Thursday, September 9, 2010


In the 20th Century, high technology and building architecture have gone hand in hand.  Indeed, it's difficult to imagine a modern building which does not include the major scientific breakthrough of the late 19th century - alternating current, which is designed into the structure of nearly every building. As breakthroughs were made in understanding of electricity, lighting, appliances, and computing, all have been quickly integrated into built structures, to such a degree that its often hardly noticeable to our eyes.

This has not generally been the case, however, with the architecture of the landscape, which often to this day unremarkable technologically. Even when high technology materials or components are used, (such as polymer threads in engineered soils to stabilize steep slopes, or computerized irrigation systems) great efforts are often taken to conceal these elements in an attempt to create a naturalistic impression. 

But this was not always the case. The power of the Roman aqueducts, the high of engineering technology at the time, were displayed through elaborate public fountains. In the Renaissance, designers took this yet further, using mechanical power from such water to create machines, used not for production but for powering musical water organs, or moving automatons or mechanized fountain displays, designed only to delight. It's rare to even find sculpture in the contemporary landscape, outside of dedicated 'sculpture gardens.' The cultures of previous ages seem to have felt that their highest achievements should as much as possible be displayed outdoors and in public, so that many could see and appreciate, where as we have tended to keep them indoors. Is a reversal possible?  Can the landscape become a place which is integrated with the advances in other fields for the purpose of its display and appreciation?   

1 comment:

  1. Hey Ben,
    might be late to the party here but you know you brought up a lot of interesting points. I had a good experience reading this post and I hope you will keep up the great work. You can find some of my own work and fascinations with the electrical masters over here