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					            A CONVERSATION WITH


            STAN ALLEN
            Clara Solà-Morales
                                                                                                                                                                                      and event). But the second part of the
                                                                                                                                                                                      argument in Landform is that today we
                                                                                                                                                                                      have to go beyond the simple coinci-
                                                                                                                                                                                      dence of form and surface, and look at
                                                                                                                                                                                      a wider catalogue of potential landform
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   One of the lessons of the recent
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                work in landscape is that program is
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                still a slightly problematic concept in
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                large parks. Despite the best efforts
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                of the architects and landscape ar-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           and form, or does it rely on its
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           performance within the city? New
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           paradigms, new goals: is this archi-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           tecture challenging the role of the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           architect?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   say I disagree with the way in which
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   your question is framed. The turn
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   to landform building is precisely a
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   reassertion of the agency of large-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   scale architectural interventions in
            BIArch assistant professor for Stan Allen Short Design Studio and principal of Cadaval & Solà-Morales
                                                                                                                                                                                      typologies; to look at the interior as    chitects working in this territory, the       My position is that the theoreti-    the city: the catalytic potential of the
                                                                                                                                                                                      well as the exterior; to look at atmos-   catalogue of potential programs has        cal promise of landscape urbanism       individual building; the perfomative
                                                                                                                                                                                      pheres and weather, geological form as    not been significantly enlarged. We         is immense, but in practice, that       impact of infrastructural nodes; the
                                                                                                                                                                                      well as smooth organic profiles.           are still talking primarily about active   urbanistic potential has not been       restructuring of public space, or the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                and passive recreation, and conven-        realized. For the most part those       persistence of landmarks over time.
                                                                                                                                                                                      As Dean of the School of Architec-        tional collective programs (cafés and      practicing landscape urbanism are       One of our goals was to map out a
                                                                                                                                                                                      ture at Princeton you have organized      amphitheatres). It is true that there      doing large urban parks; the tradi-     different genealogy, looking back to
                                                                                                                                                                                      a series of influential conferences        is also a history in landscape of peda-    tional lines between urban design       Aldo Rossi’s arguments in The Archi-
                                                                                                                                                                                      over the last years. In the conference    gogical programs – botanical gardens,      and landscape architecture have in      tecture of the City, highlighting the mat
                                                                                                                                                                                      held in 2009, Michael Jacobs argued       for example, but that is not seen so       fact been largely maintained. This is   building and Kenneth Frampton’s
                                                                                                                                                                                      that there is a return to the Kantian     often today. I would argue that it is      as much the fault of those who plan     ideas of the Megaform – all of these
                                                                                                                                                                                      ‘aesthetics’ of form, and recognized      a mistake to think of landscape as         and commission work as it is of those   architectural strategies that have
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            Stan Allen, Dean of the School of         burial areas but also incorporating        ther is fully adequate unto itself, and    no longer forms a coherent group,         in the performance of the human           primarily program-driven; that the         who carry it out. So I would have to    strong urban implications.
            Architecture at Princeton University      new ceremonial and a-cultural              the strongest people are always those      and that ideas and interests are di-      body in the architecture/landscape        advantage of landscape is precisely its
            and principal of Stan Allen               cremation typologies.                      who bring an element of both. More-        verging, and each practice is becom-      an ‘aestheticization’ of the self. How    openness to a wide range of potential
            architects, led BIArch’s second           Clara Solà-Morales interviews              over, the rigor of Spanish education       ing more singular. I would simply say     important is the performative aspect      programs. In that sense – and this was
            spring Short Design Studio, which
            was held in Montcada i Reixac,
                                                      Stan Allen here about the overall
                                                      concerns of his professional
                                                                                                 has been compromised recently by
                                                                                                 European integration, so that model
                                                                                                                                            that the results at this point should
                                                                                                                                            speak for themselves.
                                                                                                                                                                                      in the built environment?
                                                                                                                                                                                         There was a point at which I ar-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                why we proposed it – the cemetery is
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                an exception: a landscape program
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The Truss
            one of the main gateways to the           practice as exemplified in the work         itself is no longer quite so valid. In                                               gued (against the strong formal bias      that is highly specific, with prescribed     SHORT DESIGN STUDIO PROJECT
fall 2011




                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               fall 2011
            Barcelona metropolitan region. The        carried out by the Design Studio.          the end I am convinced that the pure       In your book Landform Building            of some work at the time) that how a      rituals, spaces and sequences.              Aaron Tregent, Marta García-Orte, Iva Petkovic, Andjelka Badnjar
            town’s internal structure follows the                                                academic model is never going to           you discuss how this initial period       project worked was more important
            Besòs River, but mainly responds                                                     produce interesting architecture;          at Columbia, with all the computer        than how it looked. The context of        Observing the students’ proposals,          BIArch students
            to an extraordinary density of            You have been involved in academia         architecture is enriched by its con-       explorations and its take on surfac-      that statement was my article on ‘In-     the cemetery program seems to be-
            infrastructure that occupies and          for over twenty years in the US, and       frontation with reality, and part of an    es and topographies, can be the ori-      frastructural Urbanism,’ and I think      come an architecture tool either for        The Truss mobilizes a broader disciplinary approach to the studio, ad-
            fractures the territory. On this          your background links you to Span-         architectural education is to stage that   gin of architects taking an increas-      it should be clear that in that engi-     reshaping the landscape to express          dressing the complex ecological, cultural and social conditions of the site
            extremely complex amalgam of roads,       ish architecture and its educational       confrontation in an interesting way.       ing interest in the organizational        neering context, performance drives       and enhance the topographical and           — generated by metropolitan scale infrastructure permeating the remain-
            railways, motorways, water and            environment. In your opinion, then,                                                   and performative potentials of            appearance, and is indeed partly          tectonic qualities of the existing site,    ing agricultural fields and the proliferation of sub-urban and industrial
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            recycling plants, but also rivers         what are the positive aspects of the US    If we go back to your early years at       landscape, and its formal represen-       responsible for the powerful formal       or for thinking it as an iconoclastic       development. The project proposes to define and establish a crucial corri-
            and mountains of high ecological          education system that could be incor-      Columbia University, and look at the       tations. Those explorations bring         presence of some of those engineer-       approach closer to Land Art. Where          dor in the continuity of the regional ecology, while implementing architec-
            value, there is still one large           porated into the Spanish system? And       professional trajectories of a group of    the discussion round to internal          ing structures. So this was never an      is the balance between the artefact         tural mechanisms to construct processive conditions of space and support
            expanse that remains pristine;            what do you think are the strengths of     young professors (Greg Lynn, Hani          structure, with close attention to the    anti-formal argument on my part and       and the landscape’s behaviour?              variable notions of use and public-ness. The Truss shifts the notion of form
            an agricultural and forest area           this country’s education?                  Rashid, Jesse Reiser, and yourself)        formality of its representation. But      today I would suggest that it is impos-      I think in general the students          towards a performative mega-form entity that considers the process and
            that thanks to various historical            This is a question that cuts both       that were there at that time, we dis-      where does architecture position          sible to think about how a building       worked as architects on the landscape,      change of landscape and architecture and challenges the cultural and so-
            conditions has been left untouched,       ways. On the one hand, I admire the        cern a tendency in the architectural       itself in considering environmental       works without thinking about how it       not as landscape architects. This was       cial conception of the program and the place.
            an island within the regional             professionalism of Spanish education       thinking of the last few years. What is    strategies? How do surface and per-       looks. I have always preferred to speak   partly a question of time, partly a
            network of infrastructure, industry       – the rigor of the technical educa-        left of those first explorations?           formance meet environment?                of ‘organization’ – which encom-          question of technique and partly a
            and housing that surrounds it.            tion, the completeness of the training        This generation (to which I might          It is true – as I argue in Landform    passes form and performance, rather       question of training and expertise.
            The site chosen for the Design            and the deep tradition (in Barcelona       add Liz Diller, Scott Cohen, and           Building – that architecture and land-    than either program or form on its        I think we were partly successful in
            Studio has been identified (and            in particular) of the professional ar-     others) has begun to make the transi-      scape came together in the 1990s          own. In other words, in the complex       getting the students to learn from
            protected) in recent years for both       chitect as an intellectual. In the US,     tion from small, experimental prac-        around the question of the surface.       interaction between a building and        landscape, but not completely. This
            its ecological and also its strategic     there is a stronger separation between     tices to larger offices engaged today       On the one hand, new softwares made       its public, performance is as much an     is probably appropriate, however, as
            values. This is agricultural land         the profession and the academy. This       in institutional and commercial            the generation of complex surfaces easy   outcome of the way something looks        the goal of the studio was not to turn
            with a rich set of connections to         has its benefits, too, and the idea of a    building commissions. In the best of       for architects; landscape architects,     as of its internal organization. Frie-    them into landscape architects, but
            the regional network. The exercise        period of internship after the profes-     cases, the same spirit of experimenta-     who start off with a highly developed     drich Nietzsche says that ‘Appearance     instead to identify a productive space
            proposed to the students reflected         sional degree recognizes that there        tion and exploration is visible. Many      expertise in surface, learned some-       too is a form of reality.’                between landscape and architecture.
            its relevance in landscape and            are many aspects of practice that are      use advanced digital technologies          thing from architects and their for-
            ecological terms, and incorporated        best learned in practice (dealing with     productively to achieve a high level       mal explorations. But what landscape      The studio that you taught at             Finally, let me talk again about
            a program according to its potential      clients and contractors, for exam-         of technical realization. In the US at     contributed was an idea of perform-       BIArch used landscape and a ‘low-         the city. It is clear that perform-
            at a regional level, while providing      ple). The result of this has been that     least, there is also a change in those     ance: that the form and material of       density’ program such as a cemetery       ance, urbanity and scale have been
            the frame for the maintenance             American education has been strong         commissioning work; the ‘added             a landscape surface determine how it      to qualify the site and enhance its       central to Landscape Urbanism.
            and restructuring of the existing         in the more speculative and experi-        value’ of design is recognized today,      will interact with external variables,    ecological values. Can we believe in      However, when we consider land-
            landscape. A new cemetery for             mental aspects of the discipline: that     and this generation is well prepared       whether those variables are natural       programmatic landscape as a tool          form buildings, this take might
            metropolitan Barcelona was                in the academy you do what the acad-       to deliver on that promise. But what       (water, runoff, soil chemistry, plant     to consolidate the terrains vagues of     not be so clearly identifiable. Is
            proposed, with local traditional          emy does well. The truth is that nei-      is also apparent is that this generation   and animal life) or social (program       the metropolitan city?                    the discussion centred on structure

				
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