Monday, 29 November 2010

simulacrum - a collaboration- Le cadavre exquis

A lot of our studio exercises involve collaborative group work. Sometimes, work from one table is passed to another and augmented, as with the previous session's mind-mapping exercises.

All of which put me in mind of the surrealist game, Le cadavre exquis [exquisite corpse], an exercise in creativity similar to consequences. I embarked on a similar exercise this summer whilst a member of a short story group, write club

Each week members were given titles and were tasked with the production of 1000 new words corrresponding to said title. I have posted quite a few of mine on this site (you'll have to go back to July, or have a look at the write club website). As the weeks progressed, some of the members began to experiment with other formats, with a friend of mine (who- until she decides to make her public entrance- shall remain anonymous) producing a collage, pictured below, for the title "simulacrum".
(hopefully my friend won't be annoyed about me putting it here because it is already published on the write club page)

I produced a fairly standard sub sci-fi romance which you can read here

She played with the idea of the copy of a copy (simulacrum, simulacra...) equisitely, so decided to spontaneously produce my own simulacrum...

I then scanned- lo res , grayscale [sic]- and returned to my collaborator to deconstruct and reassemble, only to be rescanned and sent back to me...


of a copy


... a copy


Without permission from my anonymous collaborator I cannot yet publish the full extent of the project, but hopefully that will soon be forthcoming and I'll be able to share them here.

Friday, 26 November 2010

landscape awards speech - Ian McMillan

If you haven't listen to this, please do so. Ian McMillan has such a wonderful turn of phrase and to hear him speak in front of the landscape institute is magic.


Great observations on landscapes of myth... very funny man, too.

studio sessions - alternative/educational/connective/

This Monday's studio session was shorter than usual as we were due to present our survey analysis of Calverley Grounds and Royal Tunbridge Wells. Once again we were thrown together in a group, though there was a little bit of a reshuffle. I found myself with Alick, Grant, Isabel, Lili, and Toby scanning through EDAW's design proposal for Jubilee Gardens before attempting to verbally summarise their master plan document.

Aija and Karen joined us for a mind-mapping exercise, exploring the word "educational". Neighbouring groups further explored the words "connective" and "alternative" before exchanging and augmenting each mind map. The resulting composite word webs presented an exciting palimpsest of concepts and interpretations. I'll upload them as soon as I can figure out how to extract the images from my phone.

It transpires that these three words will form the basis of the master plan scenario(or scenarios):


Anyway, there's a bit more but I shall save for another post.

Oh, the sketch? Yeah- it's a panorma of Royal Tunbridge Wells from Gibraltar Cottage.]


Tuesday, 23 November 2010

les savy fav - patty lee

After the anxieties of Monday evening's presentation some serious alcohol was needed. Thank you, Camden town. But it was not enough. Fortunately I had the foresight, several months ago, to buy a ticket for Les Savy fav at the electric ballroom!


Here's the video for Patty lee

Friday, 19 November 2010

studio session - 1st November/ warm up for master planning

I'm having a break from place and culture and thought I'd run up some images from an exercise we did on 01.11.10.

All images courtesy Alick Nee

This relates to the SEQUENCE & RHYTHM compositions we produced prior to the class, but after completing the master planning workshop (see posts a & b) the purpose of this preceding exercise is beginning to crystallise.

In groups of four we shared our sketchbook images and selected our favourite.

We went with Alick's hopscotch diagram- on the basis that it illustrated rhythm especially well:

Next, some brainstorming *sorry* mind mapping concerning the word "rhythm".

Always a good ideas springboard, right?

Taking 5 words from the mind-map (aren't all maps mental?) we then produced a conceptual master plan of a park/ landscape experience...

Conceptually, this was a series of interlinked spaces of oscillating size (creating rhythm) to be experienced in a linear-but-circular fashion (progression- like a spiral or an elliptical narrative)... the path can be repeated in a circular manner different textural experiences were granted via the different planting in each area.

Believe it or not, there was an underlying theme to all of this! The ascent up the hill represented the journey through life (uh... hence death hole..)

As in life, you can just end up going round and around in the same circle without getting anywhere...

...or you can climb up to the very top.

It could also be a comment on the cycle of death and rebirth...

I was nominated to speak on behalf of the group.

In a classic Jamie twist, everyone nominated for this role was asked to only talk about how the words fitted into the design, whilst a second group member (in this case Imogen) was asked to described the design.

We were then tasked with producing a map of our survey site from memory:

Not bad at all, really- mainly due to Imogen, I think. My contribution was a few street names, a railway line that's actually underground and a misaligned north-point: something no-one seemed to notice- I've only realised now. I'm much more familiar with the site than I was a few weeks ago.

Our final task was to apply the key words from the previous exercise to Royal Tunbridge Wells, to redesign the site.

Naturally time constraints meant this was by no means the finished master plan for RTW- reverting the town centre to a series of interlinked, transitional green zones.

The biggest challenge was in attempting to explain our concept to the member of another team- who then had to present on our behalf.

Perhaps the lesson of this is that a good concept must be easy to communicate- and must correspond with the plan...

the map is NOT the territory (or is it)... but the medium is the message...

anaïs nin

I read a really sad but beautiful quote from Anaïs Nin yesterday:

"Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don't know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of withering, of tarnishing."

I don't know much about her other than she was born in France and wrote the preface to Tropic of Cancer.

Google her I guess.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

studio session - master planning workshop 1b (SAGALAND)

I like Mondays.
The nine o'clock start may be less than ideal, but I really like the studio environment, the exercises and the sharing of work and ideas.
Feel like we have a good group this year. Reminds me of first year when we'd all gather with the certificate students and crit our Greenhithe/site design work.

Anyway, enough nostalgia.
What perhaps reminded (or remound...) me the most was the exercise below- a large sheet of newsprint, divided into eight rectangles, into which we had to make a quick diagram/sketch based upon a key word.

Beneath, we have formal:



unsymmetrical [sic (- and I have checked this! There is no such word! Still, asymmetry has other connotations I suppose... and I was totally off with the in saying a grid must be symmetrical)]


(always end up drawing amoebae- or plant cells without the detail)


(coz someone said "nature has no straight lines"- bullshit)



(yeah, here's an asymmetric grid:)

This series of exercises was- I suppose- reproducing classic organisational structures.
Next, we had to produce quick sketches to more detailed instructions.

Asymmetric grid - orchard

A grid is a logical organiser for an orchard. I went with a hexagonal framework- trick to render asymmetrical! The asymmetry was in the random placing- sometimes at nodes, sometimes node left empty.

Grid - points- focus

With points on a grid I thought density could indicate or command focus- a dense cluster of points draws attention to that area. Conversely, a point in isolation also invites attention.
Interesting because I decided to exaggerate the focal points. Nailing the point a bit, ay?
Some discussion about points- all I could think of was the novel flatland...
A point has position but no extension. It is defined by its co-ordinates.

Path - linear - sequence

Linear does not mean straight!
It just means possessing one dimension, so it can curve all over the place...
The fluctuations create the sequence, statuary is placed to emphasise this.

And lastly, a bit of culinary master planning:


1 Pie
5 Potatoes
3 Carrots
100 Peas

When I was asked to draw this I was reminded of a famous adage:
"The map is not the territory; the menu is not the meal"

I think this is a particularly apt subtitle for any exercise in master planning...

...also another case of curious coincidence, which I shall discuss below.

Michel Houellebecq has just published a new novel.
It is called La Carte et le territoire
(The map and the territory)

His first bestseller was les particules élémentaires.
This was translated as Atomised.
I think of molecular man, the body without organs, crossing the urban landscape- deterritorialised and primal.

But I digress...

The map is not the territory, the menu is not the meal.

The plate contains all the elements- it is the existing topography.
We then impose various elements on top of this, following some underlying organisational structure (in this case, a pea-grid), but obeying some predetermined rules as to how the elements are supposed to interrelate.

Split into groups, we began to embark on our final master planning exercise for the day.
Neil, Adele, Susan, Jim and I were tasked with creating a master plan for a theme park.
The master plan would consist of 1 A1 sheet with a site plan and 1 A1 sheet of text.

The master plan should consist of:

1. Organisational structure
2. A thematic concept
3. Spatial hierarchy and character
4. Description of the experience we are looking to induce
5. What assumptions have been made

We had to name 3 big ideas behind the plan

Okay, so we settled on a theme park for the elderly.

This gave us a thematic concept (and a "Big idea")
The organisational structure we utilised was a surgical glove.
The palm of the hand acts as a central node with meeting places and shops- all other areas radiate away from this, and offer different experiences (same size, apart from the central finger, which is a pier)
Our aim was to create an environment that is fun, sociable, stimulating, safe, comfortable and a little nostalgic for our target demographic without patronising them.

Our three big ideas were:

1. The theme itself- a theme park for the elderly, not for children and/or families
2. Sympathetic to the needs and desires of our target demographic without being patronising
3. Off road mobility scooter circuit- the first of its kind?

I think we responded well to the exercise.
I hope you will come and visit us at Sagaland... maybe not now, but certainly in a few years.
We'll be waiting for you

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Yellow Velo by Donovan - Fixed Gear and the landscape...

On your left is a pretty weak photograph of my one true love by my comrade, the hanging gardener of babylon. No, not Cornus alba 'Elegantissima'... the nimble-looking yellow velo perched on the wall of an expensive west London home (not my home, I hasten to add).

I've always enjoyed cycling but last year my flatmate introduced me to riding fixed gear. I had no idea of the broader cultural context back then- nor how "trendy" it had become (and how many people were starting to despise them!- have a look at latfh, but be warned: the funnier you find this, the more of a hipster you secretly are...).

At the end of the last academic the very same flatmate and I assembled a fixed gear bike of my own, using a Puch frame and forks acquired on ebay for a knock down price. Things haven't really been the same since.

All bikes grant the cyclist the freedom of the city: gliding through congested traffic, across an array of surfaces, on and off road, through traffic-control mechanisms... but none quite grant the same connectivity between surface-mechanism-user. The fixed gear means you never stop pedalling- every inch travelled is the result of an action on your part. This also means that you can pedal backwards (really hard).

For a landscape architect, there is an application of this mode of transport at the survey stage, particularly over a large area. The nature of locomotion on a fixed gear means the rider is even more aware of the surface material, gradient and topography than a conventional bike- especially as fixed wheels are usually thin-tyred racers with no suspension . There is no option to improve the gear ratio on a steep climbs- nor to gently freewheel downhill!

There is another note to this- most of us in the GD3FDLA3 studio are embarking on the first step towards professional recognition as landscape architects or garden designers. Though there is a broad range of ages, I would say that the we are all reasonably fit and active individuals. At the very least we are able bodied. It is hard to put oneself in the position of an old lady with a trolley, a wheel chair user or a young mother with a pram- all of whom have personal needs and requirements but similar responses mechanisms to the built environment.

Anyone who has ever had to drag a sack barrow or laden trolley over long, unnecessary distances will know how acutely aware one becomes of the ground beneath their feet- the change in texture or gradient, the challenge of kerbs. This is perhaps the best way to empathise with other site users- drag a shopping trolley around, or borrow someones pram (and baby) for the day. It's not as practical (nor as fun) as riding a bike around though, is it?

I think I'm trying to shoe-horn this most recent passion into one of my longer established ones (urban exploration and psychogeography)... but I had a bit of satori last night, hurtling over London Bridge, everything illuminated, a feeling of utter nothingness and wholeness simultaneously, the bike was part of me and I it, the road became the bike became me...

Probably had a lot to do with the 13 miles I had cycled at high speed on an empty stomach.

sustainable stool

Sustainability is a stool (for sitting on) with three legs.

studio session: master planningworkshop 1a

So now I have all the necessary images I'm ready to talk about the master planning workshop.
We began by arranging four objects- circle, line, rectangle and inorganic blob- within an arbitrary oblong boundary drawn upon the page.
There were no other instructions, so everyone was free to arrange them as they saw fit.
Think I was trying to be a constructivist...
Next task was to sketch out the same four objects following a line of symmetry:

I wasn't feeling that adventurous. It was interesting to see how different everyone's compositions were- some were concentric, others didn't really obey the line of symmetry at all.

The first exercise there were no considerations- just elements to arrange.

The second exercise introduced a restriction.

The THIRD exercise introduced a brief- to produce a plan incorporating a house, a deck, a lawn, a garage and a hot tub- just a quick, gesture diagram...

We had a few minutes to produce the sketch plan.

Upon finishing, we were asked to write down what assumptions we had made when producing the plan:

I assumed the garage would join the house to facilitate access.

The deck would connect to the house as a transition between house and garden.

The hot tub would be close to the house (useful on cold nights, no?)

The hot tub would be circular to accommodate larger groups of people.

The lawn would be circular to reflect the tub...


Seems I made a lot of assumptions without realising.

I assumed North was at the top, but did not include a north point.

I assumed the site was in the Northern Hemisphere and would benefit from a south facing garden.

I assumed the road would be located at the top of the page.

I made no real assumptions about the client.

I did not really consider the site topography

The next exercise was to plan a site for a hotel, incorporating hotel, car park, pool deck, tennis courts, restaurant and service yard.

This time we were told there was a road at the top of the page and the sea at the bottom.

This time we were told to write down our assumptions as we planned the site:

I decided the hotel would be located in sunny Southend-on-sea, with a gentle slope away from the Esplanade down into the muddy Thames Estuary via some imported sand.

This gave me a north point and some contours. Hooray!

I assumed the service yard would have to be near to the road but screened from residents.

I wanted the pool deck to be shielded from the road.

The restaurant should have a good view of the sea (beautiful sunsets over the estuary...)

The car park would be close to the road and obscured from residents view...

At the exercise's conclusion, there were still some basic errors...

Had a considered the hotel's clientele?

Why had I put the hotel by the road?

Why was the service yard so far from the restaurant?

How big is this site?

The main lesson of this exercise was to realise that there are always other options- the first idea is never final. For instance, about three people (Toby Witham amongst them) opted for an underground car park. Everyone wished they'd thought of that...

The hotel, set back from the road, could have a very long drive up to it...

It would be nice to have another go at these exercises having picked up some valuable lessons from the studio session!

The final exercise was to design the site for a country house.

Once more, the road was located at the top of the page.

The following elements had to be included:

main house

kitchen garden




lawn and gardens

lodge/ gatehouse

Again I sketched out my assumptions:
North will be at the top of the page.
The oblong shall be 450 x 300m.
The site will slope from North-east to south-west.
Kitchen garden should be in full sun.
Gatehouse would be near road.
Formal drive up to house with formal layout
Glasshouses adjoined to house and kitchen garden.
Stables will be near kitchen gardens (for manure).
Stables will face east so the horses will be woken by the rising sun (seriously).
And... yeah... did okay, but did not consider the prevailing south westerly wind blowing the smell of the stables into the house!
In england, most stables are located to the north-east of the house for this reason.
Furthermore, why did I go for a traditional design?
Can a country house not be contemporary?
And so we learned a lesson.
Master planning follows logic
So we do not have to make assumptions, we survey- this acts as a checklist that enables us to consider several aspects of the site before we begin planning.
Size, topography, microclimate... everything up to and including the users of the site, the target demographic.
This provides us with a framework upon which we can hang our design.
The master plan has a specific aim- eg. to create a 21st Century Park has several objectives which help achieve the aim- eg. to incorporate a community woodland within the park
...the plan develops strategies to achieve the objectives eg. invite members of the local comunity to participate in a tree planting scheme
All of these facets of the master plan must be unified as part of some broader vision- of the designer, of the client or of both. So, in the example given above the 21st Century Park might be part of the Mayor of London's scheme to improve the quality of London's green spaces. This might dovetail with the designer's ambition to revolutionise landscape design.
The summary confused me a little- there seemed to be a lot of overlap between aims, vision and objectives. Does anyone else have a better way of explaining this? Am I at least half right? Has anyone actually read this far?
Okay- we broke for lunch, so I will break likewise and post the rest of the exercise/ workshop on another blog entry.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

sketchbook doodles

Deleuze and Guattari... I'm getting deleuzional...
Think I mentioned that reading Anti-Oedipus has started to affect my doodles.
Notice below: actual work is small sketch plan in centre:

Then I thought I best go with it and see where it ends up:

Plug-in landscape?
The planting diagram for the stanley blade (blades of grass- geddit?) upset me.
It upset me so much I cycled to hackney downs.
Breathing slowly, I did this timed sketch of the park at sunset (3 mins):

Then I went home and tried not to read anything about "bodies without organs".
I cooked sausages and mash and watched television.

Friday, 12 November 2010

masterplanning - rough concept diagrams

The task from the last studio session (1st November) was to prepare some rough conceptual master plans of existing sites.

I started with Hackney Downs- my preferred park in which to run. A little larger than Calverley grounds but with a much less dramatic topography.

The park is arranged radially with a central activity node and a perimeter walkway.

It is worth noting that this park possesses relatively few physical barriers- it is therefore impossible to seal at night.

Open 24 hours a day, use fluctuates between families, winos, runners, youths and amateur sports teams (football, basketball and cricket).

Time is the decisive factor in determining which group takes ownership- but with 24 hour access, there are plenty of downs to go around...

SO: Calverley Grounds. My first attempt at a diagram is
illustrated on the right... there's a few more to come. Given that this is our present survey site thought it best to produce a diagram and refine it, so had a few goes.

There was another element to the studio assignment: to find a site of equivalent size (area) as a point of comparison.. with a perimeter of 916m and an area of 4.4 Hectares, the Olympic stadium at Stratford (future West Ham ground!) would just about squeeze in... not yet on google earth but same aerial shots are out there.

The stadium will hold 80,000 spectators (assuming everyone turns up)- worth considering if Calverley Grounds attempt a serious events programme... Tunbridge Wells Festival anyone?

Interesting fact, fact lovers: the Olympic Stadium was designed by Peter Cook (not the dead comedian), formerly of Archigram.

Not interesting? I hope this means that mid way through the tournament giant legs will emerge from beneath the stadium and carry everyone off to another part of the UK so everyone gets a chance to see what's going on in the raw. Y'know, like those archigram mobile city structure. No?
Did you not do Theory of Site and City? Lucky you...

I did a whole series of Calverley master plan sketches (not fresh designs, I hasten to add, just schematics of existing site plan)... this is the most successful I reckon, in that It gives an idea of the topography without going into unnecessary detail.

Please ignore the extraneous images dotted around... I'm reading Anti-Oedipus for some dissertation inspiration and weird stuff keeps creeping into my doodling... I'll post these, too... when I can remember...

The site I was really keen to work on was Jubilee Gardens. Fate decided I'd survey Royal Tunbridge Wells and it might be wise to stick with the Calverley Grounds, given the amount of work that went into it... but Jubilee Gardens is an opportunity to transform a really useless bit of land in one of my favourite parts of London into something really exciting.

Really quick master plan of site below...

Last of all, my impression of the Park de la Villette, which a) forms the exemplar site for my dissertation and b) I am also supposed to be talking about for Tom Turner's history and philosophy of garden design...

I haven't been there (yet) and it's very much bigger than the preceding sites detailed... I've also done a little sketch of a folie for you to enjoy. Was half asleep watching American Dad as I was drawing it- consequently, the word folie now reminds me of the CIA. Weird.

Think everyone else seems to know more about this place than me. I think the plan itself is very exciting, but am inclined to agree with Tom's summation in City as Landscape- the wide patches of empty lawn are a wasted design (and ecological) opportunity, despite the exciting theory behind the overall site plan.

I think this sketch does give a clear impression of the site though. So rah for me.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

continuous line drawing

I hate playing the catch up game:
It's all very well doing what was done in the studio...'s just not as fun on your own.

I took two of my models from the conceptual exercise.
Drew quick sketches of them without removing pencil from paper.
The pencil images scanned badly so had to be adjusted on photoshop,
now they look like pen drawings.

Pen scans better.
Already knew that.

Pen is better for continuous line drawing:

Line confidence must improve!

Model Work...

More work that I have to catch up on from those early studio sessions.

I received conflicting advice from my colleagues as to what we were supposed to do for this piece of studio work, so kind of improvised... bearing in mind that I did a similar exercise in the Landscape Basic Design course from the first year.

Actually, a lot of the studio sessions seem to repeat this work- but it's great to revise and see where I've improved (or haven't).

Anyway, the task was to create three models (quickly), each from an A3 sheet of cartridge paper, built around a concept.

Each concept was developed from word-string- this is where there was a lot of contradiction from my fellow students! Serves me right for missing classes I suppose...

In the end I went with Shiyuan's choices as she seemed to have the most successful crack at the models.

So: this is supposed to be planar and texture...

Next, sequential volumes and pierced:

The idea for this being that a string of volumes have been connected by this long ribbon which has pierced each of them. I still have this model, might try taking some better pictures of it...

"How is it down there?" she rasped between quick, delighted breaths...

And so, finally: soft/hard, connection & planar...

Sort of looks like a medieval city, but in the future. And shit.

Next step is to create some interesting montages from these and then compose them professionally on an A1 sheet... looking forward to that....


So I had a look around Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park yesterday to look at Anish Kapoor's World Turned Upside Down: four "incorporeal" sculptures. Allow me to- ahem- reflect...

Red sky mirror was my favourite piece.
Principally, due to colour.
Its position , hovering above another reflective surface contributed to its unreality.
The waterfowl also created a more dynamic image- flying and swimming in front of, behind and in the reflective surface of the mirror.
I failed to capture this convincingly!

These photographs were taken at about two o'clock (or just before)- but there's a real dusk feeling to them, think because of the overcast skies.

All about layers and layers and layers and layers...

This one I enjoyed much less:

I think it was less successful as there was no real opportunity for interaction-
from wildlife as with the sky mirrors or really from people.

It is called non-object (spire)

Not visible in this photograph is the Russian security guard lurking behind the almost invisible barrier fencing the piece off from the grubby-handed public. He was a real menacing presence.

Then, Sky Mirror- massive, 10m polished stainless steel lens.:

I think this is the same as the one that was briefly installed at the Rockefeller centre.

What is interesting- from a landscape perspective- is how fresh and invigorating these interventions are. Though probably costly in execution, the concept is really very very simple.

C-Curve succeeded in bringing the landscape into play most fully- not least because it dragged people into play as much as moire traditional landscape elements like Kensington's Trees. What is space without people? Does a space exist if there is no-one there to experience it?

Space is people. People are performance, people are event. With this in mind, the best public art is that which encourages people to perform, to interact... short to define space by creating an event.

Should this not be the objective of all manufactured landscapes?

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