Forest gardens in Versailles

I have just returned home from Copenhagen after two days of critique and lecturing about my research on forests, forest gardens and landscape laboratories. Both days were spent at SCIENCE/Copenhagen University…in the Versailles Room.

And both days I was in the good company of landscape architect colleagues Rikke Munck Petersen and Mads Farsø together with their 50 candidate students. They are currently working on design concepts for the two towns of Hurup in Jutland and Ørbæk on Funen, both of which were part of a research project on railroad towns I participated in during 2012/2013. So it was a pleasure to see a lot of different takes on the future of those towns and the landscapes they are situated in.

During my lecture on Tuesday (at least in my slides) I was in the company of my friends Martin Odgaard, Roland Gustavsson, Anders Busse Nielsen, Carl Åge Rasmussen and some of the inhabitants of the landscape laboratory of Sletten in Holstebro, Denmark. All of them people who are important for the continued experiments on new urban forests carried out in the landscape laboratories.

Laboratory Positioning at KU Leuven, Belgium

In the evening of December 18th I will give a public lecture at KU Leuven in Belgium on the practice of landscape laboratories.

My focus in the lecture will be the relationship between forests and gardens (the ur-form of the Nordic Garden in essence being a stylised clearing in the forest) and the concept of landscape laboratories. Also, I will briefly present the ongoing work of establishing the Aarhus Landscape Laboratory, which I am working on together with PhD student, good friend and colleague Martin Odgaard in close collaboration with the municipality of Aarhus and the Danish Nature Agency.

The lecture is part of the international lecture series MaHS MaUSP 2013 organised by the Department of Architecture at KU Leuven.


Cold War Sites

I have just returned home from travels in Estonia and Finland, crossing the Baltic Sea from Tallinn to Helsinki in good company and early morning sunligt. I had the mindboggling experience to visit former Soviet military sites from the Cold War period again after my first journey through the Baltic countries in 2009. During my travels to Estonia and Finland I managed to complete the first part of a photography essay on Cold War Sites in the Baltic Sea Region. The second and third part will be done in Denmark in December 2013 and Latvia and Lithuania in May 2014.

One of the most intruiging sites in Estonia is a regional one: Sillamae and its surrounding landscapes. During the Cold War period Sillamae was processing uranium, which was extracted from the surrounding landscapes. Today large scale oil shale mining is carried out around the city along the northern coast of the country towards Kohtla west of Sillamae. The result is a regional landscape of large scale open pit mining, afforestation and waste deposits.

I look very much forward to visit the cold war fort of Langeland in December and cold war sites of Latvia and Lithuania in the spring of 2014.


Garden visits

I have been so fortunate to visit a series of beautiful gardens around the world in 2013: A river garden in Geneva (Switzerland), forest gardens in Copenhagen (Denmark), Mildam (Netherlands), and Berlin (Germany), as well as forests and agrarian gardens as far away as New Zealand.

My visits have resulted in an expanding selection of garden series, which will be exhibited in select galleries in Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland in 2013/2014. A selection of these will published in ARKIPELAGET, Pamflet #6 & 7 in collaboration with Edition After Hand. Also in the works is a limited edition art book on the Aire River, which will be available in 2015.

Gardener’s Year

All of 2013 I will be producing series from an agrarian garden, Ole’s garden, south of Aarhus.

A big source of inspiration for this yearlong project is Chech author Karel Capek (1890-1938) who in his brilliant book The Gardener’s Year (1929) writes:

You must have a garden, though it be no bigger than a pocket-handkerchief; you must have one bed at least to know what you are treading on. Then, dear friend, you will see that not even clouds are so diverse, so beautiful, and terrible as the soil under your feet.

Ole’s garden is such a garden, and Ole is such a gardener. He know’s that gardening is an opening of worlds – of worlds within worlds – beginning with the world at one’s feet.

The first series (100 m Garden Series) are already up in the Galleries.

The series will be published in ARKIPELAGET, Pamflet #7 as well as exhibited at select galleries in Denmark in 2014.

Remember the future

While working on my paper for IFLA 50 I stumbled upon Mexican novellist Carlos Fuentes and his wonderful writings, which were originally introduced to me in a brilliant lecture given by Georges Descombes in Sheffield in 2011.

In Fuentes last publication before he died, he wrote eloquently about past, present and future and in doing so turned previous conceptions about time, change and memory upside down:

Remembering the future. Imagining the past. This is a way of saying that, now that the past is irreversible and the future uncertain, men and women remain alone with the scenery of today if they want to represent the past and the future. The human past is called Memory. The human future is called Desire. Both come together in the present, where we remember, where we yearn […] We ought to imagine the past so the future, when it arrives, also can be remembered […]

Carlos Fuentes, La gran novela latinoamericana / The Great Latin American Novel, 2011

Teaching Time

Before his death in the summer of 2012 the Dutch artist Louis G. Le Roy (1924 – 2012) worked for more than thirty years on the Ecocathedral, a large structure in Mildam in the Netherlands where he piled up building materials with his bare hands in order to explore what nature can do – and what humans can do with nature – in space and time.

Le Roy viewed today’s urban surroundings as prefabricated environments in which people were observers (not participants) and thus disconnected from experiencing the flow of space and time in their everyday surroundings.

One of the main questions Le Roy set out to answer in the Ecocathedral was how to develop a naturally evolving system within such a limited urban ecosystem. Or rather, how to develop a complex set of surroundings in which time is given space and in which space is given time.

In May 2013 I will be co-runnning a workshop entitled Teaching Time for third-year students from the Aarhus School of Architecture. During this workshop we will visit and participate in the continued construction of the Ecocathedral. The workshop will be run in collaboration with Stichting Tijd (Time Foundation), which is responsible for the continued development of the Ecocathedral.

On weather I

In a highly inspiring lecture on weather architecture given by Jonathan Hill at the Aarhus School of Architecture in May 2011 it became clear to me that the best architecture has always embraced landscape and been in a continous and changing dialogue with the weather:

Using the site’s natural weather as a fertilizer it cultivates manmade weather to consider our perception of the natural and the artificial. The seasonal relations between varying weather conditions are the principal tool of building, which is endless and evolving rather than finite and fixed. As the building grows it drifts further from the needs of people, blurring the boundaries between home and garden, work and rest, inside and outside, the natural and the artificial […] So that we may inhabit a weathered home the way we do a weathered landscape.

Jonathan Hill, Immaterial Architecture, 2006 (my emphasis)