Sie sind auf Seite 1von 12
But he "''35 really inco It. He was in this whole tunas}' ",-odd. And no

But he "''35 really inco It. He was in this whole tunas}' ",-odd.

And no one was Iookins at tum like he "'"as stran~.To me that was strange, but nobody else seemed ro~, or att. ~

Ah:hough~,the ideaof~mkingin a place- md ~having

a story come (0 you~ ~ fiuniliar phrases, used as ohm by land-

scape architectS articulating a design process as by the general

public (0 descri~the meaning or vatU(' of a landscape. These

phrases, and their corollaries, belie a distioction berv.'een -space~ and "place,~ (0 borrow the words ofgeographer Vi Fu Tuan. One is purely physical, while the other has rel~-ance and connection co someone. It is this distinction that d~~ Cooperman (0 situ- ate ~ film in Bryant Park wben she could have JUSt as easily woric:ed in East RiVet Park or Morningside Park. Brrant Park is

mtegraJ to the scoC')'. Or, foraccuracy, perhaps it is bet- ter to say that her StOry is integraJ (0 Bryant Park.

~ is a loo5dy defined group ci dw:orist:s and prac-

mionets woo ~

bn<h<>p< '""'-'gh dr ""', """""y_gh,

lookil18 at this ~

ci meaning in


guagt'. They fed---eJrhough there is difkrern in the

details.----that landscapes are composed of signs thu,

likeanaetuallan~,canbe -read.~One only has (0

scud)' itS S}'Tuax, recogni~ itS vocabulary, and pracrice itS diction (0 learn the language oflandscape. Beyond itS a1literati\'e allure, "the language of landscape" has appeal in that it combines into a single, contained

idea--01.'O very slippery and complex ones. Lmguage

has baffied civilizarion (~ et since the first literate ex- pressIOn (c. 15,000 B.C., the date ci the a.\~paintings


any). AIguably.landsape has lUrrov.-m brows for~"'CO longer. (Can we affix the due wtx-n H_1a(JtmI fust

cupped ~ eyes and kloked OUt O\'er the savannah?) Ifthe languageoflandscapevi'ere a lIlO\'UTlmt, Annr Whisron Spim, ASIA, v.'OlI.Id be itS leader. A. professor cilandsa.pearchit(CtUte at the Uni\-m.ityofPennsyl- \-ania, Spim has recently published a book on the sub- ject tided, appropriately, TM Langllogt of LandJ(a~ (Yale University Press, 19(8). In it she codifies this language on twO I~'els, First there is the syncaaical 1~'CI,in ",'hich she compares the Strucrurt oflandscape

at A1wnira and Lasa.ux, seems as good a ~

t 82 I

and the Stf\lC'tUfe of \~rbaI Ianguaae: features are like nouns.

~ like \-rms. their intctaecions like- subJ«(S and predi-

a.tes inttrrWining. &neath the syntaCttallS the metaph;>rical I~~I where,like \~rballang!.Ja8e,acolYrent structUtt can b<'gin to take on meaning. Here Spiro's examples ~ abundant. She looks at the politically comentious landscape of Skamling Hill oonh of the Slesvig-Holstein region of Denmark. For dose to a

LITERAL SIC:-:S m tIN landscape provide mark('rl and dues about a culture, such as Trenton, NewJerrey's proud dietumo/

mdustry': TRE.''TOl\' MAKES, TIiE WORLD TAKES, above. In a

dfflgn for an 10W0I mt stop, fuR Conu.'O)' I'nd Mart)' Schulte-are urmg tM word "pwn«rr" to Ilruaurr tM rpaa, bdcN

fuR Conu.'O)' I'nd Mart)' Schulte-are urmg tM word "pwn«rr" to Ilruaurr tM rpaa, bdcN

Ct'flfW}' me aro was under Getman rul~ and the Danish-speaking populat:ion forbiddm

to speak their Iang~;when finally Iiber-

~ in 1945. tbto landscape became ifl'UTle-

diatdy rrinscrilxd \l


culrural ~ing

by members c:Jthe Danish ~istaJn. Today

dr p~ is rnaJ'k«i by a memorial, a Single to\\'ttc:Jsrones. HO\\~'tt, the entire region. allandsc:ape c:JSbmlingsb:mke has lxm in- vested with narionalistic symbolism-the

landscape is no less than a rnt'Clphor for Dan·

ish pride. Spirn comests [hat, like poetry, [he

meeaphorica.l meamng of landscapes varies in amplitude. Some, lik~Skamling ate OVert or Mpolentica.l.~Others are sulxIer, or what

she ca.IJs M deeper, M such as me Great

America, wIleR the metaphors c:Jthe land-

Plains c:J

scape ate less rberorica.l. Spim

of coming upon a house in a great expanse c:J t~less plains somewhere ~t of llin\'er.

teUs tbto stOty

Around the ~



very large rrees planted dose to

the structure to ptO\'lde shelter againsr rhe unrelenting sun and wind. Bur Spirn also under- stands this as a structured re- sponse, a dialogue, wirh the


place. ~She wmcs;

d~ep context of

In this context,

the language is not the lingual power structure of laws but the spatial power structure of the built envirornnent.

the purpose c:Jeducating people about their

~vironmem,I'1aw it is shaped. by ~ and,

~ imporouuly, how residentS can use

those forces to chan~ It. 1be idea. has Its

roots in the phil050phy c:Jthe Gvil RightS MO\"m'leflt, mat lireracy equals empovov-

metlL In this contlCXl:, the Ianguag.e is nor: dr

lingual pov.'tt strueture c:J laws and rights.

bur the spatial povo"t'f stnJC£W'e c:Jthe built

environment; and the illiteracy Spim has fOund is as much an ignorance of how land· scape is shaped as it is the misapprehension that it cannot be refonned in other ways, West Philadelphia, like a lot of poor

built in the floodplain. or

urban areas,

bottomS, ofa wat~, Although today Mill Creek is piped underground, during hard rains it makts appearances, &oding

Streets, bascm~ms,and ~t lots, as it



rwmd uuh IrfCJ. tlx IRIgt oId6 tlWl di.""Jh'ng tIN b6MJtJ. oft"' hlilfgalou1 no .,,-r tho" -floor bigh: IrtItS arr planted

Each !a,


OJ dlMtlS 1m f-t from the~,

Jlraight t'tTtifal tnm/u'. Jharp lJmtrOJt 10 the broad bortZ/mtai

JUffp. markillg tnrh a JjJ«iai piau. The farmhotlJtJ Jta11d agaimt tht skJ, ao/ated, txl."t/Jt ff)f'thtHtms. I tltufmklnd uly)' thtwtlmplamedtrfCJsodlJYtf>-

gtJhtr and nearlhe hNdt. a dttail f1IIt rolf IalCb (I1Ito. I dril't lJafi

tht) ta1IW Jht IattdJcape. gn't 10

tou'af"li thtal)' and trm agai.:

the tl/JDt1ltSl a 1fnJ.

In thU exampl~, Spim's ability to discm1 the syntax rLland- scape--ttS fearures (nouns), procr:sses (\"t'tbs), and the principles their mteraction--ll.JJov.'S her to pettti""e how land- sa.pecan ha\"e metaphorica.l or S)'mbolic sIgnificance, how it an stand for the mlaCity c:Jli~on the Plains. Alrhough these musings have a lofty and t'SOtehc «X'Ie cothern. one c:JSpim's pnmary interestS is sociological: Iflandscape is lan- gua~, what is the stateofliteracy? For the last twelve years Spim has worked wirh residents and studems in [he grirty western neighl::orOOods c:JPhiladdphia on landscape literacy proiern with

A.'>r.\'E \'('H1S'I'O~ SPIR:', mils !Iln~ npmJl(IfI~JUdJ flS thIS

grOf:~ontkbigb plainrofColcr~ord«p(1)ntt'%J,· u~

tk LmiJi4~o/!Il~bIJSshmng. panicqw/.tl)' In tIN VIIlt

cpuu~,thu IhOng p/mttmg p,fJf:idn ". tktml on~am !IlJdJ onto, •

r«reates itS natunl 60w, o rhe last th~ ).ea.tS, a. group c:J

sinh, SC'''mth, aJXl. oghth graders at Su1zberger Middle School hav(' '\lo'llrled with Spim and herstudents in a Universityc:JPmn- Syl\1U1ia design studio to study and map Mill Creek. They fol- lowed its perambulations from where it runs abo\"e ground, to where it descends, where it fioods sewffS, where it serdes in \'a. cant lotS, and where it connectS with and defines the neighbor- hood. uWle teach th~m how to read th~ landscape of the

neighborhood, Msays Spiro. She also reaches them how to be fiu· em in 1andscape, how to ~write~landscape; and as pan of their










centur}' the area "'as under German ruI~and the D.utish-sptaking populacion forbidden ro sprak chei.r lang~; whm finally lib«-

attd in 1945. the 1andscape b«ame im~­

diacdy mnscribed with cultural meaning

b)' mmlbersof the Danish ~ismn«-. Toda)'

the place is marktd b). a memorial, a S1figJ~ rower of scones. HO the entire' lC'gion. a.J landscape ofSkamlingsbankt has b«n in- \"fSted with nationalistic symbolism--(he landsca~is no less than a metaphor for Dan· ish pride. Spirn com ens that, like poetry, the lTlffilphorical meaning of landscapes varies in amplitude. Some,likt Skamling ~ ",'en or ·polemical.- Othets ~ subtler. or what she caI1s -deqler.- suchas dleGmu PJainsof Ammca, whett the mecapbor.s of the land- scape are less rhetorical. Spim tells the stOI1' of coming upon a ho~ in a

grett expaIR of (f~lessplains

somewhere east of Denver. Around the ~ \\'n'C' 5e'\"t't'a.I \"el')' large tnoes plamtd close ro the Structure ro prCl\'ide shelter against the unrelenting sun and wind. But Spirn also under- stands this as a Structured reo

spon~, a dialogu~. with the

-enduring deep context of place.- She writes:


In this context, the language is not the lingual power structure of laws but the spatial power structure of the built environment.

the pwpasc of tducating people about their environment, how it is sbaptd by fom:s. and, more imponandy, how residents can ~ d105e forces w change it. 1be idea has its I'OlXS in the ~y of the cn'il Rights

l\{O\'mlent, that litetaey equals etnp<)\\"ef'

ment.ln thiscoocext, the language is flO( the lingual fJO\\"ef StnICf\1lC' of laws and righrs, but the $pltia! PO\'o'er st~ of the built ~nVHonment;and the illiteracy Spim has

found is as much an ignorance of how land·

sca~ is shaped as it is the misapprehension that it caruxJ( be reformed in ocher ways. West Philadelphia, like a lot of poor urban areas, was built m the floodplain. or bottoms. of a watercourse. A1mough weby Mill ermc is piped underground, during hard rains it makes appearances, Rooding St~, basements, and vacant lon, as it

Each lannhtulJt ,s ,."Jurrhlrrttl, rhtlutgtWkr

tnllS ditRlnishing tM hoI/HI.

o/fttl Imtlgalou'S

Otttfloor high: lrtJlJ mr planlttl


RttJn lhan

as dtMas 1mf«rfr-rhe~.

Jlraight ,rrticaltnmks tlf sharp roRrraSllfJ the broadhor,zontal IUn:P. markitlg tach a sp«ial piau. The !armhfJlIltS sta1ld

agaiwt tIN skj. isdattd. txapt

fiw r~ lrtJlJ. luttdmrand ubJ lIN Mulm plaRrttl trm J(} dON tt;- gtthtr ami nwr tIN!xJJm. a ddail (}nt COli larch (jIlr() I drit"t ha<k tDuard tlNcil) a"J _1rrttI again: rlx) ranw tht latrdscapt. glt"t to

tIN tifJmMU a /oaa.

A.'':\'E \\"HISTON SPIR.'l aJJs lmr~ncprnJtom-sw:h as this


lkh,gh o/·tkrpQ)ntm," uYxre


tIN Imrgw~of ItJII~bas. mrnng, fXN11€qua/iJy. In 1M uuJ

ccptm~,Ibtl S170IJg p/Ilnlmg PlY)(-"dn •• tkwiJ on~OI1IltJsth onto.·

In this aampk. Splm's abilit}' to disam the S}Tltax cIland·

sape--irs feacures (nouns), processts (\'nbs), and the principles

p-eming chei.r imeraction---Wlo

scapeCUl hav~metaphocical orsymbollcsignificance, how it CUl stand fOr the tenacity cIlife on the Plains. Although these musings ha\'t'a lofty and esoreric ronetorhem, one ofSpim's primary interestS is sociological: Iflandscape is lan· guage, what is the stateofliteracy? For the last tweh·e rears Spim has worktd with residentS and students in the gritty western neighlxxhoods of Philadelphia on landscape lireracy projects with


her to perttiv~how Iand-

rec~tes its natur.l.I Sow. (),."ef the last th~ )-eaIS, a group of sixth, 5e'\'mth, and cighth graders at Sulxberger Middle School hav~ worled with Splm and herstudenrs in a}'ofPenn- Srh'aflia design studio to study and map Mill Crtd.:. They foI· lowed its perambulations from whett it NOS aJ:.oo,-e ground, to whett it descends, whett it floods sewers, whett it settles in va· cant 10000, and where it connecrs with and defines the neighbor. hood. "We teach them how to lead the landscape of the neighborhood,- says Spim. She also teaches them how to be flu· ent in landsca~, how to "write" landscape; and as part of their


The postmodem debunking of the validity of texts needs to be

work £he srudefUS have' also generartd. ideas for new landscapes,

including a design for a minigolfpuk that karum the creek as

part airs program. According toSpim, dlt'~'sgro-

·jng support

for the idra, arxl it looks as dIough Mill Cr«:k Mini-Golf might

actually be built. ~h's te.aching the kids to OQ( only know the place they li\~in, but [o~vision ~and kam how roidfcet

chan~ how ro be df«tivecirizms. M Spim says that \\-uKing on landscape literacy is important in

places like West Philadelphia, where pcwt'rty and abandonmem have broken down the community in ways d1at laws and rights

alone are simply pov.mess to deal with. Landscape archi[~,

she says, is opportundy positioned to mah piaces that can -cre-

ate' kJo,'!' and COlllleCtKJn M within a rommuniry fora~. h is ex- citing [0 think about the Iandsca~ that R:Sidenu ofWcst

Ptubddphia might create "'-ere thqempov."t'rM mOOso. What

vocabulary ",-ou


dle}' ~? How would they StructUre their

Iandsc:ape phrases? What stories v,.'ould they tdP

~ to these ques-

tions. rne Lttino rlC'ighborhoods of Los Angeles literally bubble forth with them. In a current exhibition of photographs tided

El Nuevo Mundo, the sociologist and photographer

Camillo Jose Vergara explores the rapidly changing neighborhoods ofeast and south Los Angeles. What Ver- gara found in Los Angeles was nol the palm-lined boule- vards of film and telt"'ision but rh(- duSty front yards,

murals, and urban gardens ofa Tijuana or a Mexico City. Rather than living within the imitation McditenaneaJl a&heric olaIlBlo Los Angdes, Winos, ~Iy from Mex-

ico, have ~reaced the I.andscape with a vocabulary and

As much as West Philadelphia begs ans

~o~ .\1\' STREET f:f.~~ is J1"tty MIlCh m ~Y)n~ Jy.'s

businm, ~UJs F.IItn4 WllWms, studmt Ilt SU~"

Muidk SdJooi In W<!'ft PhtLuk/ph1tl For W,J1U1ms, h" block o/Union Str«t, leEr:, is Il L:mtfsa,~0/douhk Dutch

and Olb" gfJmn, noS] neigbbors, and tb~ronllfJnl struggk

" wltb speeding cars. Anotlxr home L:mdsmpe, Stonington Harbor, Conn«llCUt, above, protJrd~s fJ ronnectlon with the pilst and Il bulu.vJr!e against nrCTOtJdJlng romm~lism

-I -' carefully weighed against two millennia of moral philosophy. palette that is rJl()le familiar
-I -' carefully weighed against two millennia of moral philosophy. palette that is rJl()le familiar
-I -'
-I -' carefully weighed against two millennia of moral philosophy. palette that is rJl()le familiar fO

carefully weighed against two millennia of moral philosophy.

palette that is rJl()le familiar fO them. Murals of die Virgin of Guadelupe prtdorninat(' Vergara's images, ohm rombinrd with

mutal-likt: ad~isemenlS lOr 10cal bosinesse5---Q mnmon prac- tice in Mairo--writtm completdy in Spanish. ResKJential gar4 dens also rdlect a conscious desire ro recreatC'a homesoum of chr

botdn within the Los Angdes comot. Take. fOr instanCe, a man

known simply as Vincente who Vergaro. encountered in his froot

yard where he had covered the din wirh a neat matrix of con- crete. When presS«l, Vincente explains that he has several grmdchildren and a dog, and that rather than have rodeal wjth a muddy yard after rain he's converted

to hardscape. A garden ofseveral dozen hanging potS surrounds his porch,

adding color to {he lively and warm landscape. ~People are used (0 seeing California in a urtain way, ~ says Vet-

gam. -(BUt winos in Los Angeles] ~ sum'ming lhis Wasp

parad~ ofgtem grass and lemon treeS. ~

During his work on EI NtJeYO Mundo, Vergara cravded roMex·

teo and brought along some of his phocographs to show poopk. When he pasemod a phorograt:h ofa home that- had been adorned

with murals and larm ofcoI01fu1, plXtod plana to a restaurant

owner in Tijuana, the restaurateur rmurked, 01bey do this 50 as

rxx ro feel nosr:algia for their counuy, their rowns, their friends. 0' In anothercase, Vergara showed a picture he'd taken ofa tire shop in South Unual Los Angeles toa Mexican. (ComimmJon Pagt 90)

South Unual Los Angeles toa Mexican. (ComimmJon Pagt 90) FOR SPlRN, 1M lil"gua~ 0/ bl1/dsaJ~ iJ

FOR SPlRN, 1M lil"gua~0/ bl1/dsaJ~ iJ

most n:iJe"J in dmgnd uorks, ~.

wtJh tJ/ina, u,'1OUght ~


1M Iaym 0{

17fN/fing ~ ~ Juai1ra andtkvdcptJ.

Sk potnls to Richtzrd Haag's BIoftki ~

~ IlfUi FotnI Cmtn"y mSrockhoIm,

below. 4I t'XJlmpln 0/tinlflls thtu/rom

~ou&t wm'tonaivtJ tl1 produasO/

ltmg,.,~. A/t6 mJdmg tiN{.a 0/Goat RsxJe, mowtlllm dmtbm tm tmlJN 10



fOR OUrDOOR 5eAflNu, Rnv ON [He ~NOURINu QUAlIfle5 OF 50110 [eAK. Immediate shipment m'Di/able •
fOR OUrDOOR 5eAflNu, Rnv ON
~NOURINu QUAlIfle5 OF 50110 [eAK.
Immediate shipment m'Di/able • Call for our catalog • 4151455·4500
Bellches • Tables • Chairs • Plallfers • Parasols. Chaise Loungers






A 5 LA


Insurance. Inc.

Your clients count on you to be protected , can you count on your insurance program?

• The only ASLA endorsed liability insurance program.

• Designed by an ASLA member for landscape architects.

• Underwritten by The Hartford Insurance Company

• General Liability, Property, Work Camp, Computer, Business Income, Building, Auto coverage and more.

Designed Solely/or landscape arcllitects, this program was pioneered by Troy Sibe!ills, a past ASLA Chapter Presidellt, and ean,ed tIJe ASLA endorsement based all his experimce as a lalldscape arcllitect and licensed inSllrance broker. All size desigplfinlls art! eligible witll ASLA member discoullts available. New velltrtres alld established practices are we/come, some state restrictiolls may apply.

For more information or to receive a quote, please contact Troy Sibelius, ASlA at Keller-lowry Insurance, Inc. ~

ASlA Member Since 1991


'-uJSClp~Ar(b,IUllirt I 90 I ~IAY L'99

Language of Landscape

(Cmlimm /rwt Page 65) The exterior of me

building was covered in muralsadvenising the shop's services. '"This is a hardworking person, someone with imagi- nation,~ he re-

sponded, easily reading the Mexicanized landscape ofLos Angeles. In Spim's words, Vergara's photographs show how the im- migrants of"lDi Angeles are using thegram- mar and synrax of their native land [0

remake the

Manhew Poneiger wishes we would

talk about stOries ramer than language per se. In their book, Landscape Na"'alit~


professor of landscape architecture at the Snue University of New York-Syracuse,

and his coauthor, Jamie Purinton, write about the variety of stories that are com- municated by the landscape. Like Spim, Poneiger and Purinton write about both the structure of landscape and the human meaning ascribed to it as literate Struc- tures, or Stories. P(){teiger says that in re- searching the book he interviewed dozens of people and posed the simple request:

~Tellme the Story of this place." The con- versation that ensued might cover history, a story about something that happened here; or maybe the person would talk abom how the landscape changes over the season, what she notices about thedimate and the wildlife, or even something as nebulous as the shifting panems of light; or maybe the conversation would veer in- to myth or spirituality, a belief that the landscape is dear to one's hean or that it possesses a soul. Potteiger's methodology of soliciting "s[Qries~abom landscape should be fa- miliar to any landscape architect who has been involved in a public charrene process, ror what inevitably comes to light in these processes are the stories that the residents of a panicular place tell abom that place. A haJlmark of the profession's enlightenment has been the emphasis on nO{ only gathering these stories but de- signing with them. Potteiger applauds this development, which he says helps to create better designs, ones that provide a strong and valid "relationship between users and a plac~. You hear designers com-

1 think the

plain '\~11 people get it?·

real question is 'Can we get it?'" A popuJar trend nowadays is to attempt to tell these stories ofa community liter- ally, by using acruaJ text in landscapes. A

\~Iey & Sons, 1998) Poneiger, a

short !ist of projens that have appeared in

Lands<npt Arrhiunurt over the last several

years ,,"'OUld include the Walker and Ma· cy S[Ory Garden in Portland (which graces

the cover ofLandscnpt NnrTalitltS): George

Hargreaves's design for Lbrary SqI.laTe at the University ofCincinnari, which cul-

minates in a phrase from Oliver Wendell Holmes; Halprin's FOR /lltml.Jria/: and the corporate landscape of rhe Fannie Mae Corporation. This list should also indude

a new rest area along Interstate 80 in Iowa,

which has been designed by the Iowa firm Conway+Shulte. In their work, Con- way+Shulte uses text both as a strucruring device and as an element in the landscape. The Iowa rest area (which will be con- suucroo this summer) contains playful phrases etched into the hardscape that tel1

A popular trend nowaclays is to attempt to tell these stones ofa community literally, by using actual text In landscapes.

the Story of the state for passersby (See Riprap, February 1998). Each of the textS describe some famous pioneers from Iowa history; however, the word "pioneer" writ

large also forms the underlying structure


area, he would be able [0 literally read the word as a series of plantings, landfurms. and architecture. On the ground, this leg- ibility is lost; yet Bill Conway, one of the designers, says there's "not a danger in this, but a welcoming. \V/e're not looking for a kind ofalways-evident designer's im- print. You go [0 Englishgardens or other designed landscapes, and over time you don't say, 'Oh, I can see the first move; or you don't ask for that kind of legibility from the first instance of the designer's thought to the last instance ofexperience. \Y/e always expected our structuring de- vice of the word "pioneers" to gently give over to becoming a landscape. The Struc- rure meltS away. In ran there is no place at rhe rest Stop where you can read the word 'pioneer,' because you're in it." Both Potteiger and Spiro lament the proliferation ofverba1language in current landscape architecrure--it "has become a

of the sight. If one were [0 Ay over the


A Better Way To Design

Modeler is ~'c:n easier to

Ve<:rorWorks' new photo-realistic rendering::

plug-in, you can bring your designs to life with textures, shadows and dramatic lighting effects.

Special Offer to Readers of Landscape Architecture VecrorWorks with rendering dire<:t fur 5820 or VecrorWorks alone 5595. Includes FREE T e<:h Support and a 90-Day Money-Back Guarantee.


use. And, with RenderWorks,

Diehl Graphsollinc


s.&-bT_,""""'-'" One of the worlds most popular CAD programs JUSt gOt better!

One of the worlds most popular CAD programs JUSt gOt better! MiniCAD

VectorWorks lets you create everything from derailed site plans to 3D terrain moods and autOmated plant lists. Import into your designs, pictures &om digital C2JTleras, scanners or even Ihe Inlerner, Impro\'ed Digital Terrain

&om digital C2JTleras, scanners or even Ihe Inlerner, Impro\'ed Digital Terrain CIFlClE 010 ON READER SERVICE
Vixen Hill Gazebos & Pavilions' Main Street· Elyerson' Pennsylvania' 19520 800-423-2766 fax:

Vixen Hill Gazebos & Pavilions' Main Street· Elyerson' Pennsylvania' 19520


fax: 610·286·2099




Language of Landscape

cliche," says Spiro. But Conway believes verbal language, if used rightly, can be a

useful device in design because rather than explaining, language creates ambiguity, complexity, and hence wonder. "If we re- cite a poem twice we get a different mean-

ing," says Conway

wonder. We're looking for the possibili- ties in language, and in that sense we're looking for the possibilities in landscape." Conway's view of language reAects a postmodemist interest in subjectivity and the relativity of meaning, qualities that are embodied in the theory of poststruc- turalism. A literary theory birthed in French linguistics, poscstrucruralism holds that language is an artificial Struc- ture applied [0 the world tather than de- rived from it, that words and the things they signifY are not "narutally" connected, In LandJca~Narratlt'tS, Potreiget and Purineon refer (0 an example from Ferdi- nand de Saussure, in which he demon- Strated how there is nothing inherently "tree-like" in the word ttee. This simple idea has grown and expanded over the ninety years from when it was first ut- tered, and in its wake it has spawned countless "deconstruCtionist" works, mosdy (0 the effect of making us uncer- tain of what we're reading. As interpreted and transmuted by Roland Banhes, Jacques Derrida, Julia Krisceva, and countless other academicians, poststruc· tutalism has pervaded almost every disci- pline, going beyond the boundaries of literary theory to ha\'e a profound effect on the social sciences. The connections with the language of landscape are obvi- ous, for there may be no more subjective experience than that of landscape. Like language, each person may read different types and levels of meaning intodifferem

tr has to do with


The question that has plagued post- structuralism is the question of universal- ism: Is the text that I read the same as the text you read? \'Qimout universalism, who is [0 say there is any text at all? There are only readers and their subjective readings. The same problem existS in landscape, which people seem to view in different \\faYS. The question is flO{ whether people ha\'(" different experiences of1andscape-it is assumed they do--but whether they read those landscape experiences in a way that might construe a common language?

Thr best answer to chis question depends

00 whether a Story is panicu.lar or genera.l. A panicular Story might go lik~this.

AJ~ Pcanoo is a groIogisc in San Fran- cisrowhospendsa lot oftime rock climb- ing In NortMrn California_ Onr ofMr

fa\'Orit~spots is a plac~called Goat Rock

located in Bod~ga Bay, a coupl~ hours

north oftM city. Goat Rock is Dot a chal-

lenging plac~to climb, but Pemon likes it b«ause as a reward at the end of th~ climbshe is treated [0 a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean. When she describes this 1andsc.1pe, she talks about the small bits of shiny-m:!. garnet schist that cover che rock and that tdl a story about cheex-

~ metarnClrphic processes that formed

the Sto~. To unckrstand tM SfO!)'. one n«ds panicular knowled~ofgeology-

There may be no more subjective experience than that ofumdscape. Uke language, each person may read different types and leveLs ofmeaning into different landscopes.

to unckrsmnd ",-hat garnet schisc is. to un-

d~tst;;l.nd how m~tamorphicgeology

occurs. and fO perhaps ('l'm ha\'~a merlOll

ima~ of what these things look like, As a

sci~ntist, Pearson can dissolv~her d~­

scription into parricular signs that are shared among a group-sciemists, Land- scape architects do this all the time when they design to a particular context and at- tempe to tell Stories that perhaps only I~ cals will truly understand. story might go like this. My fa- ther li\'es in che prttty lutk cwstal~"I1of Stonington, Connecticut. E\'~tyday he dri~ duuugh dr hilly woodlands 00 his way to work and he IlO{Keli dr details of

the la:ndscape, dr dense decKluous \\'OCllk,

dr oa:asionaI dearing. and dr ubiquitouS soon~wallsthat ~ divided dr land into

parcds. "lky remind mecifiums,M hesays.

"They take me back to earl ier generations,

which issomerhing my mind loves towan-

der back to. ri This pan: of Connecticut has

experienced great change in recent years,


FREE FENCING LESSONS Learn the latest ideas in Brick Fencing. Innovative new designs for Entranceways
Learn the latest ideas in Brick
Fencing. Innovative new
designs for Entranceways and
Fences that will save you
time. money and effort



"Great for outdoor planting, In any climate. -Immedkrte delivery and competitive pricing_ "28 colors available/custom color matching, "Ughtwelght & nastable, saves on shipping,

Please call for your free Poly Planter catalog.

shipping, Please call for your free Poly Planter catalog. JAZ PRODUCTS INC. P.O. BOX 3504 THOUSAND



BOX 3504





PHONE (805) 525-8800


(805) 525-8808

INC. P.O. BOX 3504 THOUSAND OAKS, CA. 91359 rn." ~~ _-_- PHONE (805) 525-8800 FAX (805)
INC. P.O. BOX 3504 THOUSAND OAKS, CA. 91359 rn." ~~ _-_- PHONE (805) 525-8800 FAX (805)

Language of Landscape

most specifically in the deo.oelopmem ci a

,~ Iargr casino thai: bas inc~ uaffic

00 me tOIIIds and contributtd a bright glow

to d~ horizon. In contrast, my f.uher feds like Ir m'eS in a linkcmis that is somehow

The botdtr cL this

ttSistinB thl:R changts

OlilSis is fOrm«! by rwo\'isibletdges.: a high-

acommm:iall)'mned atCl. BUt in-


si<k of thlS demarcation. my father kels Insulattd and prott'l"ttd from thto ~1"C8Ch­

ing neon. ~Maybt this is naive, but I ftd

like \\'e.~ in a link romet.~ He imagines

putting acompm poim down in rown and

swinging a radius se·


miles in length

that would CUt JUSt inside ci a few garish

commen::ial districts, including d~ casino.

"'You swing cllaI: circle? "Thar'sa lin:le ha,'ro.

Ic's an oosis ofbeaucifullandscape:'

Although he uses specificdetails to tell ie, the main (hrusrs of his 1andscape narrative

at{' irs themes ofbeaury,oosis,and rnecom-

ron c:A history. As such, it is a mom! suxy thar nnphasizes valurs. On one I('\'d. such values are sub,ecriYe-; bm on anomer they

at{' also uni~. This is tricky ground, a pIacc w~ the pownodr:m argument de- bunking the ,'31idity ci text needs to be

"LAndscape is 1101 just

r[ike language,' it is a language. And IandsClJpe architects use it.·

amully "'-eighed against (91,'0 millennia of

moaI philosophy. The larter might indeed argue, '"Yescertain ~~good,~­

Clin 1ando;capes ~ uue.M

To say that landscape is a language in- evitably oJ'('ns the Aoodgaees for thest' rypes of questions about landscape knowledge, landscaJ'(' J'('rceprion, and LandscaJ'(' value. Perhaps this is language is so contentious. If there is one thing the posesrrucruralist5 have suc- ceeded at in rhe last fifty years, if is mak- ing us quesrion our assumptions about the power and tnnhfulness of language. But how far can this questioning pro-- ceed? Is it applicable not onl)' to thc rnetaphoricallC\-d oflanguage, but (0 the syntactical as weill Do we ",,'Onder about the realiry of nouns, \'efbs. and sentence


structure) Anne' Whiston Spim raisrs

this question o:plicidy in her book. al-

£hough it S«ffiS laden in most e\-ef}' land-

scape design that attcmpt'S to be good and beautiful in general terms, to appeal to morc than just a single ~rson Ot group. Lke Conway, Spim sees the lan- guage of 1andscaJ'(' as an ocpansi,~ forcc, ont' that conJlt'Ct'S and IOtl"lTeWes in sur- prising ways, MLanguagc is what links West Philadelphia to SOffit' of the grel.f 1andscaJ'(' proj«ts of the world-Forest Cemetery in Stockholm, or the Bloedc:l Rrsen~,M saysSpim. MI eheword 'Ian- guagt· deliberately. \'<'hen \\~shaJ'(' Iand- scaJ'(' we express meaning. LandscaJ'(' is nOf JUSt 'Iikc language; it is a language. And landscape' architects ie. M LA

This 111111n/6, 1\lauhtu.' POlltig" u.;11 curaft

an exhibition wltd Storied Land: Land- scapcJ Nar!aU\·c.lArt at Iht Slone Qua

,., Hill An Park. CazmtJl1a. Ntu. York (315-

655-3196J. EI Nuevo Mundo u.;11 br 011 r-im'Jl(lIt 29-Srplt",kr 5. 1999 i" Ntu Yri CiI) ill ,htCooptr Hm.,n National CN- Jigrt AIMJOlll (212-860-6890).