Michel Conan (ed). Dumbarton Oaks Colloquium on the History of Landscape Architecture. Washington DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2003
In his introduction to the book, Conan examines the reality that 'motion' in a garden is made up of 'moments of stillness', comprising 'one position and then a new one, and so on, indefinitely'. All this becomes crystallised in memories of such instants, which are then prompted and released again on the return visit, with perhaps a differing perception as a result. So, the defining moments of picturesque travel itself come as a result of a deconstruction 'into moments of stillness'. Conan urges us, in the wake of Kevin Lynch, to pursue an examination of theoretical concerns here, as opposed to methodological aspects. This is an important redirection, well overdue in landscape practice.
Conan points out how much attention to the experience of motion rules out the picturesque aesthetic, still dominant in landscape design. At the heart of such new approaches to landscape design come the designs of Bernard Lassus in France, and Patricia Johanson in the United States. The first part of this volume, 'Beyond the Picturesque', is a valuable introduction to such new developments. The next four chapters, which form part two, entitled 'Modalities of Movement in a Garden and Their Representation', focus on behavioural aspects of motion in the designed landscape, and demonstrate ways in which culture impinges as much on behaviour itself as on the experience of motion. Examples are quoted from Rome, post-Byzantine societies, mediaeval Japan, and post-industrial revolutionary Europe. The final three chapters on 'Culture and Meaning' show how landscape design can offer definitive experiences of motion that encroach significantly on broader cultural life.
Returning to the subject of 'Modalities of Movement', there is a highly original summary by John Dixon Hunt on movement in gardens and designed landscapes: he breaks this down into 'the procession or ritual, the stroll and the ramble'. The likelihood of finding points of interest en route predicates the conjunction of 'moments of stillness', as Conan himself suggests. In such a compilation, based upon papers delivered at the conference, it can be seen how a skilful editor can weave together the several strands of individual thinking and speculation, and following discussion and appropriate revision, deliver for publication a consummate work that advances landscape theory significantly beyond the morass into which it had lapsed in previous decades. Conan must be congratulated, and encouraged to continue such compilations.
Patricia Johanson: The World as a Work of Art
The landscape artist and architect Patricia Johanson (b1940) occupies a unique position in her chosen field in the United States. This talent is now well exhibited at the Museum Het Domein in the Netherlands.
Brice Marden: A Retrospective of Paintings and Drawings
The work of American painter Brice Marden is currently showing in a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. This is timely, and the 56 paintings and over 50 drawings should bring the work of this outstanding painter permanently to the fore.
Daniel Buren and his Invention Trajectory
Daniel Buren has had a stimulating and now distinguished continuity in Britain. The arrival of his exhibition, 'Invention II', at Modern Art Oxford recalls a long association, firstly with MOMA Oxford (1973) and in the pages of Studio International. His own texts here are notable for their clarity and perspicacity.
The Hanging Gardens of Colas: Bernard Lassus
In 2008 Bernard Lassus finally completed his major project for the company Colas. Now this achievement is celebrated, among other accolades, by a large-scale colour brochure, which completes the picture. This is not the first time that a publication on this project has been made, but it is the most substantial description.