Topos 88 – Narrative of Landscape

People can find meaning in their lives by communicating, talking, writing and telling stories. Landscapes and places are not able to do this. And yet, they tell their stories to those of us who are able to decipher them. The identity of a place reveals itself to those who speak the language of landscape and know how to interpret shapes, structure, materials, form and function the same way they interpret words. We shape landscape and language – and they shape us. The articles in Topos 88, which are as diverse in genre and theme as always, ranging from short stories to films and dramas, question this narrative of the landscape.

“The Narrative of Landscape” was also the topic of a conference at EPFL university in Lausanne, organised by Cyril Veillon of Archizoom and Matthew Skjonsberg of LAB-U, laboratory of urbanism, EPFL, who was guest editor of this issue of Topos.



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A selection of articles from Topos 88:

Marieke Timmermans: Reading a landscape
Knowing how to read a landscape is the key to a competent analysis in landscape architecture. The act of reading includes the people who live in the landscape. For Texel, an island off the Dutch coast, the attempt has been made to capture this living landscape in drawings that explain a vision for the future.

Together with Faro Architects, La4sale office did the design research for Planet Texel, a collaboration between the Municipality of Texel and the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam. Their aim has been to discover the non-physical and cultural characteristics of the island through the idea of reading the landscape as a basis for a new strategy for Texel. (Image: Marieke Timmermans)


Martí Franch: A Journey into a Liquid Landscape
La Tancada Lagoon project is a low-cost intervention that shapes an archipelago to fit a hybrid nature-tourism program and celebrates the diverse landscape of the Ebro River Delta. It choreographs visits by sculpting the materiality and processes of the landscape.

The Delta landscape is introduced with the Mon Natura Eco Museum. Its outdoor installations comprise, among others, a newly constructed salt field garden that explains the history of the landscape. (photo: Sergi Romero)


Abelardo Morell (photos), Nadine Gerdts (text): Magic in the Ordinary
The contemporary photographer Abelardo Morell explores landscapes of immense beauty in his latest camera obscura work, telling stories that span time in ways that only the minutiae of a landscape’s surface can reveal. His tent-camera images require viewers to admire sublime vistas while they concurrently ponder prosaic botanic, geologic elements and human-constructed details.

Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of Mount Moran and the Snake River From Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 2011 (Photo: Abelardo Morell)


Saskia Sassen: Land as Infrastructure for Living
Agricultural land destruction, climate change, and the mining industry lead to massive land degradation. These worldwide spaces of devastation are independent from political and economic organization of a country and are telling a story about the global attitude towards land.

Underground Survival Worlds – The thin surface that is land, and layers after layers into the depth of the planet … Are there other ways of being on this planet? (Endless City, 2008; image: Hilary Koob-Sassen)


Adriaan Geuze: The Narrative of Stolen Paradise
For 12,000 years civilization has been craving for escape. Although nowadays -every authentic reference seems to have been banalized into permanent clichés by the media, the internet, and branded urban identities, people still need active psychic stimulation and long for perspective. So even the complex layered cities of today cannot exist without a second nature of metaphysical reality. The interpretation of human history and its influence on narrative, soil, and landscape drives Adriaan Geuze’s creative work.

Path of life. The Garden of 10,000 Bridges in Xi’an, China by West 8 represents the trajectory of human life as a route marked by uncertainty and numerous burdens, but also by highlights and elation. The design takes you on this walk of life as a meandering, winding trail – continuous and labyrinthine. (photo: West 8)