THE SPECTACLE OF THE MUNDANE
With the enormous challenges that our society is facing today, from climate change to fast urbanisation, architects tend to take on the role of saviours, thinking they can, and must provide answers to these problems. In particular, landscape architecture has been charged with the notion of responsibility to tap into its unique repertoire and provide suitable responses to the challenges of our time. Like the promise of early modern architects, these decades hold the promise of landscape architects. In our role we tend to preach about the importance of collaboration, process-driven design, ecosystems, temporality, and many more similar approaches, often inspired by the natural world. We use the natural world to legitimise our design interventions and spectacle to liberate ourselves. But are we not repeating the same mistakes?
The Dutch landscape architectural practice has been particularly successful in spreading the message of agency through spectacle and non-apologetic design interventions. But can this be translated globally, and should it? Can the same attitude be used when literally building a country from scratch or when intervening in sensitive and lush natural ecosystems? Specifically, when coming from a context where what is perceived as spectacle is in fact pragmatism: the Dutch landscape is probably more a feat of engineering and spectacle of pragmatism than design “gymnastics”.
“The Connected City”, Oberbillwerder, in Hamburg Germany, showcases the importance of a balanced approach to design. An apparently spectacular city that is highly pragmatic in its futurism. A city where nature and urbanity are perfectly balanced and thrive off each other. Where nature is the starting point, but not the only truth. And where the synergy between nature and technology yields unique opportunities for reimagining the way we live.