Yesterday, after an unveiling discussion with my guest advisor Anders Abraham, I suddenly knew, clearly, what this project is about. As it had been hidden in a veil of lines, points, concepts, images and information (which, by chance, evokes an interesting picture in itself), the main issue that I want to address is the same as the man above. Or perhaps transformation, as the architect who insists in using a form(al) language would rather call it.
So how do we address the issue of change? How do we, as architects, address the full lifespan of our creations and not just the moment when the scaffolding has been taken down and the tenants start moving in? I am not talking about taking the building's use into account when designing, that is intrinsic. Instead we should plan for a greater contingency, a kind of programming, a long-term performance where the architecture becomes the stage set, transforming from one scene to the next. And we are the actors. Or You. I am just the set designer.
Best case scenario, my project will begin to speculate about the possibilities of controlling the architecture long-term, perhaps centuries. One could of course begin to interrogate to the advantages of such an idea, but strangely we do not question the reasons why our parks are maintained and preserved over centuries. Once built, the parks are in themselves representations of the 'nature' we miss in our urban jungles, a nature that is in constant change and over which lack control (although we are trying our best to overcome it). The scale of the park admits a great amount of control to be exercised over such a vast territory, while the city around it morphs into new shapes and heights over the decades. We are also reluctant to let parks transform by themselves. Sure, there is an inherent change in the physical environment; trees, shrubs, plants grow and need to be cut, but we would be outraged if the maintenance of our parks failed and we would see weed taking over the lawns and the cubist hedges become shabby shrubberies.
Few parks actually make use of the transformations we would normally find in nature. However, I recently found some interesting examples in the Ruhr area presented by Jörg Dettmar in Landscape Architecture in Mutation, a collection of essays on the conditions of landscape architecture and planning in the post-industrial landscapes of Central Europe. Mr Dettmar refers to a number of pilot projects where different strategies to the growing problem of derelict sites in need of maintenance, without aiming for complete redesign. In the example of Duisburg North Landscape Park, I found many similarities with my own project, with a number of programmes that make use of common industrial building structures like gasometers and blast furnaces. The main difference is the conditions in Germany compared with China in terms of land use. While Germany witnesses shrinking cities and suburban sprawl with much in-between space in the following, China faces the opposite; extreme density and shortage of land for development. Thus, my project will have to deal with a similar issue - what to do with former heavy industrial complexes - but from a point of view that the city wants to move in rather than move out. So the next question could be; How do we deal with this pressure? How do we sustain the potentials of the site (and its symbolic location) while maintaining economic feasibility?