Archived entries for landscape

Thomas Hardy’s bonfire nightscape

Belfast Bonfires

“Had a looker-on been posted in the immediate vicinity of the barrow, he would have learned that these persons were boys and men of the neighbouring hamlets. Each, as he ascended the barrow, had been heavily laden with furze faggots, carried upon the shoulder by means of a long stake sharpened at each end for impaling them easily—two in front and two behind. They came from a part of the heath a quarter of a mile to the rear, where furze almost exclusively prevailed as a product.

Every individual was so involved in furze by his method of carrying the faggots that he appeared like a bush on legs till he had thrown them down. The party had marched in trail, like a travelling flock of sheep; that is to say, the strongest first, the weak and young behind.

The loads were all laid together, and a pyramid of furze thirty feet in circumference now occupied the crown of the tumulus, which was known as Rainbarrow for many miles round. Some made themselves busy with matches, and in selecting the driest tufts of furze, others in loosening the bramble bonds which held the faggots together. Others, again, while this was in progress, lifted their eyes and swept the vast expanse of country commanded by their position, now lying nearly obliterated by shade. In the valleys of the heath nothing save its own wild face was visible at any time of day; but this spot commanded a horizon enclosing a tract of far extent, and in many cases lying beyond the heath country. None of its features could be seen now, but the whole made itself felt as a vague stretch of remoteness.

While the men and lads were building the pile, a change took place in the mass of shade which denoted the distant landscape. Red suns and tufts of fire one by one began to arise, flecking the whole country round. They were the bonfires of other parishes and hamlets that were engaged in the same sort of commemoration. Some were distant, and stood in a dense atmosphere, so that bundles of pale straw-like beams radiated around them in the shape of a fan. Some were large and near, glowing scarlet-red from the shade, like wounds in a black hide. Some were Maenades, with winy faces and blown hair. These tinctured the silent bosom of the clouds above them and lit up their ephemeral caves, which seemed thenceforth to become scalding caldrons. Perhaps as many as thirty bonfires could be counted within the whole bounds of the district; and as the hour may be told on a clock-face when the figures themselves are invisible, so did the men recognize the locality of each fire by its angle and direction, though nothing of the scenery could be viewed.
The first tall flame from Rainbarrow sprang into the sky, attracting all eyes that had been fixed on the distant conflagrations back to their own attempt in the same kind. The cheerful blaze streaked the inner surface of the human circle—now increased by other stragglers, male and female—with its own gold livery, and even overlaid the dark turf around with a lively luminousness, which softened off into obscurity where the barrow rounded downwards out of sight. It showed the barrow to be the segment of a globe, as perfect as on the day when it was thrown up, even the little ditch remaining from which the earth was dug. Not a plough had ever disturbed a grain of that stubborn soil. In the heath’s barrenness to the farmer lay its fertility to the historian. There had been no obliteration, because there had been no tending.

It seemed as if the bonfire-makers were standing in some radiant upper story of the world, detached from and independent of the dark stretches below. The heath down there was now a vast abyss, and no longer a continuation of what they stood on; for their eyes, adapted to the blaze, could see nothing of the deeps beyond its influence. Occasionally, it is true, a more vigorous flare than usual from their faggots sent darting lights like aides-de-camp down the inclines to some distant bush, pool, or patch of white sand, kindling these to replies of the same colour, till all was lost in darkness again. Then the whole black phenomenon beneath represented Limbo as viewed from the brink by the sublime Florentine in his vision, and the muttered articulations of the wind in the hollows were as complaints and petitions from the “souls of mighty worth” suspended therein.
It was as if these men and boys had suddenly dived into past ages, and fetched therefrom an hour and deed which had before been familiar with this spot. The ashes of the original British pyre which blazed from that summit lay fresh and undisturbed in the barrow beneath their tread. The flames from funeral piles long ago kindled there had shone down upon the lowlands as these were shining now. Festival fires to Thor and Woden had followed on the same ground and duly had their day. Indeed, it is pretty well known that such blazes as this the heathmen were now enjoying are rather the lineal descendants from jumbled Druidical rites and Saxon ceremonies than the invention of popular feeling about Gunpowder Plot.

Moreover to light a fire is the instinctive and resistant act of man when, at the winter ingress, the curfew is sounded throughout Nature. It indicates a spontaneous, Promethean rebelliousness against that fiat that this recurrent season shall bring foul times, cold darkness, misery and death. Black chaos comes, and the fettered gods of the earth say, Let there be light.

The brilliant lights and sooty shades which struggled upon the skin and clothes of the persons standing round caused their lineaments and general contours to be drawn with Dureresque vigour and dash. Yet the permanent moral expression of each face it was impossible to discover, for as the nimble flames towered, nodded, and swooped through the surrounding air, the blots of shade and flakes of light upon the countenances of the group changed shape and position endlessly. All was unstable; quivering as leaves, evanescent as lightning. Shadowy eye-sockets, deep as those of a death’s head, suddenly turned into pits of lustre: a lantern-jaw was cavernous, then it was shining; wrinkles were emphasized to ravines, or obliterated entirely by a changed ray. Nostrils were dark wells; sinews in old necks were gilt mouldings; things with no particular polish on them were glazed; bright objects, such as the tip of a furze-hook one of the men carried, were as glass; eyeballs glowed like little lanterns. Those whom Nature had depicted as merely quaint became grotesque, the grotesque became preternatural; for all was in extremity.”

Thomas Hardy, The Return of the Native

this commanding image of technological utopia became a monument to the transcendant power of industrial production in the early modern age

Criss-Crossed Conveyors, River Rouge Plant, Ford Motor Company / Charles Sheeler (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1883–1965 Dobbs Ferry, New York)

“In 1927, Charles Sheeler photographed the Ford Motor Company’s enormous River Rouge Plant. His most famous print depicts two starkly angular conveyor belts that transported coal into the power plant. In the background piercing the sky are eight tall, narrow smokestacks. Sheeler’s striking image revealed the might of Detroit’s industry, and did so by portraying only one small section of an industrial complex that consisted of nineteen separate buildings covering more than two square miles. The Rouge included a manmade harbor for Great Lakes coal and iron barges, the largest foundry in the world, and ninety-two miles of railroad track.”

Thomas J. Sugrue, The origins of urban crisis


“A realistic painter as well as a photographer, Sheeler rarely failed to uncover harmonious coherence in the forms of indigeneous American architecture. His series of photographs of the Ford plant near Detroit was commissioned by the automobile company through an advertising agency. Widely reproduced in Europe and America in the 1920s, this commanding image of technological utopia became a monument to the transcendant power of industrial production in the early modern age.” via Metropolitan Museum of Art / ”During the 1920s Sheeler found success and recognition as a commercial photographer. In 1927 he was hired by a prominent Philadelphia advertising firm, N. W. Ayer & Son, to shoot the Ford Motor Company’s River Rouge auto plant located outside of Detroit as part of a promotional campaign for the new Model A. The immense facility covered eleven hundred acres and was heralded as the largest industrial complex in the world. Sheeler photographed the factory for about six weeks, from late October until the end of November; the result was a series of thirty-two prints.” via National Gallery of Art

Petrochemical America: Richard Misrach + Kate Orff (SCAPE)


Introducimos por primera vez en el blog un libro-investigación de enorme interés, Petrochemical America, no sólo por centrarse en el paisaje del río Mississippi, uno de los intereses fundacionales de este blog, sino por la propuesta y las personas que la desarrollan. Richard Misrach, fotógrafo norteamericano conocido en España sobre todo por sus fotografías del desierto norteamericano en la serie de los Desert Cantos, inicia el camino con un recorrido fotográfico por el tramo final del Mississippi, en Louisiana, donde los antiguos terrenos de las plantaciones se han convertido en una sucesión de industrias petroquímicas y alimentarias que han llevado a bautizar esta zona como Cancer Alley. Al igual que en obras anteriores Misrach busca el diálogo con otra mirada, en este caso con la arquitecta norteamericana Kate Orff, directora de la oficina SCAPE de NY. Juntos desarrollan una conversación en forma de ir y venir entre fotografías y cartografías que define un formato de investigación novedoso y de gran profundidad, cuyo mayor valor sin embargo es utilizar con la mayor honestidad y claridad las herramientas propias de cada disciplina, fotografía y arquitectura del paisaje, para expresar toda la complejidad de la situación presentada sin por ello rechazar ninguna de sus dimensiones ni abrumar al espectador con un trabajo excesivamente técnico. Al contrario, el recorrido a lo largo de sus más de doscientas páginas va dibujando progresivamente la situación envolviendo al lector con la fuerza expresiva de sus imágenes y la claridad expositiva de sus temas, acabando además con un interesante “esto debe continuar” en forma de caja de herramientas de la oficina SCAPE.




“Petrochemical America features Richard Misrach’s haunting photographic record of Louisiana’s Chemical Corridor, accompanied by landscape architect Kate Orff’s Ecological Atlas—a series of “throughlines,” speculative drawings developed through research and mapping of data from the region. Their joint effort depicts and unpacks the complex cultural, physical, and economic ecologies along 150 miles of the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, an area of intense chemical production that first garnered public attention as “Cancer Alley” when unusual occurrences of cancer were discovered in the region.

This collaboration has resulted in an unprecedented, multilayered document presenting a unique narrative of visual information. Petrochemical America offers in-depth analysis of the causes of decades of environmental abuse along the largest river system in North America. Even more critically, the project offers an extensively researched guidebook to the way in which the petrochemical industry has permeated every facet of contemporary life. What is revealed over the course of the book is that Cancer Alley—although complicated by its own regional histories and particularities—may well be an apt metaphor for the global impact of petrochemicals on the human landscape as a whole.”

See more at:

Petrochemical America - Kate Orff

Petrochemical America - Kate Orff

“Americans know what the oil and gas and coal landscape looks like – but do we really? There is a hidden side to America’s material prosperity. Most of its harmful manifestations are literally invisible – benzene and dioxins “disappear” into the air, while waste chemicals are pumped underground into injection wells. PCBs, Mercury, and Lead, toxic in the most imperceptible but potentially devastating amounts, persist in our bodies, in river sediment, in soils. Commonly used petrochemicals that are all around us and seemingly impossible to avoid have the potential to re-wire our bodies’ endocrine systems. Carbon dioxide, which has precipitated the global climate crisis, is largely invisible. We all seemingly benefit from fast-flowing oil, and cheap consumer goods and foodstuffs, but the profound negative effects and associated wastes remain localized, often in poor communities. On a regional scale, especially along the Louisiana coast, thousands of miles of canals, pipes, and oil platforms criss-cross the gulf and reach deep into the countryside, blocking animal migration paths. These channels cut for oil and gas pipelines lead to erosion and provide direct routes for salt-bearing tides, killing freshwater wetlands, which are disappearing at the rate of a football field every thirty-eight minutes, transforming inland communities into coastal towns. Even the mighty and mythical Mississippi River has been transformed in its lower reaches into a de facto waste pipe, receiving massive quantities of farm chemicals, sewage, and industrial waste, creating an eerie, temporarily lifeless expanse of water off the coast of Louisiana called the “dead zone.”"

via Kate Orff: Petrochemical America: Toward a New Energy Landscape

Patrick Craig Manning: Mississippi River Delta


Patrick Manning, a photographer based in New Mexico, also uses seemingly straightforward techniques to explore something so pervasive in landscape that it becomes nearly impossible to discern. Manning’s Delta series looks at erosion caused in large part by the extensive network of man-made channels and canals in the Mississippi River Delta. Manning’s challenge is to portray, as he says, “changes so vast that they become the environment itself.” He has established a formal template for the images: each panoramic print is horizontally bisected by the horizon line, sky above, usually an expanse of water below, and a thin strip of green land in between; occasional structures or boats dot the landscape. The prints are unrealistically light, with the sky and the water all but washed out. The formal repetition and the lightness of the prints combine to create the sense that the photographs do not really show their subject — can’t really show it. We cannot see the lands that have sunk and eroded away, but we feel their absence.

via New Landscape Photography: Bleda y Rosa, Richard Mosse, Stephen Tourlentes, Patrick Manning: Places: Design Observer.



DELTA – 2008-2012 – INKJET PRINTS – 51″X30″

The impact of the ubiquitous and the diffuse is hard to comprehend. It is difficult to internalize changes so vast that they become the environment itself. The images comprising the series Delta are part of a long-term project photographing environments undergoing nearly invisible but massive man-made changes. Previous works have explored overgrazing in the desert west and the contrails left behind aircraft that often become man-made overcast.

The Mississippi River Delta is crisscrossed by thousands of man-made canals and ditches. These canals allow salt water to penetrate ever more deeply into the delta, killing the trees that anchor the wetlands. Erosion claims thousands of acres each year and the delta region is sinking at a rate of 4-5 feet per century.

The series Delta images the intersections of man-made waterways with the geological processes of the delta formation and erosion. It seeks to show the almost invisible process consuming the wetlands of southern Louisiana. These works portray what is absent, what has been lost, and reveal the increasing fragility and exposure we are placing ourselves in as we carve our lines into the delta.

via Patrick Craig Manning.

Landscape as Infrastructure (II)

“Design of surface systems, synchronization of material volumes, logistics of implementation, re-zoning of land across boundaries, sequencing of land transformations over time, synergies between land uses, and reciprocities between different agencies, can therefore augment and accelerate these strategies, placing emphasis on performative effects of practice rather than their end results. The new paradigms of longevity and performance decisively break with the Old World pictorial, bucolic, and aesthetic tradition of landscape design. Instead, they give landscape planning and design a logistical and operative agency as a practice that deals with complex, multidimensional systems. By design, the synthesis of urban operations—coupled with the refl exive mechanisms that underlie them—can therefore lead toward the development of this contemporary landscape practice; one that is urgently needed for the present and future reclamation of urbanizing and deurbanizing land in the Great Lakes region and North America.”

Landscape as Infrastructure, Pierre Bélanger

landscape as infrastructure

“However, the overgrown banks of the Flint River are a testament to the imminent rebound of its biodiversity from neglect and abandonment. Decline seems to have become the progenitor of ecological regeneration. As a catalytic infrastructure, landscape is rendered visible at the precise moment at which the city fails.”

Pierre Bélanger, Landscape as infrastructure

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

The geographic, social, and cultural origins of landscape, as stated here by Cosgrove, mark landscape and infrastructure as human, not pre or post- industrial, and rooted (in origin) in biophysical systems specific to place and time…

Landscape is not purely a temporal or biophysical phenomenon; culture is an integral component in the formation of both landscape and the infrastructural systems which transverse it, many of which are unique to place and people. Denis Cosgrove says of J.B. Jackson: “more evident perhaps is the influence of his consistent demonstration that landscapes emerge from specific geographical, social, and cultural circumstances; that landscape is embedded in the practical uses of the physical world as nature and territory” [19]. These “practical uses of the physical world” are infrastructural: transport, production, mediation, facilitation. The geographic, social, and cultural origins of landscape, as stated here by Cosgrove, mark landscape and infrastructure as human, not pre or post- industrial, and rooted (in origin) in biophysical systems specific to place and time.

via The Humanity of Infrastructure: Landscape as Operative Ground | Landscape Urbanism.

The Tigris, Euphrates, Indus, Yellow, and Nile rivers were the physical operative platform for the systems which provided basic services and necessities for each civilization…

By calling for reintegration rather than integration, the diverse and complex history of human infrastructural works is recognized. The cradles of civilization in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Indus Valley, and Yellow River valley provide a strong precedent. For these civilizations, the river was the infrastructural backbone of life. Each culture was initially defined by a river which provided transportation, irrigation, and fertility. Although human interventions during the initial evolution of civilization were relatively minor compared to contemporary infrastructural systems, the infrastructure of the ancient world was no less integral to human survival and prosperity. For example, use of a river by a fishing boat transforms it into an infrastructural entity through the introduction of a system of production derived from the landscape, and this system of production was part of a much larger network of food provision. The Tigris, Euphrates, Indus, Yellow, and Nile rivers were the physical operative platform for the systems which provided basic services and necessities for each civilization.

via The Humanity of Infrastructure: Landscape as Operative Ground | Landscape Urbanism.

Landscape is a conduit, an exaggerator, a proliferator, an inhibitor, an enabler; herein lies its timeless operative capacity…

For the purpose of this discussion, infrastructure can be defined as those systems, works, and networks upon which the function of any system of human inhabitation is reliant. According to Bhatia, it has become apparent that “the natural environment is perhaps the only issue that affects all of humanity equally,” and a renewed “emphasis on the collective natural environment repositions the role of infrastructure as the foundational spatial format, as it allows for the interconnection between the human and environmental spheres [1]. Landscape is Bhatia’s infrastructure. Landscape is inherently infrastructural: it mediates, produces, facilitates, and transports. As a network of infrastructural function and flow, landscape (here considered to be a result of human modification of an environment) becomes the operative platform of human existence; where landscape exists, so does infrastructure. Landscape is the medium through which culture, society, and the individual interact with biophysical, meteorological, and geological fluctuation or stasis. Landscape is a conduit, an exaggerator, a proliferator, an inhibitor, an enabler; herein lies its timeless operative capacity.

via The Humanity of Infrastructure: Landscape as Operative Ground | Dane Carlson in Landscape Urbanism.

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