere pictorial representation – ‘one that is more an unfolding 18 spatiality than surface appearance.’ The reconceptualization of agriculture emerges from the articulation of conceiving it is a process rather than an aestheticized composition demanded that a critic understand its value less in terms of “how it looks” and more in terms of “how it 19 works.” To reconceptualise this notion, agriculture is categorized within the larger field of the landscape domain and analysed through the emergence of the word ‘landscape.’ 14
Jie, Chen, Rapid urbanization in China: A real challenge to soil protection and food security, pg 1, Nanjing 210008, China, Available online 19 June 2006. 15 Jie, Chen, Rapid urbanization in China: A real challenge to soil protection and food security, pg 7, Nanjing 210008, China, Available online 19 June 2006. 16 Corner , James, Recovering Landscape as Critical Cultural Practice, in Corner, James ed., Recovering Landscape : Essays in Contemporary Landscape Architecture, pg 10, 1999, Princeton Architectural Press 17 http://www.socialfiction.org/psychogeography/unitary_urbanism.html,Chardronnet, Ewen, History of Unitary Urbanism and psychogeography at the turn of the sixties, lecture notes for a conference in Riga May 2003 18 Corner, James, Eidetic Operations and New Landscape, in Corner, James ed., Recovering Landscape: Essays in Contemporary Landscape Architecture, pg 154, 1999, Princeton Architectural Press. 19 Berrizbeita Anita, The Amsterdam Bos: The Modern Public Park and the Construction of Collective Experience, in Corner, James ed., Recovering Landscape : Essays in Contemporary Landscape Architecture, pg 189, 1999, Princeton Architectural Press
Webster’s Dictionary defines landscape as static, “a picture representing a section of natural, inland scenery, as of a prairie, woodland, mountains >an expanse of natural scenery seen by 20 the eye on one view.” This definition exemplifies the relationship between image and landscape – an inseparable phenomenon under which even agriculture as a typology is conditioned to. Without image there is no such thing as landscape, only unmediated environment. This distinction can be traced back to the Old English term landskip, which at first referred not to land but to a picture of it, as in the later, selectively framed representations 21 of seventeenth century Dutch landschap paintings. The pictorial impulse denies deeper mode of existence, interrelationship, and creativity; it conceals the agendas of those who commission and construct it, and it seriously limits the design and planning arts in more critically shaping alternative cultural relations. However another side of landscape, while still eidetic, has significantly less to do with pictures, or even with any obvious priori imaging. Both J.B. Jackson and John Stilgoe have documented and drawn distinctions between art-historical, representational versions and vernacular, geographic traditions. They describe the Old German landschaft as actually preceding landskip and as referring not to scenery but to the environment of a working community, a setting comprising dwellings, pastures, meadows, and fields, and surrounded by unimproved forest or 22 meadows. The interest here lies in visualizing or foreseeing agriculture in the larger field through the distinction between landskip (landscape as contrivance, primary visual and sometimes also significant) and landschaft (landscape as an occupied milieu, the effects and significance of which accrue through tactility, use and engagement over time.)
Image 6: Landscaft Painting
Both terms connote images, but the latter comprises a fuller, more synaesthetic, and less picturable range than former. Furthermore, the working landscape, forged collectively and according to more utilitarian demands than anything artistic formal, has been more the 23 traditional domain of descriptive analysis rather than of speculation. It should be noted that agriculture if analysed only within its given territory and field performs within the notions of landschaft as a participatory landscape which is not defined by formal appearance but rather derive their form from the logistics of farming. But here the deterritoralization of agriculture is 24 conceived to visualise agriculture in what Jacob’s refer to as the “expanded field” of landscape, moving beyond the middle-scale to perform in a multi-scalar model. Thus, in this sense of the landschaft, agriculture will refer those forms and ideas that structure society in general. Though it may be picturable, its deeper, existential aspects circle more
Spirin,Whiston,Ann, The Language of Landscape (1998), in Swaffield, Simon, ed., Theory in Landscape Architecture – A Reader, pg 178, 2002, University of Pennsylvania Press 21 Corner, James, Eidetic Operations and New Landscape, in Corner, James ed., Recovering Landscape: Essays in Contemporary Landscape Architecture, pg 153, 1999, Princeton Architectural Press. 22 Jackson, John, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, pg 1-8, 1984, Yale University Press;Stilgoe, John, Common Landscape of America, 1580 to 1845, pg 12-29, 1986, Yale University Press. 23 Corner, James, Eidetic Operations and New Landscape, in Corner, James ed., Recovering Landscape: Essays in Contemporary Landscape Architecture, pg 158, 1999, Princeton Architectural Press. 24 Swaffield, Simon, Conclusion: The Theorotical Terrain of Landscape Architecture in Swaffield, Simon, ed., Theory in Landscape Architecture – A Reader, pg 228, 2002, University of Pennsylvania Press
socially cognitive, eidetic processes . A move away from ameliorative design representation, of agriculture, towards more productive, engendering strategies that necessitates a lateral shift from appearances and meanings to more prosaic concerns of how things work, what they do, how they interact, and what agency or effects they might exercise over time. A return to complex and instrumental agriculture system that involves more organizational and strategic skills than those of formal compositions per se, more programmatic and metrical practices than solely representational. A transcending of agriculture to be a medium which is constructed by society and also which constructs society where the strict lines of human geometry and production of efficiency are allowed to deform to incorporate , rather than 26 neutralize, biological networks.
Agriculture Process: towards ‘Bigness’ In the context of the Pearl River Delta, this re-reading of agriculture in the expanded field potentializes agriculture to suspend itself in the landscape of the region that is not only physically but also metaphysically disintegrated and segregated. Agriculture in this landscape of disarray and disassociation probably sserves as the only shifting constant that provides continuity in this fractured field where the regional context seems to be undergoing a change towards a more routine homogeneous, yet fragmented environment. Transcending from the notion of deterritoralizing agriculture as the ‘working landscape beyond representation’, agriculture is to be reterritoralized from dimensional, closed-intervals points in society to a more open- ended, directional trajectory of organization – from striated to smooth space 27 which does not ‘allocate’ but ‘distributes’ to sustain a promiscuous proliferation of events in 28 the urban field and also towards the production of Urbanism. Agriculture reterritoralization lies in conceptualizing it through in the domain of ‘Bigness’ – not as a container referred to as by Koolhaas but more as a generative loci in the open field to ‘reconstruct the whole, resurrect the real, reinvent the collective, reclaim maximum 29 possibility.’ Agriculture potentializes ‘Bigness’ not by reaching the ‘certain critical mass’ but by the virtue that it has the capabilities to develop strategies to organize both independent 30 and interdependent events within a lager entity. This strategy of organisation is foreseen through the notion of agri-business or food system cycle that has gained emergence from the shift of production of subsistence crops to cash crops, a condition gaining relevance in the Pearl River Delta region. The food system includes different stages such as production, 31 processing, distribution and preparing food, each stage demanding its own spatial, physical and typological configurations. These entities range from farms for production, to stores for supply, to community kitchens for processing, to markets for distribution, to waste water 32 treatments for recovery each independently and interdependently contributing to the food system. The demands in turn, generate new possible relational tendencies with other established parameters of the fabric such as residential units, industrial sectors, and commercial developments to public institutions. In effect, strategising new intensities of relational events in the homogenized city environment. Thus, these spatial configurations, 25
Corner, James, Eidetic Operations and New Landscape, in Corner, James ed., Recovering Landscape: Essays in Contemporary Landscape Architecture, pg 154, 1999, Princeton Architectural Press. 26 Strang, Gary, Infrastructure as Landscape in Swaffield, Simon, ed., Theory in Landscape Architecture – A Reader, pg 224, 2002, University of Pennsylvania Press 27 Guattari, Felix, and Deleuze,Felix,The Smooth and Striated Space, in A Thousand PlateausCapitalism and Schizophrenia,pg 480, 2004, Continuum International Publishing Group. 28 Koolhaas, Rem, Bigness: or the Problem of Large in Jencks, Charles and Kropf, Karl ed., Theories and Manifestos of Contemporary Architecture, pg 307-309, 1997, Academy Editions. 29 Koolhaas, Rem, Bigness: or the Problem of Large in Jencks, Charles and Kropf, Karl ed., Theories and Manifestos of Contemporary Architecture, pg 307-309, 1997, Academy Editions 30 Koolhaas, Rem, Bigness: or the Problem of Large in Jencks, Charles and Kropf, Karl ed., Theories and Manifestos of Contemporary Architecture, pg 307-309, 1997, Academy Editions 31 Hohenschau, David Lea, Community Food Security and the Landscape of Cities,pg 1-4, August 2005,Landscape Architecture Program,University of British Columbia. 32 Hohenschau, David Lea, Community Food Security and the Landscape of Cities,pg 12, August 2005,Landscape Architecture Program,University of British Columbia
which are usually technocratically distributed in the urban realm as radically irreconcilable contents are juxtaposed through the operational field of agriculture to perform as new existential entities- thereby allowing a kind of liquefaction of programmatic elements which 33 react with each other to create new events. ‘Events’ in the same connotation as defined by Tschumi: “an incident, an occurrence; a particular item in a programme>. events can encompass particular uses, singular functions or isolated activities>.events have an 34 independent existence. Rarely are they purely the consequence of their surroundings.” 35
Agriculture returns to a model of programmatic alchemy. Through contamination, rather than purity and quantity rather than quality, only agriculture in the expanded field, reterritoralized towards Bigness, can support genuinely new relationships between functional entities that expand rather than limit their identities. The new shift of agricultural modes in the Pearl River Delta can reassemble, ‘what it breaks.’ It supersedes as the new primary ordering device of the city and not only does it offer strategies of design , it also provides a cultural category - a lens through which to see and describe the contemporary city, many of which, absent intervention by designers and without the benefit of planning, have been found to emulate 36 natural systems. Agriculture’s regeneration not only serves as a formal model of urbanism, 37 but perhaps more importantly, a model of process.
Agriculture Production: reflexive urbanism In this new term of engagement with the sprawling states, the agriculture land redefines itself in the social fabric as an entity of multiplicity and as an independent performer in the organisational strategy which would engage in multiple, heterogeneous and complex processes tending towards a hybrid rather than an ideological form of urbanism. With respect to these emerging organizational conditions, sociologist Ulrich Beck sees ‘opportunities for achieving a new society, one that offers individuals a more significant role on numerous levels 38 while enabling them to form a new image of the mass collective of which they are a part.’ This has a number of consequences, not only political and social but also ecological and aesthetic. Beck calls this “reflexive modernization.” As he describes it, “This concept does not 39 imply ‘reflection’ but self-confrontation.” Beck is interested in a new form of politics, what he calls “sub-politics”, in which society takes shape from the bottom up. He writes, “The instrument of power in sub politics is congestion (in the direct and the figurative sense) as the 40 modernized form of the involuntary strike.” Agriculture, in relation to the Pearl River Delta functions as a kind of an operational metaphor – the space in between, for structuring new conditions of a society of free and active agents who do their own organizing and express 41 themselves in new ‘gradually emerging’ communities. According to Beck, the power of the above mentioned idea lies “first, in their disembeding and, second, in their re-embedding of
Koolhaas, Rem, Bigness: or the Problem of Large in Jencks, Charles and Kropf, Karl ed., Theories and Manifestos of Contemporary Architecture, pg 307-309, 1997, Academy Editions. 34 Tschumi, Bernard, Questions of Space: lectures on architecture, pg 98-99, 1990, Architectural Association. 35 Koolhaas, Rem, Bigness: or the Problem of Large in Jencks, Charles and Kropf, Karl ed., Theories and Manifestos of Contemporary Architecture, pg 307-309, 1997, Academy Editions. 36 Waldheim, Charles, Landscape as Urbanism, in Waldheim, Charles ed., The Landscape Urbanism, pg 37, Reader, 2006, New York: Princeton Architectural Press. 37 Waldheim, Charles, Landscape as Urbanism, in Waldheim, Charles ed.,The Landscape Urbanism ,pg 37, Reader, 2006, New York: Princeton Architectural Press 38 Lootsma, Bart, Synthetic Regionalization, in Corner, James ed., Recovering Landscape: Essays in Contemporary Landscape Architecture, pg 251, 1999, Princeton Architectural Press. 39 Beck, Ulrich, The Reinvention of Politics: Towards a Theory of Reflexive Modernization, in, Beck Ulrich, Giddens Anthony, Scott Lash, Reflexive Modernization : Politics, Traditions and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order, pg 5, 1994, Polity Press. 40 Beck, Ulrich, The Reinvention of Politics: Towards a Theory of Reflexive Modernization,in, Beck Ulrich, Giddens Anthony,Scott Lash, Reflexive Modernization : Politics, Traditions and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order, pg 23, 1994, Polity Press 41 Lootsma, Bart, Synthetic Regionalization, in Corner, James ed., Recovering Landscape: Essays in Contemporary Landscape Architecture, pg 272, 1999, Princeton Architectural Press.
industrial society’s ways of life by new [situations] in which individuals must produce, stage, 42 and cobble together their biographies together.” Thus, this new model of production is a strategy of urban arrangement following which the empty space (agriculture) connects the built-up structures in a whole so that, it ensures the permeability of currents in the field of active forces and a constantly open opportunity for new arrangements. It is created bottom-up in an additive way so that no higher level of spatial organisation, except of networks, is given simultaneously in advance. The whole is composed of an infinite number of situations of the same kind which repeat themselves through different measures of space by combining smaller patterns into a larger one. Such cellular structure is developed and managed by local arrangements between the new and existing parts within a particular field. The wholeness of structure is defined by relationships between the neighbouring identities in different fields which are autonomous with regard to their surroundings.
Image 7: Pollock Painting
This articulation of agriculture as an urban model proposes a distinctive processual utopia, embodying a change in social context. Extending the radical shift in ideology of urbanism, the reterritoralization of agriculture goes beyond producing a variation of an existing type by 43 altering one of its components. It addresses the fact that the organization and events are integral part towards the production Urbanism -‘a way of life.’ A model of symbiotic system of organisation based on virtues of timelessness and open endedness where 'territories' and 'potential' instead of 'program' is used to define a place's use and thinks the city in terms of adaptable 'systems' – social terrains instead of rigid 'structures' as a better way to organize 44 space. The organization of urbanism through the redefinition of agriculture works with the notion of Contingency –a characteristic which takes in account not only the complexity within certain perceivable systems, material or social, natural or cultural, but also the arbitrariness in 45 what systems and phenomenon are actual within a certain time or space. These transcending agricultural parcels, as “continuums or hybrids – of spaces in-between – instead of opposing dualities” are the theoretical contexts in which this new model of reflexive urbanism emerges and the territory in which it practices is “smooth space…a hierarchical, decentralized…..that of oscillating relationships, always addressing through their simultaneity 46 multiple dimensions.” In essence, this agricultural model of production moves toward interpretive infinity, for the effect of resisting fixity is not insignificance, but semantic plurality. It looks out on new social circumstances: a dispersed and differentiated reality that marks the end to the utopia of homogenization, to a certain extent. Towards a plea for ‘functionalist’ urbanism which is not obsessed with form, but which conceives of and creates structures for human activity in previously nonexistent juxtapositions and catalysing combinations on the floor (meaning on 47 the surface of the earth).
Beck, Ulrich, The Reinvention of Politics: Towards a Theory of Reflexive Modernization,in, Beck Ulrich, Giddens Anthony,Scott Lash, Reflexive Modernization : Politics, Traditions and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order, pg 26, 1994, Polity Press 43 Tschumi,Bernard,From Cinegramme Follie, pg1-4,in,Thompson,Ian,ed.,Rethinking Landscape- a critical reader,pg 155, 2009, Routledge. 44 Corner, James, Terra Fluxus, in Waldheim, Charles ed., The Landscape Urbanism Reader, pg 20, 2006, New York: Princeton Architectural Press. 45 Lindholm, Gunilla, Landscape Urbanism - large-scale architecture, ecological urban planning or a designerly research policy, pg 3, Department of Landscape Architecture, SLU, Alnarp, Sweden. 46 Gray, Christopher, From emergence to divergence – modes of Landscape Urbanism, pg 37, 2006, School of Architecture, Edinburgh College of Art. 47 Koolhaas, Rem, The New Sobriety, in, Lucan, Jacques, ed., Rem Koolhaas/OMA, pg 153, 1991, Princeton Architectural Press.
Agriculture System: the social instrument The Pearl River Delta, which is marked by computing problems of environmental pollution, social segregation and global modernization, the agricultural strategy of urbanism gives way to possible realization of a new unifying concept of ecology , which offers as a way of organising the apparently random mix of ‘ geography, climate , economics , demography 48 mechanics and culture.’ Ecologies are dynamic systems that maintain equilibrium by interaction and feedback among multiple variables. Cities, like natural ecologies, emerge through the recursive procedures. They are the cumulative result of countless individual 49 operations repeated over time with slight variation. This relation of a city as an ecological phenomenon surfaces a new form of late post modern urbanism: layered, non – hierarchical, 50 flexible, time based and most importantly strategic. It triggers complex organizational potentials incorporating a sense of time and change over time and project the participation and consensus of multiple of agents. To see the city as an artificial ecology is not to establish a loose analogy between the city and the natural systems, but rather to take advantage of ecology as a powerful conceptual model for managing the city’s inherent complexity: a series of working concepts flexible enough to accommodate the wildly improbable demands of the 51 contemporary city. Ecology, in the widest sense turns out to be the study of interaction and survival of ideas and 52 programs (i.e., differences, complexes of differences etc.) in circuits. This ecological model strives to scout out the potential vectors of subjectification and singularization at each partial locus. They generally seek something that runs counter to the normal order of things, a 53 counter repetition which evokes other intensities to form new existential configuration – logic of recuperation resting on the belief in capitalism’s fundamentally static, affirmative and 54 materialistic quality . In the words of Felix Guattari, it is a process rather than a model, which is realized not by just a technocratic perspective, but by an ethico-political articulation – ecosophy- between three ecological registers (the environment, social relations and human 55 subjectivity.) Ecology in this sense questions the whole of subjectivity and capitalistic power formations, whose sweeping progress cannot be guaranteed, to continue as it has for the past decade. Reaffirming the conditions of the capitalistic power formation, Guy Debord states in the opening lines of his journal The Society of the Spectacle “In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of 56 spectacles. Everything that was lived has moved away into a representation” The domination of economy over social life brought into the definition of all human realization the 57 obvious degradation of being into having . It might be argued here that all large scales struggles are not necessarily, and most certainly, in sync with the ecosophy, stated by Guattari, which one hand limits the potentials of his theory but on the other hand making the ecosophy an open ended interpretation and in a state of disjunction with emerging notions and conditions of the state. Guattari, himself agrees to this large scale struggle as he states “it is important not to homogenize various levels of
Allen, Stan, Practice: Architecture, Technique and Representation, pg 174, 2009, Routledge. Allen, Stan, Practice: Architecture, Technique and Representation, pg 175-76, 2009, Rouledge. 50 Waldheim, Charles, Landscape as Urbanism, in Waldheim, Charles ed.,The Landscape Urbanism Reader, pg 40,2006, New York: Princeton Architectural Press 51 Allen, Stan, Practice: Architecture, Technique and Representation, pg 176, 2009, Routledge. 52 Guattari, Felix, TheThree Ecologies translated by Pindar, Ian and Sutton, Paul, pg 30, 2008, Continuum 53 Guattari, Felix, TheThree Ecologies translated by Pindar, Ian and Sutton, Paul, pg 82, 2008, Continuum 54 Mc Donough,Tom,Introduction:Ideology and the Situationist Utopia, in Mc Donough,Tom ed., Guy Debord and the Situationist International, page 10, 2002, October books,MIT Press 55 Guattari, Felix, TheThree Ecologies translated by Pindar, Ian and Sutton, Paul, pg 20, 2008, Continuum. 56 Marcus Greil, The long walk of the Situationist International, in Mc Donough,Tom ed., Guy Debord and the Situationist International, page 7- 8, 2002, October books,MIT Press 57 Marcus Greil, The long walk of the Situationist International, in Mc Donough,Tom ed., Guy Debord and the Situationist International, page 10, 2002, October books,MIT Press 49
practice or to make connections between them under some transcendental supervision, but 58 instead to engage them in processes of heterogenesis.” 59
Heterogenesis is a ‘process of continuous resingularization.’ It is an active, immanent singularization of subjectivity, as opposes to transcendent, universalizing and reductionist homogenization. Heterogenity is an expression of desire, of a becoming that is always in the process of adapting, transforming and modifying itself in relation to its environment. ‘Whereas, the State works by homogenizing, it is always already defeated by heterogeneous formations 60 whose singularity cannot be represented.’ This transversal tool of heterogenesis probably best defines the articulation of agriculture with the emerging new sprawling states, by means of which subjectivity is able to install itself simultaneously in the realms of environment, in the major social and institutional assemblages, and symmetrically in the landscapes and fantasies of the most intimate 61 spheres of the individual.
Conclusion: Programming the urban surface The recovery and recognition of agriculture as a performative tool, is just not a response to the urbanizing condition of the Pearl River Delta, but in effect is a lateral strategy that counters the generic laws of urbanization which is reshaping the world through global forces – by exerting pressure on landscape and environment, and fragmenting society into various subcultures. Though this strategy is a response to globalization, it does not strive towards global homogeneity, but rather sets out antimonies between different levels of operation. In this regard, it would probably be suitable to term this ‘optimized instrument’ a local cultural resistance – which would tend towards the notion of Critical Regionalism of Kenneth Frampton. In Frampton’s words “A critical arriere-garde, has to remove itself from both the optimization of advanced technology and the ever-present tendency to regress into nostalgic 62 historicism or the glibly decorative.” Though part of Frampton’s statement of removal from nostalgia is agreeable, the removal from advanced technology (globalization forces) is in itself a contradiction. Globalization is definitely not the tradition of any current society but ‘global’ is most definitely the culture that represents most societies in common. It is what consumes or rather reflects the new region. So, rather than negating culture and adopting a reductionist approach, the strategy would be to work by engaging with the very mechanisms of global capital for spinning a neo-avant gardist position. This ‘optimized instrument’ is then neither a local cultural resistance, nor a divergence but most specifically emergence brought about by the ‘expansion of alternative experiences centred around respect for singularity, and through the continuous production of an autonomizing subjectivity that can articulate itself 63 appropriately in relation to the rest of the society.’ What also surfaces from Frampton’s instrumentalization of local resistance is the unique role of landscape in providing a modicum of market based urban order. Frampton says, “I would submit that instead we need to conceive of a remedial landscape that is capable of playing a critical and compensatory role in relation to the ongoing, destructive commodification of the
Guattari, Felix, TheThree Ecologies translated by Pindar, Ian and Sutton, Paul, pg 34, 2008, Continuum 59 Guattari, Felix, TheThree Ecologies translated by Pindar, Ian and Sutton, Paul, pg 59, 2008, Continuum 60 Guattari, Felix, TheThree Ecologies translated by Pindar, Ian and Sutton, Paul, pg 59, 2008, Continuum 61 Guattari, Felix, TheThree Ecologies translated by Pindar, Ian and Sutton, Paul, pg 45, 2008, Continuum 62 Frampton,Kenneth,Towards a Critical Regionalism :Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance, in Jencks, Charles and Kropf, Karl ed., Theories and Manifestos of Contemporary Architecture, pg 307309, 1997, Academy Editions 63 Guattari, Felix, TheThree Ecologies translated by Pindar, Ian and Sutton, Paul, pg 39, 2008, Continuum.
man made world.” The strategy of articulation of agriculture - to reconstruct the whole and reclaim maximum possibility - thus takes on a new term that of the remedial landscape which invests in the ground itself as a material for design - acting as both a structuring element and a medium for rethinking urban conditions, to produce everyday human spaces that do not 65 exclude nature. A notion of the constructed ground - articulation of the urban surface that invokes the functioning matrix of connective tissue that not only organizes objects and spaces but also the dynamic processes and events that move through them. The engagement of agriculture with the sprawling states thus strives towards articulating the urban surface in two ways: as planar folds and smooth continuities and as a field that is grafted onto a set of new instruments and 66 equipment. In either case, emerging a surface that becomes a staging ground for the unfolding of new events- towards a surface that is not merely the venue for formal experiments but the agent for evolving new forms of social life. It must be stated here that the folding and smoothening of the surface does not imply only to a geometrical sense of merging faces. The idea here, is not just to achieve a form that visually seems to be integrate the horizontal, vertical and the inclined faces and binds them into a surface, but rather a folding and unfolding of programmatic events and social experiences that generates a continuous, heterogeneous active urban surface – that structures conditions for new relationships and interactions among Image 8: Programatic Urban Surfae things it supports. In the aftermath of the urban boom in China, the potential and significant field of action today is less than design of monumental cities and master plans than the careful modification and articulation of the urban surface to initiate an integral engagement of the existing agricultural parcels with the sprawling states. These urban surfaces which could be variously clad, isolated and warped, inflated, delineated, and material to perform roles that are simultaneously natural and social, testifying to the possibility of the vital public space, one that 67 does not settle differences but rather allows them to exist. Such dynamic surface structuring, through potentializing agriculture as an active remedial landscape may be the new terms of withstanding the excess of popular culture – restless mobility, consumption, density, waste, spectacle, and information – while absorbing and redirecting the alternating episodes of concentration and dispersal caused by the volatile movement of capital and 68 power.
Waldheim, Charles, Landscape as Urbanism, in Waldheim, Charles ed.,The Landscape Urbanism Reader, pg 40,2006, New York: Princeton Architectural Press 65 Pollack, Linda, Constructed Ground, in Waldheim, Charles ed., The Landscape Urbanism Reader, pg 127, 2006, New York: Princeton Architectural Press 66 Wall, Alex, Programming the Urban Surface, in Corner, James ed., Recovering Landscape: Essays in Contemporary Landscape Architecture, pg 247, 1999, Princeton Architectural Press. 67 Pollack, Linda, Constructed Ground, in Waldheim, Charles ed., The Landscape Urbanism Reader, pg 138, 2006, New York: Princeton Architectural Press. 68 Wall, Alex, Programming the Urban Surface, in Corner, James ed., Recovering Landscape: Essays in Contemporary Landscape Architecture, pg 247, 1999, Princeton Architectural Press.
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Image Courtesy: (all other images unless otherwise mentioned are credits of the author). Image 1 – http://fthats.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/20071018-garden_city_detail.jpg. Image 2 – http://www.flowerseast.com/Originals/BURTYNSKY/38288.jpg. Image 5 – Model of Urban Growth in PRD, Katya Larina, AALU, 2007-08. Image 6 – http://www.egre.mb.ca/wg/image-d/o-landschaft_bei_karlsbourg.jpg Image 7 – http://junanteola.files.wordpress.com/2007/02/jackson-pollock-20060710-113507.jpg Image 8 - http://www.imageandnarrative.be/uncanny/_img/3tschumi.gif.