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.
“For the most part, nineteenth century landscape architects were makers, not writers; pragmatists not idealists. They relied on the writing of art and architectural historians to chronicle their achievements.
Thus, the industrial societies that were inventing new forms of constructed landscapes depended on writings that tended to view the world through binaries composed of dominant and muted pairs – such as culture and nature, man and woman. These binaries were incapable of describing and interpreting what is unique to the modern built landscape – its investigation of new systems of order through particulars of its unique medium and materials.”
– Elizabeth K. Meyer “The Expanded Field of Landscape Architecture”
Last week SLU (Swedish University of Agricultural Science) in Alnarp hosted Beyond-Ism, a conference focused on the past, present, and potential future role of Landscape Urbanism within the field of landscape architecture.
As the conference wound down from three days of lectures, presentations, and discussions, participants were invited on a much-appreciated breath of fresh air for a tour of SLU’s Landscape Lab.
“A landscape laboratory should be seen as an experimental platform for many landscape contexts; from multi-functional countryside landscapes, city fringe landscapes, to park and garden landscapes. In practice one does what one believes is best, a landscape laboratory means a chance to compare relevant types side by side, and to follow the processes in a strict way.” – Roland Gustavsson
“In fact, one can argue that discourses such as landscape urbanism or ecological urbanism –while being radical with regard to their biophysical topographical interventions – are conservative with regard to socio-economic territorial change.”
– Greet de Block¹
While still mulling over the many ideas presented at the Beyond-Ism Conference hosted by SLU Alnarp from October 19 – 21, 2016, the lecture by Greet de Block and discussion with Nina-Marie Lister afterwards has stood out time and again. The lecture, entitled “The (Post-)Politics of Resilient Design: A History of the Present,” brought up an important critique of how well Landscape Urbanism has actually done in embracing socio-political issues.