Feeling Indeterminate: The experience and design of big landscapes by Penny Allan

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Abstract

A fundamental challenge for landscape architects is the need to engage with pre existing landscape in a constant state of transformation. This challenge is not new, however in the last two decades, in response to discoveries in thermodynamics and the subsequent development of chaos and complexity theory, an entire subdiscipline has grown around documenting and designing with and for this complex condition. Most approaches are concerned with mapping and diagramming flux and deal with landscape systems at a big landscape scale and from a regional perspective. But the complexity of large-scale landscape systems can be overwhelming, and it is difficult to shift perspective from the very big to the human scale, which leaves human experience largely unaccounted for in these approaches.

In this PhD I contribute to a discussion about complexity and big landscape systems by proposing a qualitative approach. Against the discipline’s focus on process, my work is concerned with experience, specifically with how big landscapes feel. I am interested in what kinds of knowledge and sensibilities can be extracted through the direct experience of complex landscapes and how these forms of knowledge migh coexist with current approaches. From the examination of my own body of work and the select work of others, I distil three strategies to make the central notion of ‘how landscape feels’ operational. Poetics, covalence and counterflow are responsive modes extracted from direct experience, which become instrumental in understanding, challenging and connecting with pre-existing big landscape systems.

The PhD goes on to test these strategies for their relevance and currency in four current projects, leading to the discovery of two things: The experience of form and space of big landscapes through the human body, makes tangible a sense of indeterminacy which present mapping misses and which can productively collapse distinctions between how places work and how they feel. Furthermore, it is this feeling of indeterminacy that is the foundation of human agency and adaptation, suggesting new, more efficacious and inclusive ways to ‘work’.

2017

Examiners: Prof Catherin Bull, Dr Jo Russell-Clarke Supervisors: Dr Marcelo Stamm, Prof SueAnne Ware

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