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In Gardens: Profiles of Contemporary European Landscape Architecture [Hardcover]

By Udo Weilacher & Rita Weilacher (Photographer)
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Item description for In Gardens: Profiles of Contemporary European Landscape Architecture by Udo Weilacher & Rita Weilacher...

The past decade has witnessed new interpretations of the great themes of traditional European garden art in profusion. Drawing on his intensive studies of some 30 influential European projects, Udo Weilacher presents a panorama of the most significant developments since the publication of his groundbreaking work Between Landscape Architecture and Land Art in 1996.

Examples of the cooperation between landscape designers and architects are given special attention in case studies taken from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. In addition, US landscape designer Kathryn Gustafson, artists such as Dani Karavan, and the architectural theorist Charles Jencks are featured, along with their European works.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   183
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 9" Height: 11.25"
Weight:   2.45 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   May 24, 2005
Publisher   Birkhäuser Basel
ISBN  3764370785  
ISBN13  9783764370787  

Availability  0 units.

More About Udo Weilacher & Rita Weilacher

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Die Herausgeber

Dominik Freiherr von KAnig ist GeneralsekretAr der Stiftung Niedersachsen, FArderer von Wissenschaft, Bildung, Kunst und Kultur im Land Niedersachsen seit 1987 und TrAger des Landschaftskunstpreises NEULAND.

Bettina von Dziembowski ist Leiterin von Kunstverein & Stiftung Springhornhof in Neuenkirchen, TrAger eines der fA1/4hrenden Landschaftskunstprojekte Europas und Initiator des Landschaftskunstpreises NEULAND.

Udo Weilacher ist Professor fA1/4r Landschaftsarchitektur und Entwerfen am Institut fA1/4r Landschaftsarchitektur der Leibniz UniversitAt Hannover, und begleitet das Projekt NEULAND seit seiner Entstehung organisatorisch und konzeptionell.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Home & Garden > Gardening & Horticulture > Landscape
2Books > Subjects > Professional & Technical > Architecture > General
3Books > Subjects > Professional & Technical > Architecture > Landscape
4Books > Subjects > Professional & Technical > Architecture > Reference

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just more of the same   Dec 5, 2005
In Gardens: Profiles of Contemporary Landscape Architecture

Udo Weilacher
2005 Birkhauser
183 pp

Udo Weilacher is a Professor of Landscape architecture at the University of Hannover in Germany and will be known to many for his book `Between Landscape architecture and Land Art (1996). Whereas that book had a timely theoretical and practical intention (as well as the support of eminent essayists such as Stephen Bann and John Dixon Hunt), this small and relatively unattractive book offers a collection of designs without an explicit curatorial purpose and starts with a short, but nonetheless thoughtful introductory essay by Weilacher himself.

In this book Weilacher takes the reader on a journey through 28 contemporary landscapes, many of them already well known to consumers of Topos and other Birkhauser publications. Although the book's title stresses "Gardens" most of the works are, to be precise, public civic landscapes. They are nonetheless connected to both the intellectual and material traditions of gardens, particularly in a European context where garden design (Garten Kunst) remains a fine art, a legitimate category of landscape architecture that includes themed public places where form and meaning are intentionally refined. Additionally, for Weilacher, the poetic lineage of the work in this collection emanates from the ur-metaphor of paradise, (something he confuses with utopia) one of several underdeveloped themes nestled in his essay.

According to a note in the jacket, the material for this book derives from Weilacher's monthly garden column in the `New Zurcher' newspaper. Each of the 28 projects is not only explained, but also discussed in a lightly philosophical manner and if the text in the book is as it was in his original column, then one envies a culture that consumes landscape architecture in this manner. Indeed, Weilacher's design journalism is generally more engaging and insightful than much of what is typically written in landscape architectural trade journals and for that matter, designers' own web sites.

Setting aside the niggling sense that this book happened simply because it could and not for any pressing academic reason, Weilacher's take on the projects does give the book moments of originality. Moreover, to experience all the projects at once with Weilacher as a guide is to gain a rounded understanding of contemporary or rather, recent European landscape design. But surely the coffee table is now full under the weight of journalistic landscape design books? Birkhauser, it seems, think not.

In doing this book, Birkhauser have not only risked rerunning a lot of old copy but they have also allowed Weilacher to exclusively (and no doubt cost effectively) use his own unprofessional photography. Most of the shots are relatively high quality, yet some struggle for spark under a pallid northern European sky. Despite the book feeling somewhat drab, a condition exacerbated by a particularly uninspired layout, I found it refreshingly honest to witness well known designs from less flattering angles and without the frames and filters of professional photography. Adding to the book's atmosphere of realism and its emphasis on embodied experience is also the fact that there are no drawings of the projects.

Certainly, some readers will baulk, as I did, at the prospect of yet again revisiting places such as, among others, Peter Latz's Duisburg Nord and Ian Hamilton Finlay's Little Sparta. (Isn't it odd that a remote Scottish garden by an eccentric who makes gnomes for fine arts academics is quite probably the most publicized garden in the world!). Weilacher regales how while in Scotland he persevered storms to get to the 13th century estate of `Portrack Gardens' where Charles Jencks and his (late) partner Maggie Keswick have moved the earth into shapes that embody contemporary physics. Weilacher is rightly astounded and impressed by this ambitious continuation of an aristocratic tradition to reflect cosmology in landscape form. Weilacher argues that irrespective of its complex symbolism the design works viscerally. The design's overt symbolism does however prompt him to lightly question the limits of landscape architectural representation.

But this book is not a book of criticism, on the whole Weilacher sincerely loves contemporary landscape architectural design and his journalistic role is that of advocate: some thing we could do with in Australia.

In the flatlands of the north, Weilacher takes us to old projects such as the West 8's Interpolis Garden in Tilburg and Christoph Girot's Invalidenpark in Berlin, both of which are looking a bit worse for wear. On our way south to Kathryn Gustafson's Les Jargins de l'Imaginaire in France we pass by well built moments on the streets of Zurich by Dieter Kienast, (a man Weilacher holds in great esteem and likes to quote). The southern extreme of Weilacher's rader is the good old Parc del Clot in Barcelona by Dani Freixes and Vicente Miranda, a gutsy project that seemed the quintessence of the Catalonian landscape renaissance in the late 1980's.

There is no Eastern Europe work in this collection but bizzarely enough, Weilacher concludes his tour by leaving Europe altogether and touching down in Nek Chand's Rock Garden in Chandigarh, India. Since it has nothing to do with the sub title of the book, "Profiles in Contemporary European landscape Architecture" one can only assume it is tacked on as an Asian relation to Niki de Saint-Phalles `Tarot Garden' where like Nek Chand she has obsessed over tile mosaics. Alternatively, perhaps Weilacher just couldn't resist telling readers of his column and now his book about what he did on his holidays. Nek Chand's lifetime of making figurines from the shrapnel of Le Corbusier's modernist monuments is, of course, a wonderful story- a landscape architectural version of David and Goliath.

In the vertical axis we reach the heights of Paolo Burgi's gorgeous `Osservatorio Geologico' in Orselina and then plumb the depths in Bad Oeynhausen's Aqua Magica by Agence Ter. Other less well known projects in the book are that way for a reason.

One project that is not well known but memorable is a district park in Bijlmermeer, Holland by Georges Descombes that commemorates the crash of a Boeing 747 into a poor housing estate. Descombes' work is intelligent, rugged, and unspectacular, a welcome reprieve from the studied elegance we have become accustomed to from Europeans since Topos rallied their cause and pegged back the slapstick dominance of the Americans.

With this book Weilacher demonstrates that he is a good journalist and doing his tour is a worthwhile experience but what I find paradoxical is that books like this are the product of the very culture of consumption and imagery that Weilacher, in his introductory essay, says good landscape architecture resists. One looks forward to Weilacher getting back to academic work and developing the suggestive ideas in his introductory essay. Not least of all because my coffee table just collapsed.


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