Topos 88


Topos 88 The 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 this issue, which are as diverse in genre and theme as always, ranging from short stories to films and dramas, question this narrative of the landscape.

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.

 Daniel Czechowski: A Map is Worth a Thousand Words
In order to understand a landscape it helps to analyse its layers. By not only tracing information, but by also assessing and interpreting it, mapping helps in the formulation of ideas about how a landscape can be further developed.

Richard Sennett: Narrative and Agency
Narrative is a way of interpreting experience, of making sense of a chain of events. Modern capitalism makes finding an illuminating narrative complicated. A constant could be the landscape.

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.

Luigi Latini: Cultivation a Landscape of War
In the Bosnian villages of Osmace and Brežani, families have returned after the war and retrieved the lands of their families. Fields and pastures are coming back to life, taking on a strong sense of overcoming old barriers of ethnicity and religion.

Mariam Farhat: City and Sand
In Kuwait, the desert is expanding rapidly. Adaptive strategies for sand movement based on the landscape could at least decrease the impacts of sand storms.

Alexa Weik von Mossner: Cinematic Landscapes
Even in fiction film, the authenticity of the landscape plays an active role in the filmic narrative. “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, for example, presents the Louisiana bayous as the setting for a disenfranchised community in a fictional wetland.

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.

Nannan Dong, Alexander Abke: Rural Nostalgia: New Rural Landscape Design in the Yangtze Delta Region
In China, rural lifestyles are becoming more and more attractive for wealthy citizens. “Ecological” and “slow” are key words for a movement that orients itself to traditional lifestyles.

Paola Viganò: Evolving Narratives
The city is a renewable resource. Design activity constructs a situated knowledge that reframes the context through interpretation.

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.

David R. Montgomery: Written on the Land
Soil is the dynamic interface between geology and biology, the bridge between the dead world of rock and the bustling world of life. Unfortunately, society today faces soil degradation at a global scale. Erosion control and soil-building are among the most exigent issues to address.

J. M. Ledgard, Matthew Skjonsberg: On Earth
Informed by his experience as a frontline correspondent for The Economist, J. M. Ledgard’s second novel, Submergence, speaks of the enduring narrative of earth and water entwined though personal and political dynamics, and will now be the subject of a Hollywood screen adaptation. The architect and urban designer Matthew Skjonsberg recently spoke with the author on a sunny roof terrace in Lausanne. The following text is an excerpt from that conversation.