Out There: Landscape Architecture on Global Terrain

Lima, city in the desert: aerial view of informal settlements encroaching the foothills of the Andes Mountains in Lima, 2012 / image: © Evelyn Merino-Reyna, Lima

An exhibition devoted to landscape architecture in global development entitled Out There (in Germen, Draußen)” is being held at the Architekturmuseum der TU München through August 20, 2017. Having frequently showcased the social relevance of architecture in recent years, the museum’s focus now shifts to a discipline with the potential to have a far wider impact on the use of land. The exhibition aims to give the public a deeper understanding of the changing concepts and strategies of landscape architecture in the present, and at the same time, to clarify its growing importance for the future. Landscape architecture today is dedicated to the spatial systems that will shape the society of tomorrow.

Though from as far afield as Spain, China, Rwanda, and South America, all ten projects featured in the exhibition share a primary focus on exploration. They do not claim any finality in the complex and unpredictable situations relating to the rapid urbanization of very diverse cultural geographies. This focus illustrates how there can be no panaceas or universally-applicable best practices. In all case studies, process and stakeholders determine the content, and not the other way around.

For example, the case study in Medellín, Colombia examines natural hazards such as landslides, which are intensified by climate change and predominately affect the lowest income groups in the city’s informal settlements. The collaborative landscape strategies offer those affected an improvement in their overall living situation, through a landslide warning system, slope stabilization, added amenities, and phasing.

View of Medellín from La Cruz, 2014 / image: © Marcus Hanke, Institut für Landschaftsarchitektur, Leibniz Universität Hannover

At the exhibition opening last month, the museum’s director, Andres Lepik, said in his opening remarks that, “Forty-five years after the publication of The Limits to Growth, the pioneering book by the Club of Rome, this situation has barely changed, while political structures have adapted to the situation in only a few cases…’America First’ is the most recent and cynical slogan for a national egoism that does not want to apprehend that humankind as a whole bears responsibility and must act together since there are no replacement planets, even for those who deny the facts.”

The exhibition’s opening night on April 26, 2017. Exhibition design: OFICINAA architektur+städtebau, Silvia Benedito, and Alexander Häusler / image: © Chih-Wei G.V. Chang

From the exhibition’s website:

In the public perception, landscape architecture seems still to be determined by the desire to plan for harmony between the burgeoning advance of cities, on the one hand, and nature, on the other. But this idea ceased long ago to reflect the current state of a discipline that, in the face of the radical transformation of our planet, has since evolved in a more analytic, critical direction. The premise of the exhibition ‘out there’ is that in the early 21st century there is no corner of the earth left in which the effects of urbanization, massive exploitation of fossil fuels, growing mobility, and the unchecked changes to ecological systems, as well as the consequences of increasing migration, cannot be felt. The exhibition presents ten illustrative cases from across the world that vividly portray the interaction and systematic interdependency of the city and its surrounding environment, water cycles, and real conditions both local and global…

The teams’ analysis draws upon a range of academic tools and disciplines, such as sociology and ethnology. The real case studies effectively collate systems of knowledge specific to the respective locality, which is then verified in close cooperation with the local project partners working in the field. This is undertaken prior to any consideration being given to possible transformative elements or architectural measures.

The exhibition is a joint production between the Architekturmuseum der TU München and the following project partners:

  • Undine Giseke, specialist in landscape architecture and open-space planning, Technische Universität Berlin, with Kathrin Wieck, Lucas Hövelmann, and David Aerni (curatorial team), and Jutta Henglein-Bildau (photography)
    Projects: Casablanca, Morocco; Kigali, Rwanda
  • Regine Keller and Johann-Christian Hannemann, Chair of Landscape Architecture and Public Space, Technische Universität München (Munich), with Ines Hoffmann, Laura Loewel, Felix Lüdicke, and Florian Rüger (curatorial team)
    Projects: Cañada Real Galiana, Spain; Onaville, Haiti
  • Jörg Rekittke, National University of Singapore (from July 2016, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) with Philip Paar and Yazid Ninsalam
    Projects: Bali and Jakarta, Indonesia
  • Antje Stokman, Institute for Landscape Planning and Ecology, University of Stuttgart (from April 2017, HafenCity University Hamburg) with Eva Nemcova, Marius Ege, and Xing Xu (curatorial team)
    Projects: Changde, China; Lima, Peru
  • Christian Werthmann, specialist in landscape architecture and design, Leibniz University Hanover with Evelyn König (coordination), Lisa Seiler, Joseph Claghorn, Marcus Hanke, and Heike Schäfer
    Projects: Medellín, Colombia; São Paulo, Brazil
Panel discussion on April 27, 2017 / image: © Chih-Wei G.V. Chang
Panel discussion on April 27, 2017 / image: © Chih-Wei G.V. Chang

In the evening of the opening day, all five teams held a round table discussion about the exhibition, and advocated that contemporary landscape architecture has to respond to the challenges of global migration to cities that is characterized by social injustice, spatial inequalities, and political instability. With all of these collaborators and contributors, the exhibition can therefore be understood as a report on how European landscape architects address the challenges of globalization within their fields of work, how they integrate diverse cultural contacts—bringing in ideas from ‘out there’—with whom and how they cooperate, and what new knowledge can emerge through such cooperation.

If you’re traveling to Munich this summer, don’t forget to stop by for the exhibition! For more information, visit the Architekturmuseum der TU München website.

by Chih-Wei G.V. Chang, ASLA, EWRI, LEED AP. He is an Associate of SWA Group, lecturer at the Academy of Art University of San Francisco, and co-chair of International Practice PPN.

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