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Land Art

Hanford Site, Washington

“When I was a city dweller, I welcomed visual extravagance, graffiti, oddities, or subtle alterations in my already hectic daily surroundings.  Public art belongs in towns, places where people interact with the built environment on a frequent, familiar, pedestrian basis where art can literally inform or enhance a neighborhood or public domain.  The task of land art, on the other hand, is to focus landscapes too vast for the unaccustomed eye to take in, or to give us views into the cosmos, connecting places where we stand with the places we will never stand.”

– Lucy R. Lippard from Undermining: A wild ride through land use, politics, and art in the changing west

 

A look at the inspiration and form of Norway’s National Tourist Route Project.

Coasting along the roads of Norway, one is struck by beautiful mountain after breathtaking fjord, each bend of the road seems to yield a more spectacular view from the last.  Just as you reach a spot where you must slow and crane your neck to take it all in, there is a pull-off that provides the perfect place to have at least a few minutes with the view before heading onto the rest of your journey.  Sometimes there is just room enough to park and a bench for enjoying a snack, elsewhere there are buildings complete with cafes, museums and rest rooms.  These strategically placed pull-offs are a part of an invitation for visitors to view Norway’s scenic beauty, traditional heritage, and contemporary design practice through a collection of drives called the National Tourist Route Project (NTRP).  Combining stunning scenery with dramatically designed architecture, the NTRP immerses passersby in its intangible cultural heritage practices through the very tangible and strongly directed gaze of these viewing platforms, benches, and buildings.  

Continue reading “A look at the inspiration and form of Norway’s National Tourist Route Project.”

Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord

“No one says Duisburg is lovely,” laughed my host who had grown up in the area.  Yet, to someone who spent years wandering around the abandoned grain mills of Buffalo, New York, the city of Duisburg, Germany not only has a working class atmosphere that is genuine and approachable, but also an antiquity not found in many much younger American cities.  Additionally, Duisburg is home to a significant and unique amenity of the late 20th century: a 220 hectare (543 acres) industrial park, Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord.

Landschaftspark was developed from 1990 – 2002 as part of a larger redevelopment project, the International Building Exhibition (IBA) Emscher Park, which spans 450 kilometers (280 miles) of defunct industrial landscapes in the Ruhr Valley.  The IBA Emscher Park project was aimed at re-imagining the industrial heritage of this region in a way that would attempt to clean up some of the environmental damage caused by industry and invite a new image of progressive ecological and social engagement for the valley.

Landschaftspark set a precedent in site re-development by retaining its historic ironworks structures while also introducing public recreation and a complex landscape plan.   Alongside the former industrial structures are both ruderal species that have taken over more or less on their own accord as well as obviously designed gardens and pathways.

As one of the most talked about projects of post-industrial regional and site rehabilitation, there are countless analyses, critiques, and historic accounts of Landschaftspark. Without too much effort one can find out about the competition that kick-started the project or the designer Latz and Partner’s contribution to ideas of “minimal intervention” or the project’s experimental foray into phytoremediation.  As someone keenly interested in the history, ecology, and social value of derelict sites and their potential transformation, I was eager to visit Landschaftspark to gain a first-hand understanding of how it has settled into itself nearly twenty-five years after the project began.

Continue reading “Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord”

“Once we understand that we are part of a perpetual process of metamorphosis, we will also accept that works of art can never be completed.”

Paula Llull, The New Earthwork: Art, Action, Agency

Himmestreppe (Skystairs) by Herman Prigann

An often talked about piece of land art and an artist who is noted for his intention to not just rework site aesthetics but also remediate the environmental damage done from manufacturing and industrial use.  

Halde Rheinelbe in Gelsenkirchen, Germany – Himmelstreppe sits atop a mound of debris from previous resource extraction done nearby. There is a simple use of materials; two styles of concrete are used to form the structure at the top and the stairway that leads to it and a simple metal railing runs alongside. The railing and concrete with larger aggregate beside the stairs seem to be recent additions to the site and, although practical, diminish the dramatic ascent of the stairs to the tone structure slightly. Continue reading “Himmestreppe (Skystairs) by Herman Prigann”

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