The “Charged” Void: On Atmosphere, Weather and Sensation

What is air in landscape? Is atmosphere part of landscape?
While much has been dedicated to the relationship between architecture and atmosphere, not so much has been written and practiced in the disciplinary realms of landscape and urbanism with its associated atmospheres. On the one hand weather is ubiquitous in landscape, on the other hand it escapes appearance. Luce Irigaray maintains that air has been unnoticed because it “does not show itself. As such, it escapes appearing as (a) being. It allows itself to be forgotten due to its ubiquity.”*

The work of OFICINAA addresses the ontological challenges of the ubiquity of air and atmosphere that may justify its “invisibility,” and in the context of climatic pressures claim the role of atmosphere as a design medium in the forming of the public sphere. Merging an artistic sensibility with precise design craft, OFICINAA creates microenvironments from the perspective of physiological mechanisms. This entails the recognition of sensation as central to the design practice. The work emerges from the pre-condition that there is no such thing as the “void” in landscape. Cold or humid, sheltered or exposed, lit or shaded—these are qualities accounted for/ crafted to amplify the spatial identity contained in the various projects developed by OFICINAA. Addressing comfort and wellbeing in the built environment, the atmospheric qualities are integral to memorable experiences and to the endowment of delight—an idea not far from the primordial gardens found in the dry plains of Persia, home of landscape etymology as a spatial practice. OFICINAA’s work, therefore, claims this primordial genealogy in which the atmospheric qualities and affordances of the crafted space support human’s wellbeing. OFICINAA think space from the inside out perspective, from the being-in-space that accommodates the body, both individual and collective. Inherently political, the space for the public must sustain fair environments for the communities to thrive and nourish. While this design position aims at the creation of climatic gradients—accessible to all ages and activities—it also foregrounds notions of resource management and ecological footprint in lieu of energetic conservation. The work by OFICINAA applies principles of Thermodynamic simulations and thermographic imagery to support the work development and design experimentation. The process very often involves the assessment of climatic identities with the corresponding spatial tunings, collaboration with climatic engineers and the implementation of tactical interventions aiming at working with the site resources.

The selected work varies in scale and scope – from large-scale and long-term implementation schedules, to micro and immediate interventions; from urban and in the city to the x-urban and in the alluvial forests. Despite the variances, they share the same meteorological and physiological partie of promoting a sense of wonder and delight while claiming the role of the aeorological sphere. These projects, some implemented other projected, aim at recuperating the disciplinary etymology of landscape as acclimatization project in the anthropogenic era.

*Luce Irigaray, The forgetting of air in Martin Heidegger, trans. Mary Beth Mader, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1999, p. 14

AEOLIAN FIELDS, Landesgartenschau Master plan, Finalist

Cities worldwide breathe and respire, pulsing fresh air from their hinterland and bodies of water through urban canyons and greenspaces. The challenge is that some metropolitan centers are taking slower and shallower breaths than ever before and are at risk of suffocating from their own air pollution. Ventilation corridors are the poorly understood, elusive lungs of the city. Aeolian fields- a new urban park to cool and play- the competition entry by OFICINAA and TRANSSOLAR for Mannheim’s former US military base, uses air movement as a premise in design. Located on a former US military circa 100 hectares, the proposal develops 4 large-scale landscape elements: the Forest, the Lake, the Mound, and the Sun-Plaza (existing U-Halle). While bifurcating the primary air movement through the site, these elements form distinct landscape districts- the “estates” for production and play. The scale, material, form and location of each landscape element sculpts the airflow (guide, uplift, funnel, amplify) and impacts the properties of the air for human comfort and delight: scent, humidity, sound, and temperature. Each element modifies the thermal conditions and wind velocities within the adjacent public areas in order to enhance and connect the green corridors. Equally important to the benefits of these elements are the ways they create engaging public space that celebrate the cultural and agricultural heritage of the site.

RIVERWALK PARK Peterborough, USA, 1. Prize

The River Esplanade is a new public space in the small town of Peterborough in New Hampshire, USA. Conceived as a junction between different parts of town, the park and proposed pathways become a gateway and meeting point. Each intervention in the area is designed to connect 2 further existing parks and the river to a larger pedestrian network, while protecting the visitor from traffic, wind, and noise. The park design with curved footbridge maximizes community exchange, while the overlook areas to the river valley create continuous connection to the riverfront for public enjoyment. The use of sliced erratics/boulders reduces the visual impact of the important adjacent parking lot. Being sensitive to micro-climates, distinct landscapes and views, existing masonry and local stone, and the diversity of flora and seasonal changes, the design proposes a series of pockets with roughly determined proposed uses, from space for farmer’s markets to outdoor fireplaces and forest promenades. Situated at the confluence of the Nubanusit Brook and the Contoocook River, Peterborough is the commercial and cultural center of the Monadnock Region. With the ambition of providing direct experience of the riverine atmospheres while integrating and extending civic networks, the proposal engages 3 design tactics: (1) Re-enhancing the Contoocook River Valley, (2) Inhabiting the Contoocook Terrace, (3) Traversing the Nubanusit Skyline Promenade.

STADT PARK DONAU +DONAU-LOOP Ingolstadt Germany, Invitation

The historical importance of the Danube River as a transportation route, military infrastructure, and ecological corridor makes the Stadt Park Donau/Donau-Loop project in Ingolstadt of primary relevance in the rising demands for sustainable growth and social well-being. There are three scales within the project (1) Large scale: The Stadt Park Donau is a new riverine district of circa 210 Ha within the city boundaries and includes fourteen sub-districts corresponding to the various characters and microlimates. (2) Medium scale: The Donau-Loop is a continuous multi-modal circuit of 12 km along the riverbanks. Located on the dike and existing desire-lines within the riverbanks, the Stadt Park Donau is a destination on its own as it weaves through the edges between city and river. It is tuned and designed according to the characteristics of the landscapes crossed throughout its journey. Tactical and precise design interventions move along its extent, enhancing and diversifying the programs along its edges while offering new ways of experiencing the often overlooked atmospheric qualities. (3) Small scale: The stations are moments of programmatic concentration; “acupuncture-like” design interventions within the Donau-Loop. Fourteen in total, the stations are strategically positioned relative to the potentials or needs found in each of the landscape sub-districts and act as contemplative nodes and moments of climatic comfort.

CAMPO MINERAL Europan 10 1. Prize

Though mild and temperate most of the year, the city of Lisbon experiences overheating in summer. How could the meteorological phenomena of the wind fluxes inform urban strategy to 1) lessen urban heating at a large-scale and 2) to amplify delight as one dwells in the city? Wind analysis revealed the northwest and southeast as the dominant wind directions on the site, a design opportunity to strategically modulate airflow towards the city center. The new avenue becomes a wind path to ameliorate urban overheating. The geological strata, a deposit of sandy loam, sets the material and performative identity of the proposal. The mineral quality of the project, based on limestone, increases the porosity of the ground, drainage and percolation capacity. It also plays a significant role in promoting thermal comfort in the outdoor space due to its thermal mass and high solar reflectance index (SRI-lighter color). The visitor experiences a continuous surface of white-colored limestone applied on the ground of the open space and building facades. As a climatic threshold, the site connects two different landscape environments and thermal conditions; the airport (hot and windy) and the urban park (humid and shady). The threshold condition offers the possibility to work with flux and exchanges such as convection, conduction, evaporation and reflection. A new series of outdoor spaces in the north-south corridor take advantage of the new atmospheric landscape.

ARMAÇÃO DE PÊRA SEAFRONT Master Plan Competition, Portugal

Armação de Pêra is a small village known for its wonderful climate and beach. The overcrowding and the increasing of density has lessened opportunities for inviting public space over the years and increased stress over the fragile escarpments of the sedimentary rock. As the winning entry, the project proposed a strategy to re-qualify the larger coastal segment of the town (approx. 1mile/ 120 Ha) and to “thicken” the moments in which the village meets the ocean and the beach. Subject to extreme seasonal fluctuation from approximately 3000 inhabitants in winter to 100,000 tourists in the summer; the beach, urban and heavily used, lacked clear access, sewage infrastructure for the various restaurants along its edge, and a network of comfortable and inviting public spaces able to support the everyday activities of its residents and visitors. Protected from the sun but exposed to the sea breezes, the new series of public spaces are presently public catalyzers in the urban life of the village, other than the beach. Preexisting amenities, such as restaurants and boat houses were replaced by new ones according to environmental protocols aimed at protecting the coast from erosion often caused by random access, unregulated parking and insufficient sewage infrastructure able to handle the seasonal peaks. The project was built upon the climatic affordances of the place and generated a new platform for enhanced quality of life.


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