Landscapes – The inter relationship of Greens and Built
The popular notion when someone says landscape is gardens and parks, however as metropolitan cities spread wider and wider and become more fragmented, it is time to ask ourselves whether trees and lawns are the only landscapes, or do they comprise of something more? Landscape is officially defined as “all the visible features of an area of land, often considered in terms of their aesthetic appeal.” In that context, the physical form of any environment on Earth can be termed as landscape.
A wide umbrella is created when we use the word Landscape, so is there one simple way to look at it. If we were to determine how and what comes under landscape, where does it start, where does it end, does it comprise of everything we see until the horizon starting from where we stand, or does it only include certain bits and parts of what we perceive?
It is well known that the term ‘Landscape’, prioritizes places more than humans, which have led to increasing use of the terms ‘skyline’, ‘cityscape’, ‘environments’ etc. Albeit, the fact is that these landscapes have a constant influence by humans, be it in cities or in nature. Landscape also remains more or less a visual term, when in actuality it is more a sensory phenomenon, experienced not only through eyes, but also smell, sound, touch and interactions. For this reason, human involvement is so necessary, as animals too view landscapes, but it is humans who actually experience it.
Landscape also remains more of an aesthetic term, leading one to believe that it can only be used in the matters of gardens or parks, however, functionality and logical reasoning is as beautiful as colors and fragrances. In Chinese Architect Ma Yansong’s words, “We try to turn buildings into landscapes, defying the idea of Modernism which sees nature and buildings as two distinct elements.” In this context, buildings are not a part of landscape, but what emerges from it.
The concept of urban planning and the various modern categories that it is subdivided in, can be emphasized as the study of built landscapes and how they function. If we imagine an entire city, as a singular plot, say a house, we might see that the whole map presents itself as a giant landscape, complete with trees and shrubbery, water bodies, proportionate buildings and roadways, connections and infrastructure. What are these, if not built landscapes?
These built landscapes are composed of patterns of streets, blocks and parcels of land, buildings and related infrastructure at the scale of urban regions or even bigger. It is tricky though how these landscapes are read, as laymen can only perceive it through maps or plans, however at eye level they seem completely different. It is difficult, thus to explain why this collage of buildings stands and acts in a certain way to the common man, who only witnesses them in a singular way. These techniques however, of developing built landscapes, are not singular, in fact they are common worldwide, working on the same principles and incorporating and solving the same issues.
These landscapes form the everyday of our lives, where we associate and relate to these environments which are make our life easy and comfortable. The design of these built landscapes thus monopolize our ability to reach our goals, whether that be of societal living, defining our civic life and giving us a sense of place and community. In order to enhance these urban fabrics further, to cultivate a greater understanding of man and how we can function better and connect more effectively to our surroundings, many researchers evaluate the nature and consequences of urban form and how it affects our psyche. As Jan Gehl outlines, “Cultures and climates differ all over the World but people are the same. They’ll gather in public if you give them a good place to do it.”
Author: Jamila Sidhpurwala
Jamila is one part artist, two parts foodie, and all parts traveler. She is a patron of good art and design and loves to immerse herself in books and music. Simplicity and minimalism is her motto as an architect. A writing enthusiast, she surrounds herself with all things creative. She actively shuns all “ists” and “isms” and firmly believes in a “no – label” world! She isn’t afraid to take risks, speak her mind, push forward and challenge preconceptions. She is currently pursuing Masters in Architecture at the University of Liechtenstein.