See photos from the 2019 LILA ceremony that took place in Geneva, Switzerland on September 20th.
The project Objets Trouvés convinces with outstanding artistic quality and visible historical awareness. Moving the bunker from its ancestral place and letting it re-appear in a new one is both astonishing and effective. This blunt dislocation, which first reacts to infrastructural requirements and finally turns the bunker into a ready-made, creates a whole new quality of visual perception. It is in this aesthetic space of resonance, where contemporary infrastructure development ultimately becomes conceivable as a possible instalment of the European warfare history. Consequently, the actual traces of history are kept visible with a genuine purpose – although this required such an action as moving a bunker. As a bold and even radical gesture, the project inscribes itself in the infusible tension between past, present, and future on the one hand, and between absence and presence on the other. In doing so, it formulates a notable reference point for the contemporary discipline of landscape architecture as an artistically informed cultural practice.
A beautiful and extremely subtle design, Scenic Path is a gesture drawn so as to offer a discovery of ‘what is already there’ and ‘what has been there’ a long time ago. A clever, precise design of a path, with a sophisticated geometrical set of shifting positions, where platforms, seats or walls organize the views far away, and with the same movements build a very strong sense of place. The materiality of the realization continues and reinforces the design with a great coherence, forming this precise architectonic play with a restrained number of materials. A presence arises – a collision of space and time – and you experience a landscape at the same time very old and very new.
Studio Vulkan is a Zürich based landscape architecture practice. They are not bound to finding a formula for their projects, but rather seem to be more interested in re-questioning everything a project might bring: context, ambience and all available tools for solving problems and making an experience. They are not committed to finding a style, although there is a notion of ‘relaxed aesthetics’ present in most of their projects that is well-anchored in the project narrative.
Toni Areal, for example, is a roof garden, an urban oasis that uses only time to make itself more defined by natural forces, and one in particular – decay. Exposing the beauty of decay, or decay itself, is still a taboo across our profession; oddly enough, in an age when nature is in focus. Similarly, Park Naturmuseum St. Gallen is dealing with ‘artificial naturalness’. It aims to question the occurrence of nature in an entirely artificial/urban context. Studio Vulkan seem to enjoy introducing intentional imperfections, knowing that in this way, their works are far more interesting. For Park Naturmuseum they wrote in the project narrative: “In addition to the predominantly native plants, exotic hydrangeas stand for the paradox of the place.”
In times, when our profession still produces a monoculture of ideas resulting in sameness, Studio Vulkan is showing the way to keep landscape architecture interesting. Their work provokes an endless curiosity while also featuring a catalogue of solutions to a range of relevant issues.
The work of Michael van Gessel (b. 1948) spans over several decades and is comprised of landscape architecture, urban planning, and supervision of large scale developments. After his studies at Wageningen University in 1978, he was employed in Bureau B+B for 18 years, the last seven as its director. He presided over many juries, among others for the Rosa Barba Prize and Landscape Architecture Europe editions. He retired in 2015 and lives in Amsterdam.
His landscape projects are all about silent change. In his book Invisible Work, van Gessel states his objective is to design spaces in a way that they feel as if they’ve been there since always. While his approach is about mastering restraint and subtle creativity, he was never afraid to chop down some trees in order to make the view. His works are precise, subtle, minimal, timeless, but at the same time bold, playful and always interesting!
His approach is the perfect antidote to formalism and to projects wanting too much. His body of work is a library many can learn from now and in the times to come.
The Noordwaard project is a new 4450-hectare flow area that will prepare The Netherlands for the rising waters in the ‘Room for The River’ project. With its 12 pumping stations, hydraulic structures, and a large number of bridges, it is a bold but also humble design that respects the water landscape. The bridges have many different functions such as dikes, resting areas for birds, and introduces water in a spectacular way. They also facilitate public access and provide new opportunities for recreation in the de-poldered area. This is a clear statement that design matters because it adds value for people, birds, and water landscape.
The Prins Hendrikzanddijk deals with a dynamic landscape system – a waterfront that faces rising and unpredictable waters. They introduce a dialogue with the native forces, involving them in the emergence of the ‘islands’. The project addresses the interaction between liquid and solid, the still and the moving. It invites biodiversity, offers a beautiful space for recreation and, most of all, excellently illustrates an alternative way of design by working with time, instead of working against it.
Often landscape designs for hotels and resorts are too full of everything and enclosed, gated, disconnected from the outside world. There is a pressure that landscape needs to be perfect all the time. The Hospitality award was introduced to promote a project that can welcome visitors, tourists, and temporary residents differently. ‘Clouds’ establish the experience not by looking into its own created pocket arcadia, but by absorbing and framing the surroundings. It creates a space of confrontation between visitors and landscape.
Coteau Saint Barbe is a smart and beautiful ‘stitch’ of the urban and the natural. It offers the link between the two and also effectively uses water dynamics from higher up the slope. With a simple gesture it adds an immense value to the living outdoors at Coteau Saint Barbe.
If we can say that a private garden is an experimental place for domestic life, Rooted in Clay is just that. As the name suggests, the project is about taming a very dynamic topological context and at the same time keeping the feeling of the place wild. Considering the ordinary Canadian suburb, this garden is a surprise. Furthermore, the project reuses city’s leftovers, mainly wooden slabs. Rooted in Clay is about engineering, recycling, and, above all, experience. It accomplishes its goals effectively and gracefully through a sequence of shifting situations. Nature is an ambiguous term, but in a context of suburban residential gardens full of order, Rooted in Clay introduces a relaxed, more natural atmosphere. As such it is a poetic statement and a convivial critique.
Sonoma Mountain Garden represents a rigorous approach to minimalist landscape architecture that has a strong collaborative dialogue with the architecture. The garden’s material pallet is contextual, as it pulls in the surrounding landscape through its use of textures, forms and colors. The strong and clearly human-made geometrical patterns offer a complement to the surrounding landscape through contrast. Each space and corridor within the garden are well scaled and present a well-crafted and eloquent suite of details and materials that offer the user a quiet and contemplative landscape that will bring friends and family together.
Jury members recognized Catherine Mosbach as an outstanding and talented creative force who pushes the profession beyond excellence, revealing hidden layers of designing and also thinking about landscape. The result is a portfolio of unique and strong conceptual works. They remind us that there will always be infinite opportunities to find and express an original personal vocation whilst practicing environmentally and socially responsible work.
Strelka KB is not a classical design office, but a bridge between Russian society and the global design profession. They stand out due to their role as facilitator, initiator and project driver. They do not claim to be design experts. but help make projects reality through their local expertise, willingness to navigate through the local environment, and a desire to change things. Strelka KB is not defined by a unitary design vision but by a collective of hundreds of young professionals hungry to transform their city and country. In doing so they have managed to affect change to an extent never before seen in the design profession.
The project answers questions related to reintroducing nature into artificial landscape and dealing with landscape in rural-urban fringes. It reactivates the old river channel for visitors, masterfully combining new modest elements and simple structures into a powerful experience. The most poetic element is the grid of sand – a platform for the river – a natural force that expresses itself through decomposition. Designed as a ruin, the project is the process; full of play between the grid and the river, man and nature. Renaturalisation is not brought in by force; it occurs. One can imagine the river entering the grid for the first time, like an animal released from captivity, figuring out which way to go and where to settle. The power of this work lies in its honesty, taking us to a much deeper thinking about the relation between man and nature in the age of the Anthropocene.
Jury members acknowledged this garden as an outstanding way of bringing residents to nature, due to its simplicity and the way it allows for exploration. An ordinary site was curated and transformed by Coen+Partners into a dramatic landscape comprising various ambiences with a unique character. The jury noticed the presentation of the project, focusing away from the house into the garden as the place of dwelling and coexisting with the site.
This intervention raises the question of what ‘garden’ is and what it represents. Salaam house is a ‘hard-core’ landscape architecture project sending a message that with subtle approach, simplicity and a modest budget we can create a garden by maintaining and appreciating what we already have.
H+N+S has through an engineering approach successfully developed large scale thinking about landscape, integrating aspects concerning energy, environment, well-being and aesthetics. They feature a consistent opus of brave interventions in landscape, often with ingenious and innovative solutions. H+N+S is a relevant force in our common task to find and develop new tools for overcoming the challenges concerning landscape today and in the future.
Agence Ter stood out for their ‘motion and evolution’. Motion, for entering unchartered territories and solving problems from multiple directions, and evolution, for constantly responding to changing demands concerning climate change and social issues. With this approach, Agence Ter designs unique, smart and convivial landscapes.
Members of the jury recognized SLA from Denmark as an office that demonstrates the ability and adaptability to successfully design a wide scope of different tasks. They developed an effective approach to bringing nature into the urban environment, whilst working with its processes in cities, especially dealing with large quantities of water.
In terms of bridging regenerative infrastructure and public landscapes, the jury also acknowledges SCAPE studio from NYC. SCAPE combines research and practice to conquer cross-scale spatial challenges, whilst blurring the lines between neighbourhoods and habitats.
Saint Ouen – Park at The Docks is a complex landscape system that offers optimistic answers to questions concerning social equity and water resilience. Agence Ter demonstrated excellent skills to design a multifunctional, generous and inclusive social platform that offers various uses (including growing food). At the same time, it works as a sponge, providing space for water during heavy rains and floods. Jury members agreed passionately that this project will send the right message to the professional community on how to design liveable urban spaces for the future as well as to everyone else on how we should all be able to use open spaces in the times ahead of us.
The jury members also acknowledge Chicago Riverwalk (SASAKI + Ross Barney) as a high-quality urban space, extremely well structured and built. The new horizontal layer in the birthplace of the skyscraper will certainly have a positive impact and will transform the city into a more liveable and pedestrian-friendly urban environment.
Park am Gleisdreieck (Atelier LOIDL) was also debated as one of the most effortlessly beautiful and comfortable projects. Placed four meters above the city level, Gleisdreieck is an urban oasis and a vital link between neighbourhoods, featuring smart interventions, such as a(?) placing programme under the bridge, revealing layers from the site’s past uses and exposing the contrast between soft park tissue and S-Bahn trains buzzing over the main meadow on the elevated rail-yards. One jury member commented: “It’s so Berlin!”
Marti Franch is in his projects not only successfully solving spatial, environmental and physical problems concerning the sites he works on but with very respectful interventions manages to nurture landscape architecture also as a cultural discipline. His landscapes offer educational and experiential richness, often in fragile environments.
EMF designed landscapes are a result of a curious design approach that emphasises the curiosity also in the visitor by leaving landscape features and stories hidden enough to be discovered rather than just put on display. The narrative in Cap de Creus projects awaits the user in suggestion and not in the direct message. This way the user interacts with the meaning, making the experience far more intense and memorable.
La Tancada Salt Fields and Cap de Creus, are blending ecology, natural and cultural memory into harmonious and at the same time very powerful experience. The grounds of Can Framis museum illustrate EMF’s ability to intervene in dense urban fabric. A green, almost forest like ambience in the middle of Barcelona, again with a direct connection to the site’s past and ecological measures for cooling down the site with dense planting.
With Les Echasses project Marti Franch is effectively using natural processes to create a lake for a nature like resort. Instead of just creating a lake the landscape is proposed that first creates natural conditions for a lake to take place as a consequence.
EMF is practicing excellent scientific and technical work, but most importantly also proves well manifested paradigm that visiting landscapes must mean a culturally fulfilling experience. In the times when ecosystems are constantly being challenged by the consequences of human activity preservation and restoration of nature are vital for the wellbeing of all species. Marti Franch is aware that promoting subtle change in order to emphasise overwhelming natural forces and features left ‘as they are’ in nature plays a very important role in establishing a bond between the user and the landscape – people and environment.
Felixx is a young office for proactive landscape architecture, founded by Michiel Van Driessche, Deborah Lambert and Marnix Vink. The office designs public spaces, works on urban development plans, engineers landscape transformation strategies, and is involved in spatial research projects.