Architecture as Landscape

 

We practice architecture in the ecotone

An ecotone is a transitional boundary between two ecosystems, possessing characteristics of both yet belonging to neither. Natural ecotones are arenas for biodiversity and interactions between various species. Ambiguity and complexity are two of their prominent features. At the border between two ecosystems, we see a spectrum of features from each, which creates diverse ecological capabilities within the ecotone. Borrowing this concept from ecology, if we consider architecture and landscape as ecosystems for human life, we can say that the “architectural experience in the ecotone,” or the “arena between landscape and architecture,” is a novel experience of space creation based on capabilities and situations.

The architects explain their proposal was not for a definitive park but for a ‘’method’’ that combined ‘’programatic instability with architectural specificity’’ a condition that would generate a park.

 

 

In the 1982 design competition for Parc de la Villette in Paris, Rem Koolhaas, instead of designing the park as an architectural object, proposed a process for interweaving different conceptual architectural layers, human activities, and vegetation, which is full of unknown situations for users and embraces the project’s evolution over the coming years. In a way, Koolhaas’ Parc de la Villette project moves within the ecotone between architecture and landscape. In contrast, Bernard Tschumi designed the park as an architectural object by layering elements such as access routes, activity areas, and a network of follies. The design was ultimately executed as the winning project. In this project, landscape and architecture do not blend together. They have clear boundaries, and claiming space within them is nearly impossible. Although Paris officials have attempted to enliven the park over the years by adding gardens and uses within it, it is clear that each implemented project is entirely separate from Tschumi’s original idea.

The Bamland Complex, designed by Contextlogic Architects in 2018, creates a new relationship between architectural space and landscape in “The Space In-Between”. This project provides mutual added value for commercial use and urban spaces.

Can we reach different spatial potentials by redefining the boundary between architecture, landscape, and nature?

If we imagine the border between architecture and landscape not as a line like a wall, which divides space into two distinct types of zero and one, but as a gradual field stretched from space and time, in this way, it is not that architecture ends and landscape begins. The “border” itself becomes spatial and a new pattern is formed. This ability can become an active agent in the relationship between architectural space and landscape. Instead of landscape as a neutral display force, a new metabolism of landscape and architecture can be proposed, which is possible in a vague combined space between these two fields. This proposal questions the concept of the border as an entity that separates an architectural work from the environment and creates separation between the building and the landscape, inside and outside, city and architecture, private and public affairs, and introduces it as an unnamed quality or entity that fluctuates between these concepts.


Majara Residence, designed and built by ZAV Architects in 2019. In this project, the boundaries between landscape and architecture blend together. The architecture resembles the natural growth mechanisms. Nameless spaces form both inside and outside the project, creating unexpected situations for the observer.


Dealing with living entities that change over time requires structural flexibility and a type of planning and guidance. By blending the concepts of landscape and architecture at the borders, instead of designing and controlling the project as a single object, it can be actively managed and planned to change over time based on new situations. Since the ecotone is not entirely controllable, it is flexible. It is unnamed, occasionally pointless, and without specific use, and for this reason, it is a free platform for the occurrence of various events and the birth of different experiences free from assumptions.

By questioning the common assumption about dualities such as architecture and landscape, architecture and nature, architecture and city, inside and outside, one can stand in the middle of them, a place where Sou Fujimoto calls it “in-between space.” In the “ecotone” between these dualities, in an environment that is neither this nor that but belongs to both, freedom from labels and usual definitions becomes possible, and opportunities are created that have not been thought of. The architect’s role in this middle ground remains a director who, in a creative scenario, accepts some improvisations and occasionally an open ending for his project. This ambiguous space allows for playfulness and imagination for the audience and becomes a basis for discovering unimaginable situations.

In designing a public toilet in Ichihara in 2012, Sou Fujimoto blends and challenges the concepts of private and public space, transparency, and confinement by placing a toilet in a glass box surrounded by a 200-square-meter enclosed garden. The open ending of this story is the project turning into a tourist attraction for the city.

 



In the design of the Kokage-gumo pavilion in Tokyo 2021, Junya Ishigami created a space by providing shade from burnt wood surrounded by trees, a space that cannot be said to be part of the landscape or architecture. This space mixes the fields of outside and inside, architecture and landscape so much that it seems to have always been part of the surrounding nature. The areas of this project are vague and unnamed, and the quality of the space cannot be easily defined, but nevertheless, a fascinating field has been provided.


A Creation with the Earth’s Essence

Can architecture create new spatial possibilities by reproducing the Earth instead of occupying it?

The experience of walking on a hill, gaining mastery, and gradually seeing the surrounding environment is a unique experience that occurs in nature. Now, if this experience becomes a significant part of encountering and entering a building, for example, as Sou Fujimoto has created a hill in the dense urban fabric of Tokyo in the Shiroiya Hotel, it cannot be precisely called landscape, architecture, or city. Something in-between them emerges from their intertwining and breaking into each other to create a new experience. Oslo Opera House and Park Yunicolo are other similar examples where, despite the rigidity of the structure and proximity to architecture, the experience of moving on a hill is mixed with a different set of natural qualities. In these examples, we are very close to architecture, but in this spectrum, we can distance ourselves from architecture as a building so much that the physicality disappears and only an atmosphere remains that cannot be distinguished from nature. The Blue Garden, ObelArt Biotop, is an example in this regard. In this project, Ishigami has created a space between the artificial and natural environment by relocating trees and creating a new landscape, where the land is reproduced instead of being occupied, and the architect’s intervention has created an upgraded environment from nature with enriched ecology.



Architecture in the space in-between can create greater continuity between the environment, nature, geography, and architecture, so that instead of creating a single building, the environment itself develops and grows. In the same way that the flow of water in nature creates valleys by cutting the earth and the sea shapes the estuary with its advances and retreats, architecture can create a creation with its own earth essence in interaction with the landscape.