The harsh taste of the landscape

It is still difficult to assert in the common sense the evidence that the complex multiplicity of relationships that we call landscape (natural variables, material cultures, mental projections) is not only a legacy of the work and wisdom of previous generations, but rather the outcome in progress of our ability to creatively reinterpret it.

Adding the contradictory protagonism of our many current events every day. Yet, this awareness sometimes begins to be shared, until the communities of places get their word and responsibility. And this goes together with the progressive spread of a culture of the “living landscape” made up of continuous education of the gaze and the senses, of emotions and knowledge, but also of training and dissemination, of the convergence of ultra-disciplinary knowledge, centered on a strategic vision and an articulated design methodology.

The connective figure of the landscape architect has long played an important role in building and promoting this culture. Prospecting also in Italy, albeit with some delay, the importance of skills that, in the framework of an interdisciplinary approach, intervene in the conception and design of what are now called “green infrastructures”: to give an account of the value of the system that this coordinated multiplicity of interventions takes on innervating the social, housing, productive framework of the most diverse scale, conforming its aspirations and imaginary.

Organized by the landscape architects of the Italian Association of Landscape Architecture, the 53rd World Congress of the International Federation of Landscape Architects will be held this year in Italy, from April 20 to 22 at the Lingotto in Turin. National associations of landscape architecture structured in the world in 4 macro regions.

The comparison on the theme titled the three days, Tasting the Landscape , is a heartfelt invitation to consider also the emotional and perceptive component of the landscapes, here appropriately privileged in the rampant liminal dimension constituted by peri-urban landscapes, between city and countryside. A series of achievements from the most diverse contexts will be proposed with the possibility of being valid as good practices. A final document of synthesis and direction will be shared and brought to the attention of citizens and politicians, calling us to the common responsibility that sees us all still operate on the landscape, perhaps in negative, abstaining and paying the costs of “not doing”, or proceeding ex post, for emergencies. Or instead savoring the taste of a consciously hypothesized landscape, unbalancing in the sign of experimentation, enunciating indications to proceed in tight dialectics with other opinions, ideas, participatory processes. In the belief that a renewed awareness of the value of the landscape is the premise of a shared, civil assumption of responsibility.

Interview with Anna Letizia Monti , president of the Italian Association of Landscape Architecture on the occasion of the 53rd World Congress of the International Federation of Landscape Architects to be held this year in Turin, at Lingotto, from April 20th to 22nd

Torsten Wirke:
The Peace Monument, or: God with us, sketch for the design realized through the cutting of the grass at the Monument of the Battle of the Nations in Leipzig 2013. A minimal and disruptive approach to perceive with new eyes the usual landscapes in the intervention of a landscape artist and an artist, Torsten Wilke and Ralf Witthaus

In the programmatic declaration of the 53rd World Congress of the International Federation of Landscape Architects to be held this year in Turin, at Lingotto, from April 20 to 22 organized by the Italian Association of Landscape Architecture, the president, Anna Letizia Monti , he says that “even at national level politicians, administrators and public opinion are finally recognizing that the landscape is an important element for the quality of life of the population”. We ask you if the great organizational effort that will bring to Turin over 1000 landscape specialists should not discount, especially in Italy, the defensive conviction, which also does not lack good reasons, which sees the landscape still too often considered only as something to admire and protect, keeping it equal to itself. While the message of your meeting focuses on a landscape project that is operating at the center of the country’s growth and development activities. How can these points of view be reconciled?

R It is no longer the time to think of the landscape as an iconic and celebrative element. The landscape is a dynamic reality that evolves, changes and changes. It is an integral part of the daily life of countries and populations and participates with them in changing needs and new uses.

The landscape is used in many ways and functions and can be defined as urban and periurban spaces to foster relationships and relationships; as urban and rural areas with arboreal plants for recreational activities and improvement of air quality; as dense sites of stratifications and past destinations that are renewed for food production of contiguity or for participatory poetics.

Our country is late on many of these issues, but the time has come to (re) act.

The Congress also has this objective: highlighting the needs, awakening the mind, suggesting solutions to be able to consciously and systematically launch projects and landscape projects that are an integral part of the policies of this country that – unfortunately – is decades behind the realization of normal projects of landscape, real and possible.

D In this type of forum there is often the risk of talking to oneself instead of taking the risk of dictating, almost imposing some strong themes on the debate. Could you introduce us to the reasons for choosing a title like Tasting the Landscape and its articulation in the 4 areas of study?

R We have chosen to investigate the areas of the landscape project in the round: the sensitive resignification of places, the critical areas of marginal areas, the proximity cultivations, the stratified landscapes, the poetics of everyday life.

In Turin we investigate the shared landscapes : the areas between city and countryside, residence and agricultural cultivation, industrial production and abandonment. These are landscapes that can and must create links, sharing and give value to places, people, ideas and productions; they are the areas for urban agriculture, the periurbans no longer waiting to be urbanized but resurrecting new life.

We compare the connected landscapes : those green and blue infrastructures, which are used to create connections, unions, continuity between territories and contiguous people. Places in which productions and sporting activities coexist, resilience and tourism.

Then the theme of stratified landscapes is discussed, in which the stories and the mutations of the places coexist and dialogue. Sites in which past and present have precarious relationship codes and for which the landscape artist must identify semantics for complementarity and cohesion.

Lastly, inspirational landscapes are studied: places where a re-signification of the existing takes shape or new poetics for living are declined.

 D’incà Lewis
Intervention by Gianluca D’Incà Levis in the context of the Dolomiti Contemporanee project for the re-appropriation of spaces and the reuse of buildings that render landscapes and populations alive and active.

D Given the plurality of the interventions and projects that will be presented, could you anticipate some concrete cases from which you await suggestions and solutions that, although linked to the different contexts of origin, could take on an exemplary value and offer glimpses of future trends and developments?

R The works will see the intervention of leading figures in the international debate such as Raffaele Milani, professor of aesthetics and landscape philosophy; Henri Bava, French landscape designer who has undergone numerous projects for the redevelopment of degraded landscapes; Saskia Sassen, a sociologist and US economist who has been investigating the theme of the global city for years.

The novelty, if we want to consider it, is that it is not only the European countries and the United States that have the implementation policies and habits for the landscape project, but also most of the other countries. In Turin will be presented a project of 1,000 hectares of urban agriculture in Beijing, contributions of the University of Tehran, projects for the enhancement of Turkish landscapes in the hinterland of Mersin, rather than the southwest of Nigeria: it is clear the sensitivity and determination of many countries to implement cogent landscape policies, with strictly economic and / or tourism purposes or to make their own suggestions and stimuli coming from citizens.

Q And in Italy? Are there any virtuous examples to be taken as precedents or good practices? I am reminded of last year’s landscape project at Expo by Franco Zagari and Benedetto Selleri, also for the future implications, risks and opportunities to imagine today a green infrastructure system in the North, in the context of the metropolitan city.

In short, what is the state of the art in Italy and the implementation purpose of the landscape project? What is the attention of institutions and representatives of political power?

R Virtuous examples exist throughout the country. But they do not make a system.

There are no stringent policies and simple procedural procedures to propose and implement landscape projects.

We talk a lot, but in a generic way. We do not realize elementary things, such as tax deductibility for green works: a system adopted for boilers, fixtures, purchase of furniture and that failed to fit into the stability law this year, despite the cohesive mobilization of the whole industry chain: nurserymen, designers, companies of green works.

The politicians of each deployment speak of landscape, ecology, sustainability, tourism promotion of the landscape heritage, but the actions are limited to planning and telling projects, without going to their realization.

Landscape projects involve low money investments, sometimes even minimal compared to most public works. It takes little to do much: you invest in ideas, trees, shrubs, seeds and land and you get oxygen, wellness, tourism and garrison of the territory. It is at least paradoxical that it is not possible to create works that have these characteristics but perhaps it is precisely because of the long time that nature requires (which are longer than an electoral mandate) and the economic minimality of these works that nobody is interested in developing and to promote this sector which – evidently – has too small budgets to be interesting , especially for those who are interested in turning a lot of money. It is a serious statement mine, but AIAPP is not afraid to cry out that, in our country, for too many years the king is naked.

Q We are talking about a conclusive document of synthesis that goes in the direction of an overall greater accountability of all the protagonists? Could you anticipate the terms?

R The manifesto focuses in a few points on the salient issues: landscape quality and design quality, the need for mandatory landscape governance policies, adequate training at all levels: from the university, to professional updating at all scales, from the technicians of the public administrations to freelancers, from the operator to the manager.