Atmosphere — Sensibility — Space
Whether people are fully conscious of this or not, they actually derive countenance and sustenance from the «atmosphere» of the things they live in or with. They are rooted in them just as a plant is in the soil in which it is planted.
(Frank Lloyd Wright, The natural house, 1954)
Atmosphere reflects the reality of our environment as a sensitive experience. Moreover, atmosphere determines whether or not we feel comfortable in a given place. Currently, there is the potential to create more vibrant spaces in landscape design in order to not only meet the needs of customers and users, but also to raise multi-faceted moods and open the mind for more. Urban and rural spaces which surprise us, where we slow down our pace and spend more time interacting with others. Perhaps spaces with a more fragile, coincidental and volatile structure.
The purpose of the Rapperswil Conference 2015 is to identify solutions and opportunities within the field of landscape architecture to provide more space for atmosphere and sensibility. This involves focusing on the interrelationship of physical design elements (buildings, trees, roads, etc.) and the subjective perception of the space. Questions that we seek to answer at this conference include: In what way do plants, seasons, and materials, as well as sounds, smells, and movement within a space influence our perceptions? How can we detect hidden atmosphere? And, finally, how can we evoke images and feelings in the viewer and use them as experience?
The current discussion about urban density, sustainable energy production, prevention of natural hazards or the latest political decisions has left no doubt that the issue landscape has increasingly gained relevance within the Swiss society. This results in a political mandate to intensify efforts regarding landscape, its utilization, development and design, as well in urban and rural areas and based on all scales.
Who will be in charge of this mandate? It requires landscape specialists with an integrated approach, someone who cares with core competencies in analyzing and responding to landscape challenges. There is a need for specialists with a sense of judgment and creativity and a willingness to take social responsibility.
To interfere in actual debates and to take clear positions is one thing. The other thing, which is a more demanding and trust building is to propose innovative solutions, to take care about needs of users and to support processes in the long term.
The landscape architecture considers itself as the guardian of needed knowledge and appropriate tools to develop landscape quality. How can the profession reach more social relevance and what can be offered concerning emerging new challenges?
We are looking forward to discuss these topics on the next Rapperswil Conference and to create a platform for new ideas.
Until a few years ago, a Berlin-like wall divided the domain of landscape architecture: into open space design on the one hand, and landscape planning on the other. Scales, methods and instruments of the two approaches lay worlds apart. Yet over the past years, slogans such as «Switzerland is a city» and «everything is landscape» blurred this divide to the extent that the overlap between the two approaches is nowadays close to 100%. The emulsion of city and countryside, of planning and projecting leads to something completely new, inseparable, which is far more than the sum of its parts.
Settlement areas and infrastructures are spreading out further and further — calling for entire stretches of land to be considered foremost as recreational spaces belonging to the respective settlements. This has radical consequences on their identity, use and form. Urbanites appropriate landscapes close to settlement areas and thus produce open space. Forests and agricultural areas cannot develop anymore according to their own logic, because they have become part of a designed habitat. The importance of landscape and open space production compared to the importance of wood and food production increases continuously. Demand for open space is rising. Agricultural aesthetics shaped by production logic are replaced by landscape ideals of urban dwellers looking for recreation.
Defining development goals for these new landscapes and achieving them through actual projects is mandatory. Rapperswil Meeting 2013 will be a place to discuss the challenges of an integrated view on space and to take a close look at good examples.