On the Interpretation of Architecture
Theory of Interpretation

Vol. 12, No. 2, December 2008


___Jonna Majgaard Krarup
  Interpretation as Doing


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  The intent of the paper is to address and discuss relationships between the aesthetic perception and interpretation of contemporary landscape architecture. I will try to do this by setting up a cross-disciplinary perspective that looks into themes from the contemporary art scene and aesthetic theories, and relate them to observations in contemporary landscape architecture.
It is my premise that investigating the relationship between modes of aesthetic perception and examples in contemporary art, and landscape architecture, will enable us to better understand characteristics of a contemporary concept of landscape and design in landscape architecture, and hereby address the question of how interpretation might be processed.
It is also my premise that a key point in this is the interplay between different sensory experiences of both material and non-material aspects, and that it is this interplay that the individual collects into an entity
an interpretation through an intellectual process.


It is a well known fact that our understanding of the city in recent years has been and still is being challenged by new types of cities which in several ways depart from the historic and the well known types of cities, as for example the historic city of Siena, Paris et al. Characteristic to this process of transformation is that it not only concerns typologies and categories but also our definition of concepts and images, and our models of perception and representation.

"The city as we know it seems to be dissolving and is being replaced by something for which we lack concepts and images. Spatial transformations have produced a new kind of city for which we have yet no adequate models of perception and representation."[1]

One may with success replace the word city in the above quoted ascertainment with landscape, and Kai Vöckler’s ascertainment would still give meaning. That we are able to replace the word city with, not just another word but with another category, namely landscape, tells us something about the close relationship between the two categories, but it also indicates that both categories are subordinated by transformations due to processes of character, which with an overall concept may be described with the term globalization.
The sociologist and urbanist Manuel Castells[2] is the author of one of the most in depth descriptions and analyses of the impacts of globalization on society. Among the impacts concerning landscape are the de-industrialisation of the western world, and the redistribution of labour, resources and values. During the past ten to fifteen years de-industrialisation has produced a variety of challenges, not only concerning spatial, planning and architectural questions, but also on issues concerning social formation, identity and cultural features and understandings.

In the physical landscape, de-industrialisation manifests itself in different ways, among others as a freeing-up of areas formerly used for heavy industries, such as mining, steel industries et al. This freeing-up and transformation of areas formerly used for industrial purposes is not only on a programmatic and design-oriented level, it affects our notion of landscape, and it produces both new kinds of landscapes and new kinds of cities. Further, it produces new configurations of the relationship between city and landscape.
Landscape is no longer to be understood only as territories outside a well defined city, and it is no longer defined only by rural and agricultural activities and recreation, or considered only for it’s abilities to provide resources and area for urban development.

The boundaries between spatial and environmental disciplines, such as urban planning and landscape architecture, are blurred. The city may be regarded as a landscape in itself, and buildings are often described as landscapes. Our notion of landscape seems thus to be enriched and expanded both physically and conceptually. Referring to Kai Vöckler’s ascertainment, the concept of landscape, as we know it seems to be dissolving and is being replaced by something for which we still lack concepts and images. We are in a process of defining a, or several, new concepts of landscape, and the images of these new landscapes are still in progress.

In research and in praxis, both the concept of landscape and the emerging new landscapes have in recent years been explored from different perspectives pertaining to art, architecture, urbanism, ecology, and technology. As such, the physical landscape is perceived as an architectural incorporation of nature, an investigation in regional ecologies, an experimental field for installation artists, or conceptually as a means for reinforcing regional and urban identities. This raises questions regarding how to describe, analyze and interpret landscapes, both as concepts as well as places.

In landscape architecture and in aesthetics, landscape is by historic traditions an aesthetic object, and it is also conceived and understood as space, which we as landscape architects and urban planners organize, plan and design according to a matrix of various purposes, functionalities, activities, meanings and aesthetics. As such landscape may be regarded as a medium of representation[3].
Cultural rooted and immaterial ideas of landscape are in this way interpreted and transformed by landscape architects into physical surroundings and form – to places. This process of interpretation of an abstract concept into concrete plan and form, i.e. into places, contains both a sort of intellectual analysis and interpretation of an abstract concept, and as a physical manifestation of this analysis and interpretation. Normally the intellectual analysis of the abstract concept and physical manifestation here of will follow the prevailing aesthetic paradigm in a given period. An example is the French sixteenth and seventeenth garden design, where design both supported and expressed the political idea of the power of a united nation ruled by an absolute prince and the organization of the landscape as one mighty scene controlled by man and the emerging new technologies and sciences. But even prevailing paradigms are exposed to critique and re-thinking, and may thus be challenged both on a conceptual level and on a physical level – as design, which may indicate that a new understanding and definition of a concept is evolving, and that this new understanding has to be re-interpret as form, so a coherence between concept and understanding and physical form may be restored. The process of rethinking an abstract concept and reformulating it in physical form may be initiated by political, spatial, economical, social and more philosophical and religious reasons. That there is a connection between intangible flows of abstract thoughts and ideas and physical tangible transformations in the landscape and at specific places is suggested among others by Manuel Castells in his exhausted analysis of the impact of globalization on society. But it is up to us as planners, landscape architects and architects to interpret and manifest, in spatial organization and physical form, the relationship between the intangible flows of thoughts and ideas and our tangible surroundings, e.g. in landscape planning and design, in urban planning and design and in building design.
Accepting this as a premise, landscape architecture projects may be regarded as embodiments and interpretations of the relationship between nature and culture in a given period.
As indicated above both the disparity of concepts of landscape, and our landscapes themselves, are at the moment in a process of transformation in which categories, concepts, and definitions are blurred. Interpreting these processes produce a variety of answers in landscape architectural projects of which some are relating to tradition, to contextual, cultural, economic and societal features and issues, and recently also to transformations in climatic conditions.
What seems to be in common for this display of varied interpretations, landscape architecture projects, is that they are often described with
keywords such as heterogeneity and multifunctionality, and approached through a diversity of sensory stimuli.
On the design level heterogeneity often refers to elaborated designs; a multitude of carefully designed elements such as outdoor furniture, benches, fences, pavements and drains and manhole covers,
in the use of plant material, and in clashes of elements and typologies. Multifunctionality often has to do with combining user groups, activities and programmes within the same area, and is perhaps sometimes used more to pay lip-service than actually combing different functions in a way that may accommodate the user.

One may argue that multifunctionality and diversity and sensory stimuli always have been characteristics in landscape architecture projects reference the traditional nineteenth century urban parks where the use of mixed programmes and mixed age groups was common and regarded as a quality. One may also argue that diversity and arrays of different sensory stimuli were characteristic to the post-modern landscape architecture projects with their frequent use of quotations from former periods and styles in architectural history, carefully added together in a sort of eclectic patchwork design matrix. In both cases the results would obviously provide material for varied sensory stimuli and interpretations.
But I would argue that in contemporary landscape architecture sensory stimuli, diversity, heterogeneity are now understood and interpreted in a different manner than in the traditional urban parks of the nineteenth century and in the post-modern landscape architecture projects of the late twentieth. This has to do with current transformations of the actual landscapes, with the concept of landscape, and with the fact that we lack
both clear concepts and images of these evolving landscapes. Moreover, our models of perception and representation are in a process of transformation. In this process of transformation a searching and examination based on aesthetic perception seems to be characteristic. In the traditional nineteenth century urban parks the user moved around on promenade-paths looking and observing on a distance. The observed objects and phenomena were on display, maybe even commented by signs or could be interpret in accordance with current literature, paintings and other common cultural phenomena. Today the user is often invited to approach the different elements and phenomena with his or hers senses – there is an invitation to a bodily encounter with the surroundings, the designed elements and displayed phenomena, that is to smell, feel, touch, walk into, climb, dive into, lift, push etc. References to literature, paintings and other cultural phenomena seem to have been replaced by a more haptic and individualistic approach to the surroundings and landscape design.
Therefore it seems productive to discuss this focus on aesthetic perception in relation to tendencies in contemporary aesthetic theory, and to currents and tendencies in contemporary art, where specific issues may be discussed and examined separately and uncompromisingly without the obligation to consider and comply with the complexity of the built environment.

In the following I will try to focus the discussion on the claimed relationship between the interpretation of contemporary landscape architecture, modes of aesthetic perception in aesthetic theory, and currents in the contemporary art scene.
It is my premise that investigating the relationship between modes of aesthetic perception (discussed in aesthetic theory and examples in contemporary art projects) will enable us to better understand and define characteristics in a transforming concept of landscape and hence in contemporary landscape architecture, and hereby address the question of how interpretation might be processed.
It is also my premise that the individual collects the interplay between different sensory experiences (of both material and non-material aspects) into an entityan interpretation through an intellectual process, where the aesthetic experience that is obtained through sensory stimuli may be seen as the first step in a process of describing, and defining a contemporary concept of landscape and the contemporary landscapes which are evolving around us.

Aesthetic Theory – Atmospheres and Presence

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  Among the main figures in the more substantial discussion in aesthetics are both Gernot Böhme and Martin Seel. In the following I will try to address some of Gernot Böhme’s thoughts on aesthetic and spatial concepts in my argument that the interpretation of landscape architecture projects may be regarded as an interplay between different sensory experiences of both material and non-material aspects, and that the individual collects these aspects to an entityan interpretation through an intellectual process.

In Gernot Böhme’s comprehensive oeuvre on aesthetics, the term atmosphere[4] is used to apprehend perceived qualities of space. Böhme’s assumption is that atmospheres are produced through deliberate arrangements; their character, however can be defined only by the perceiving subject. The aesthetics of atmospheres then mediates between the aesthetics of production and that of reception, and as such it no longer maintains that the artistic activity is consummated in the creation of the work, but instead pertains to artistic activity that consists of the production of particular perceptions, or, that the various kinds of receptions experienced by the user plays a role in the production of the work itself.
Böhme defines the aesthetic phenomena as something in-between the object and the user, you might say as a third ephemeral part that comes into being in the interaction between time, situation, space, forms, materials and the user. Atmospheres are thus something quasi-objective that we experience and whose existence we can communicate with others. They can be produced through objective arrangements, but what they are must be felt by exposing oneself to them. Atmospheres then become manifestations of the co-presence of subject and object.
Böhme states,

"this liberates things and works of art from the form in which their own reception was embedded and considers them in their ecstasis, i.e. with respect to the way in which they alter spaces by their presence"[5]

in this way the aesthetics of atmospheres discover and emphasize space and spatiality, and the presence of the user.

Before relating Böhme’s thoughts on the process of interpretation, it should be mentioned that it seems important to distinguish between the author’s interpretation, for example the architect or the artist, and the user, when talking about the process of interpretation. Both categories are basically users, but the first is also a professional user who employs interpretation in his or her professional work besides just being a user of the environment. The interpretation by the professional user thus becomes intentional and representative. On the other hand the layman user’s interpretation of an environment would surely also be intentional, but for other reasons, such as social, in relation to specific activities that the layman user intended to perform or take part in at the specific place as lived space.

Böhme’s argument that the aesthetic perception produced in the interplay between user and the object, the “work,”
suggests that the sensory stimulation “recorded” via the aesthetic perception and apprehension, may be seen as the first step in the process of interpretation. The aesthetic perception may thus be regarded as a tool or vehicle for establishing a relation between the “work,” the site, the situation, and the user, and hence in the user’s interpretation of the specific landscape/environment.
One of Böhme’s references is to the theatre and the specific atmospheres that may evolve and be experienced during a play enacted in a theatre. These kinds of atmospheric experiences may be staged and controlled to a great degree. Here it seems relevant to underline that the staging and the control of specific atmospheric experiences that are sought, initiated in planning and landscape architecture, not at least in connection to outdoor space, is quite complex. The fact that a theatre play may be a one time experience, and therefore the impact, the interpretation, of a negative atmospheric experience might have on the individual’s everyday life, would not have a long-term effect. The same cannot be said of a poorly planned and designed outdoor space and environment.

Moreover, Böhme’s thoughts imply that we need to look upon, think about, give and interpret form and space in a different way than before. From focusing on what form or objects represent, we have to consider how something is present in space, and doing that we have to observe how something is present through our perception. The focus is thus on presentation and how we perceive that something is in its actual presence. The relationship between the “work” and the user, and the specific atmosphere, is then a spatial experience focusing on the co-existence of objects, forms, and subjects, and the specific atmospheres that evolve in this spatial entity.
Aesthetics as the theory of perception[6] may in this way be seen rehabilitated by Böhme, and sensory experiences are given a predominant role in creating, experiencing and interpreting environments and space. Böhme’s philosophy seems here to relate to a phenomenological approach and tradition in aesthetics, as we know it from Maurice Merleau-Ponty[7] and Gaston Bachelard[8].
One may then ask what impact these thoughts may have on a transforming concept of landscape and on the interpretation of landscapes and environments.
First, Gernot Böhme’s thoughts may imply that landscape, as space is not only to be understood as representational space but also as space of bodily presence,

"The space of bodily presence is essential to my bodily existence, since to be bodily present means to find oneself within an environment. [...] bodily presence is conceived as a state of being placed among things, and the order existing between things is understood as the order of their simultaneity, that is, of their reciprocal presence."[9]

As stated above landscape is by tradition regarded as an aesthetic object in landscape architecture and as a representational space, which we perceive through vision. Here the relationship between landscape painting and landscape architecture becomes obvious. Also the modes of representation used in landscape architecture emphasize the visual approach to landscape and landscape architecture projects even though they are executed as three-dimensional environments, which may also imply that the interpretation of a landscape risks being dominated by the visual impression of it, at least among the professional user trained and affected by this implicit understanding of the vision’s precedence. We here touch upon Vöckler’s ascertainment that we lack models of perception and representation adequate to describe, analyse and interpret the transformed landscapes. Lacking adequate models of perception and representation may in themselves be seen as a major obstacle in defining a contemporary concept of landscape.
Here the way aesthetic perception is used to examine different aspects and phenomena in contemporary art seems relevant to incorporate in the discussion.

"Contemporary arts seeks a solution to this crisis by offering us a new way of seeing, feeling, understanding, and accepting an universe in which traditional relationships have been shattered and new possibilities of relationship are being laboriously sketched out."[10]

Not to suggest that art alone is capable of solving this “crisis” that we seem to experience lacking defined concepts, and modes of perception and representation of a transforming landscape, but to encourage investigation of the issue by using the freedom of the arts in examing single phenomena in isolation.

Drifting on the Contemporary Art Scene

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  On the contemporary art scene one may observe an array of art projects, installations and “happenings” and “events” which are characterized by what may be described as a search for and examination of both models of perception and representation, and of an environment in transformation. Another common feature in these projects is the participatory aspect between the artist, the project and the user, where the project is sought established, negotiated and interpreted through a dialog between the artist, the project and the user.
A further characteristic for these projects concerning landscape, urban and environmental issues in a broad sense, is that aesthetic perception is used as a way to become acquainted with environments, phenomena and situations in environments that are beyond traditional definitions and form, and hence aesthetic perception is used as a methodology to describe and understand new forms of landscapes and cities, and environments.
In the following I will try to discuss examples by artists such as Studio E.U.[11], Stalker[12], Kai Vöckler[13], Boris Sieverts[14], who all use walking, moving (e.g. haptic sensing) and aesthetic perception in general as part of their artistic activity, as part of constituting their work, and as pivotal points in the process of interpretation.

I here prefer to use the term project instead of artwork to indicate the open and explorative character of these aesthetic and artistic activities, and also to refer to Umberto Eco’s thoughts on the process of interpretation and strategies for communication[15]. In his Opera Aperta Eco suggests that texts should be considered fields of meaning that can be open and dynamic, rather than finite works. The process of interpretation by the user, when engaging with and interpreting the text, may in this way be seen as a mode of constituting the text as a finite work. In describing the process of interpretation Eco refers to music and its performance as interpretation,
every reception of a work of art is both an interpretation and a performance of it, because in every reception the work takes on a fresh perspective for itself.[16]

Eco questions both the traditional concept of artworks known from and used in classical art historian terminology and also in architectural history, and the process of interpretation. Eco hereby added an important contribution to the phenomena and discussions on the art scene at that time concerning the relationship between the artist, the object and the user, and hence the interpretation of the art object, sometimes also including the institution (the art museum, art gallery, etc.)[17]. Also, issues concerning modernism and modernistic art and aesthetics were enthusiastically discussed.
These discussions initiated a shift, reflected on by Gernot Böhme, from an understanding of aesthetics of production as constituting both the art object and its interpretation, to a mediation between the aesthetics of production and that of reception. A further characteristic was a shift from interpretation as mainly an intellectual process based on a visual approach to a finite art object to the incorporation of the senses as implicated by the art project and, hence, incorporated in the user’s interpretation of the art project and the art experience.
New models of perception and interpretation of the art experience and the process of interpretation were in this way examined. Dialogue and participation were to become key words in these discussions.

Among the artists exploring and questioning new models of perception and interpretation, and using the aesthetic perception as an artistic praxis, was the artistic and political movement of the Situationist International. Between 1957 and 1972 the movement delivered a broadside attack on the Establishment on several levels, for example in their critique of the modernistic urban planning. Simon Sadler[18] describes the outset for the movement as,

"A nostalgic for a time when artists, architects and designers had pursued disparate, open-ended experiments; for a time when the conditions of modern life above all, the relationship between ”man and machine” had been addressed head-on; for a time when fundamental shifts in thought, like those engendered by Marx, Freud and Nietzsche, still felt fresh and vital; and for a time when general revolution was regarded as necessary, even inevitable."[19]

One could argue that this seems to be a rather past-oriented and future-denying approach, but it can also be seen as a defence of the individual, for imagination, dreaming and sensing. In their critique of the modernist city, the method of drifting (derive) was developed to describe and analyse factors affecting mood, behaviour and choice of route. While drifting through the city, the atmospheres, smells, noises, and the people and their activities were “recorded” through the senses of the drifter. The recorded material and the route itself were later used in a mapping and reconstruction of the city. The so-called psychogeographical method was regarded as, a sort of therapy, a fetishization of those parts of the city that could still rescue drifters from the clusters of functionalism, exciting the senses and the body.[20]

In a paradoxical way, this critique, exemplified in the above noted quotation, turned its back on the modernist city by seeking out qualities of common to the pre-modernistic city. An interpretation of the sensory potential of the modernist city was avoided or neglected.
The maps and the mappings produced as the outcome of drifting through Copenhagen and Paris[21] stand as some of the most fascinating urban projects produced by the movement. These projects were part of a more wide spread critique of the modern movement and of modernistic urban planning. Common to this critique was a searching for new ways of illustrating and addressing the social ecology of the city, professing an empathy with the habitual behaviour of the city’s lowly.[22]

The drift as a tool to relate to the environment is also used as an aesthetic and artistic praxis and art form by more contemporary artists such as Richard Long and Hamish Fulton[23], both using walking as their principal form of artistic activity and both displaying reflections on the present-day character of the English countryside in their approach and work. To Long, the walk in itself is to be considered the art project, documented on maps and in photos, but in some cases he also adds something to the landscapes he passes through on his walks, such as raising or placing stones to form a line displaying the passing through.

To Fulton, the walk does not equal the artwork the walk is the walk and the artwork is the framed photograph and text.[24]
The photographs are taken to evoke either the landscape he passes through or his state of mind while passing through, underlining the connection between movement, sense, mood and environment. Fulton never alters or adds something to the landscapes he passes through, and in this way he displays a conserving and a humble approach to the environment without any ambition to interact directly.
Common for both the Situationist International, Richard Long and Hamish Fulton use of aesthetic perception as an artistic praxis is, that it is a tool for the artists in describing, displaying and interpreting a relationship between man and urban/landscape environment.
The results of drifting and sensing are recorded and presented to the user as maps and/or photographs
the art project. The user might be encouraged to take a walk, to drift through a city, by looking at and reflecting on the project and its message. But the user’s access to the project is still mainly a visual and intellectual affair, which means that the parameters for interpretation of the art object will be based on the material presented by the author.
The material presented may thus still be defined as a traditional artwork where the artistic activity is consummated in the creation of the work.
The user might be encouraged to reflect and/or to do something, but has no say in constituting the artwork.

Moving from the Situationist International, Richard Long and Hamish Fulton to Studio E.U., Stalker and Boris Sieverts there are both some similarities and some differences. Movement, walking, drifting and aesthetic perception are still to be considered the basic approach in their artistic, urban and architectural ambitions and projects,[25] which includes mapping and photographic documentation. But one may also observe some differences at the methodological level, regarding the purpose and the notion of the project and in the vision of the user as having a much more participatory say in constituting the project, and in the interpretation of the project. On the methodological level, aesthetic perception and its imbedded potential to unfold and nuance the relationship between man and environment is refined into a methodological exploration aimed at going beyond traditional concepts and definitions, and in this way intending to explore a transforming landscape and urban environment and to, provoke public discussion and debate.[26]

Aesthetic perception as a methodological approach may then be seen as a means of defining new concepts and images, and suggesting adequate models of perception and representation directed towards city and landscape concepts in transformation. The artists are thus using their artistic skills and competence to describe, analyse and provide material for a public discussion on the contemporary landscape and urban environment. This does not suggest that the contemporary landscape and urban environment should be regarded and developed as art projects, but as a space of bodily presence.

Bodily space is the manner in which I myself am here and am aware of what is other than me
that is, it is the space of action, moods and perception.[27]
The aesthetic perception, common to all, is used as a mode of approach to the environment – to experience the environment
, preparing the ground for description and interpretation of the same environment, and hence to establish an analysis and a definition.
Boris Sieverts, in his Büro für Städtereisen,[28] takes a step further than Studio E.U. and Stalker in their Berlin Wall(K) project, in opening the process of mapping by incorporating the user directly. Sieverts organizes and plans the drift, the tour, but it is the user, the traveller, who is perceiving and doing the mapping during the tour. Where Studio E.U. and Stalker aimed at provoking a discussion on the process of transformation of space and identity along the tracé of the Berlin Wall by presenting their mapped tour, Sieverts short circuits this implicit and almost linear process of first formulating the problem, finding a suitable method to describe and analyze, mapping and presenting the result to the user and then initiating the discussion. The short circuiting is comprised of Sievert’s inclusion of the user into the process of description by stimulating the user’s own capacities of perception, and in this way enabling the discussion and the interpretation on site and in the given situation. Aesthetic perception is thus to be understood as an aesthetic of production, of relation, and of reception, emphasising the participatory aspects of the process of interpretation.

Summing up and Relating to Landscape Architecture

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  This discussion suggests that the process of interpretation, as shown by the references to both aesthetic theory and to the contemporary art scene for several years, has been questioned and examined through both theoretical and empirical examples initiating and emphasizing the user’s participatory role in the process of interpretation. In relation to the exemplified art projects, the user’s role is taken even further than just being an active participant in the process of interpretation. The user, in Büro für Städtereisen by Boris Sieverts, is an active part of producing the project, and thus to be regarded as mediating between the aesthetic of production and that of its reception. The relationship between artist, art project and user is in this way both reformulated and reconfigured; the process of interpretation is implemented within the process of producing, which in this way becomes an enacted process. A key point is the interplay between different sensory experiences by both the artist and the user, and it is this interplay that the individual collects to an entityan interpretation through an intellectual process, where the “material” provided by the sensory experiences are negotiated, discussed and interpreted. The aesthetic perception is thus to be considered as a methodology processing the interpretation.
The user is thereby given the possibility to interact with and perhaps even change the project. The process of constituting and interpreting the project becomes a two-way process: the user engaging in a project influences the project, as well as the experience influencing the user, and hence the interpretation of it. By basically focusing on the common perceptual capacities of the user and by enacting his projects in ordinary environments, Sieverts seems to reach out beyond a traditional art, architecture and planning audience. And, in emphasising the user’s individual sensory perceptions of the environment as an important part of the interpretation, the traditional relationship between sensory perception as seeing, hearing, smelling etc., and interpretation depending only on our intellectual capacities, is displaced in favour of the former. The interpretation thus becomes a process enacted between the artist, the situation and/or environment and the sensing user, where the presupposed and the actual, but non-material sensing by the user, is a key-point. The participatory aspect is thus to initiate a non-material
ephemeral in-between and multi-sensory experience of the user.

Turning back to Gernot Böhme’s thoughts on the space of bodily presence and aesthetics of atmospheres, he emphasizes the interplay between man and objects, and the atmospheres that are created in the interaction between space, objects and user. Böhme also emphasises that the apprehension of perceived qualities of space is an individual intellectual process, that the perceived qualities are processed intellectually by the individual, and that we are able to communicate the results of this process. In this respect, Böhme’s approach is more spatial than object-oriented, and as such his thoughts are interesting to planners and (landscape) architects concerned with spatial issues and how we understand, perceive and interpret environments such as transforming landscapes and urban environments.

It was stated in the introduction that the definition of the concept of landscape and actual landscapes are being transformed and replaced by new definitions and typologies for which we lack concepts and images. It was also stated that both our models of perception and representation seem inadequate to accommodate and deal with these transformations. Thirdly, it was also stated that, by
investigating the relationship between modes of aesthetic perception discussed in aesthetic theory and contemporary art projects, we could better understand and define characteristics in a transforming concept of landscape, and hence in contemporary landscape architecture, hereby addressing the question of how interpretation might be processed.

Relating this to the field of landscape architecture, one may observe that, after generally being regarded as a design discipline, the planning and structural potential in landscape architecture was rediscovered and reformulated according to renewed environmentally concerned urban agendas in the 1980s. In this period several trans-disciplinary projects[29] were pointing more and more directly towards in-between space and landscape architecture as perhaps the most interesting and potent field for dealing with contemporary urban and spatial issues. Some of these projects raised questions regarding the modernist notion of space, where the relationship between figure and ground as reflecting a dynamic interplay of form-masses and space-volume,[30] were given priority as the main agent in space.
But do we have an articulated contemporary spatial concept to replace this?
Different modes and approaches to this question have been addressed and discussed, several of them relating to discussions on theoretical aspects in the psychology of perception and virtual reality.
Representing these discussion one may point out two modes;
the one called the Ecological mode, named by James J. Gibbson and based on a redefinition of the psychology of perception. In Gibbson’s view, man is not only part of his surroundings through sight but also a point of departure, as presupposed in the modernist concept of space. Man is moving around among the various elements in space of which some are of the same movable kind like himself, and others like buildings, trees, mountains etc. are stationary. Gibbson’s theory seems to relate to,

"the Baudelairian hero of modernity, the dandy strolling about in the city mingling in the anonymous mass of people in their busy activities. But it might as well be an attitude symptomatic of the beholder in his spatial relation of himself to the elements of the installations or ’sculpture in the expanded field’ to use Rosalin Krauss’s definition."[31]

The other mode is related to cyberspace and virtual reality with their incorporeal transparency. Some argue that our surroundings already have been influenced by virtual reality and that this influence has,

"managed to suck from the urban and natural surroundings, all dimensions and all volume of form and space [and that we as an impact from here] increasingly [will] experience our surroundings in a kind of underwater mode of vision, as if living in a wrapped-in and consequently ungraspable reality, a gigantic project in the manner of Christo."[32]

Common to both modes is the description of large scale space, not as a defined and articulated space, but as a spatial entity that we cannot get a distance from and which therefore seems ungraspable as an object and, to some, even horrifying.
To me this refers to landscape understood and experienced as an entity without an outside or facade where the relation between objects is prior to the objects themselves.
But also that the relationship between man and environment today manifests itself in a more direct, bodily, and haptic mode than the more distanced modes suggested in both the ecological and the transparent approaches.
This more bodily and haptic approach towards the environment relates to Böhme’s thoughts on the space of bodily presence, where interaction between time, situation, objects, forms, materials, and the individual user moving about in it and sensing it are characteristic. It thus seems more promising to investigate and develop Böhme’s theoretical thoughts on the relationship and interaction between man and the environment, than trying to define the contemporary and transforming concept of landscape as an absolute space in a traditional sense.

Rosalind Krauss’s related paradigm, set forth in ”sculpture in the expanded field” wherein art projects are discussed as landscapes beyond the scale of an object, seems to support this ”haptic turn” in the approach towards both art projects and the ordinary environment as well as with landscape architecture projects. This expanded haptic approach is reflected on and explicitated in Böhme’s work on Atmosphere as an Aesthetic concept, and Space of Bodily Presence.
The ”haptic turn” describes a shift from man as an observing and intellectual contemplating spectator to an engaged physical encounter with the environment where bodily interaction on different levels is characteritic. Just looking, observing and reflecting seems no longer to be a satisfying mode of relating to environment and landscape, and hence to reflect on and interpret landscapes and environments. The mode of relating to, and thus to interpret, is today expanded by the other sensorial capabilities by the user, where the different sensorial experiences obtained by doing are collected and refleceted on in an intellectual process by the user.

Secondly Eco’s concept of the open work and his process of interpretation, as
a reception, an interpretation, and a performance, defines a contemporary concept of landscape and develops adequate modes of perception and representation. Acknowledging this suggests that this dynamic process of reception, interpretation and performance as constituting factors may add valuable understandings in describing and defining a contemporary concept of landscape and of landscape architecture projects. But also that theses projects are designed in such a way that to a certain degree openness to individual interpretation is maintained.
And thirdly, it emphasizes the aesthetic perception and interaction between both “author” and user, and the environment as a promising and potential point of departure in describing, analysing and in the process of the interpretation of contemporary concepts of landscapes and the contemporary landscapes which are evolving around us.



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