Emerging Landscapes



Gabriele Basilico – Milan

Starting from childhood memories of post-war Milan, this lecture explored a photographer’s intimate fascination with the city and its strange beauty. The camera provides a unique artistic medium to seek out this beauty. This compulsive interest in cities is rooted in a documentation of Milan’s factory buildings carried out in the late 1970s. That initial project disclosed the industrial landscape of the city, revealing a new perception of lights, shadows, and absence. From those early portraits of factories to later projects around the world, the void of the urban landscape emerges in all its lyrical force – the campaign conducted in war-torn Beirut in 1991 being a particularly poignant case. The lecture showed the development of an aesthetic view that sees the urban landscape as a ‘global place’. By searching for correspondences and analogies it becomes possible to find familiar elements in the most foreign of places, and to establish an intimate bond with each place as an ever-changing living organism. The ability to observe and accept our contemporary urban condition, cultivated through a constant dialogue with the places photographed, offers the starting point to imagine a better city, and a better future.

Gabriele Basilico (1944-2013) began to photograph urban landscapes in the early 1970s, after completing a degree in architecture. His first project, Milano: Ritratti di Fabbriche 1978-80, portrayed the Milanese industrial area. In 1984 he was invited to work on the Mission Photographique de la DATAR, a major undertaking sponsored by the French government to record the country’s landscapes. In 1991 he took part in the international Mission Photographique documenting the city of Beirut at the end of the Lebanese Civil War. He has photographed cities all over the world, and his work has been presented in a number of exhibitions and book including Porti di Mare (1990), Bord de Mer (1992), L’esperienza dei Luoghi (1994), Italy: Cross-sections of a country (1998), Interrupted City (1999), Cityscapes (1999), Scattered City (2005), and Intercity (2007). His most recent projects are Silicon Valley, in collaboration with the San Franciso Museum of Modern Art; Roma 2007, for Rome International Photography Festival; and Vertical Moscow, a project on Moscow’s cityscape portrayed from the top of the seven ‘Stalinist towers’.

Stephen Daniels – Landscape Stories

Narrative is presently a central focus of inquiry across the humanities and social sciences, including multi-disciplinary fields concerned with questions of space and place, landscape and environment, on topics such as travellers’ tales, place memories, environmental futures, national histories and archaeological imaginations. This keynote considered the way the landscape arts frame narrative, focusing on topographical work in painting and photography, examining how the scenes they represent are plotted in time and space, their worlds storied into shape.

Stephen Daniels is Professor of Cultural Geography at the University of Nottingham where he has worked since 1980; since 2005 he has been the Director of the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s programme in Landscape and Environment. His has published widely on the history and theory of landscape imagery and design. His books include The Iconography of Landscape (1988) co-edited with Denis Cosgrove, Fields of Vision (1992) and Humphry Repton: Landscape Gardening and the Geography of Georgian England (1999), and the exhibition catalogues Art of the Garden (2004) and Paul Sandby: Picturing Britain (2009).

Christophe Girot – The Margins of Vision

The selective perceptual attrition of society is very symptomatic of our work with video; because it explains why landscape as spatial entity is no longer of central importance. Landscape has disintegrated into an informal background medium upon which other events are played and displayed, it has lost a language of its own. Instead of being the focal point of an established visual culture, as was the case with the ‘Veduta’ of the Renaissance, the ‘Perspective’ of Baroque times or the ‘Picturesque’ of the Romantics, our present landscape vision remains in a constant state of flux, it has no name ‘per se’, and has become the residual subsidiary of many other sorts of gazes. Beyond the simple cinematic explanation of our changing visual culture, interest in landscape has also been severely damaged by a blatant absence of contemporary mythical embodiment. The Land-Art movement barely managed to maintain this kind of effort for a couple of decades in the 1970s and 1980s, and then dwindled. In other words, what we presently see is simply not what we get. There has actually been a complete breakdown in our perceptual faith regarding landscape. Landscape has been relegated to the margins of our vision not only because the way of viewing our world has changed, but also because the thing out there no longer matches the preconceptions that we have stored in our memory. Vision is about a coded language of signifiers, and when the signifiers cease to operate and inform the viewer, the meaning collapses entirely. What is required, in fact, is a renewed act of faith regarding our present world with the active reinvention of a contemporary myth of landscape based on the belief of what we actually see out there. In this sense video can play an essential nurturing role in depicting the dominance of movement and speed in contemporary society. The French thinker Paul Virilio goes so far as to postulate that we actually need the speed to be able to perceive landscape in the space and time continuum of today.

Christophe Girot was born in 1957 in Paris, France. He is Professor and Chair of Landscape Architecture at ETH Zurich, and the founder of the Institute of Landscape Architecture ILA, in 2005. Professor Girot’s research addresses three fundamental themes: new topological methods in landscape design, new media in landscape analysis and perception, and recent history and theory of landscape design. Emphasis is placed on the fields of action in contemporary large-scale urban landscape with particular attention given to sustainable design. Professor Girot practices landscape architecture in Zurich. His built projects include Invaliden Park in Berlin, as well as several projects in and around Paris. His current projects include the 1000 hectare Landscape Study of Quartu Sant’Elena in Sardinia, a 34 hectare Deposito di Sigirino for AlpTransit in Tessin and a 1 hectare landscape park in Rorschach for the Würth headquarters on Lake Constance, with Gigon-Guyer architects. His work has been published and exhibited in several countries.

Jonathan Hill – Weather Architecture

Grounding environmental awareness in historical understanding, Weather Architecture begins in the Enlightenment. Alongside a concern for reason and empirical science the eighteenth century gave new attention and reverence to subjective experience and the natural world, so that one became a means to explore the other. Reconfiguring the relations between nature and culture stimulated an expanded understanding of architectural authorship. In contrast to the aloof and individual authorship developed in the Italian Renaissance, an alternative conception of the architect encouraged a new type of design and a new way of designing that valued ideas and emotions evoked through experience, and acknowledged the creative influences of the weather as well as the user. The changing weather became synonymous with changing perception and was considered to be as exceptional as the imagination.

Analysing attitudes to a changing environment, Weather Architecture identifies a picturesque and romantic thread that began in the eighteenth century and was revived in the mid-twentieth century as a means to revise modernism, while today it is increasingly relevant due to anthropogenic climate change and the emergence of a hybridised weather that is industrial, electromagnetic and radioactive as well as natural. At a time when environmental awareness is of growing relevance, my overriding aim is to understand a history of architecture as a history of weather and thus to consider the weather as an architectural author that influences design, construction, and use in a creative dialogue with other authors such as the architect and user.

Jonathan Hill is Professor of Architecture and Visual Theory at the UCL Bartlett School of Architecture, where he is Director of the MPhil/PhD Architectural Design programme. He is the author of The Illegal Architect (1998), Actions of Architecture (2003) and Immaterial Architecture (2006). Professor Hill is the editor of Occupying Architecture: Between the Architect and the User (1998), Architecture – the Subject is Matter (2001) and Research by Design (2003), and a co-editor of Critical Architecture (2007) and Pattern (2007). His most recent book, Weather Architecture (2012), considers the weather as an architectural author that affects design, construction and use.