Re-Placing Process – Anita Berrizbeitia

Working with a process-based approach, rather than a purely compositional one, demands four significant shifts in design methodology. First, the dynamic nature of the material itself requires one to design processes rather than a landscape’s final form. Instead of introducing external forms and transforming the site to accommodate those forms, these are “found” and evolved out of systems already there. This implies a shift from creating compositions based on notions of balance, regularity, and hierarchy to working with systems, natural or man-made, and the various ways in which they can be organized and distributed as fields, gradients, matrices, corridors, etc., to facilitate connectivity, ecological functions, program, and the perception of phenomena.

Second, there is a shift in design methodology toward dedicating more effort to site research than once was the case in formally focused design approaches. Thus in addition to the standard ecological inventory, site research includes a broader set of concerns that extends beyond property limits, such as economic interests, demographics, migration patterns, politics of resource allocation, and toxicity. Site research also explores how systems have evolved and performed over time, questioning how and why the landscape arrived at is present state, in addition to registering what is already there.

Third, history is understood as a process itself, rather than a visual reference for form, style, or type. Process-based practices acknowledge that the site is defined as much by its visible physical qualities as by its accumulated histories. This is specially relevant to large parks because they occupy sites that have been transformed several times over the course of centuries. … Therefore history is a way of understanding the many forces at work on a site. “Existing condition” plans are expanded to include information on a site’s formal structures, but also to reveal a site’s trajectory toward its present condition. What was it before it became a hunting ground, a steel mill, an agricultural field? What are its geologic origins, and how have patterns established by geology been transformed, or made to remain legible, on the site? Which are the persistent qualities of the topography, vegetation and drainage? What has adapted to change? What hasn’t? What are those external events, in economics, politics, and environmental regulation, that affect the site and have given impulse to its development?

Fourth, process-based practices anticipate change from the outset, understanding that their intervention is only one of many in the immense evolutionary process of the landscape. Design in this case is less about permanence and more about anticipating and accommodating growth, evolution, and adaptation in the face of the unexpected disturbance and new programs and events. As a result, more weight is placed on establishing an argument for the objectives of a project than on creating a vision for a final form. And the critical evaluation of the project takes into account the types of research, the scenarios it considers, and the frameworks for adaptive change it sets out as much as the expressive qualities of its systems.

Re-Placing Process
by Anita Berrizbeitia
in Large Parks