Transformation in Composition by René van der Velde

PRS Europe Opening Event

23 November 2018 at MediaTIC, Barcelona

Welcome by Marta Fernandez, Executive Director RMIT Europe; A/Prof Paul Minifie, Chair, PRS Europe; and Prof Martyn Hook, Dean of the School of Architecture and Urban Design RMIT

Book launch
‘Repair’ by Mauro Baracco
Presented by Prof Ricardo Devesa, IAAC (UPC); editor-in-chief at Actar Publishers and, and A/Prof Mauro Baracco, RMIT University and Baracco+Wright Architects

Keynote address by Dr René van der Velde
‘Transformation in Composition: Ecdysis of Landscape Architecture through the Brownfield Park Project 1975-2015’
Dr J.R.T van der Velde (René)
Delft University of Technology
Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment
Chair of Landscape Architecture

Composition is a central notion in architectural praxis but has had a relatively negative ‘press’ in landscape architectural circles in recent times. In his doctoral research Van der Velde re-examines composition theory such as that developed at the TU Delft in the 1990s, which elaborates composition as a methodological framework for landscape design. He takes a critical stance in respect to this method in response to emerging discourses on site-specificity and process in landscape praxis, but elaborates these in relation to formal-aesthetic foundations of landscape architecture, instead of as alternatives.

The lens for the reconsideration of the ‘Delft Method’ is the brownfield park project in the period 1975-2015. These projects emerge as an important laboratory and catalyst for developments in landscape architecture, whereby contextual, process, and formal-aesthetic aspects form central and inter-related themes. The thesis of this research is that a major theoretical and methodological expansion of the notion of composition can be distilled from the brownfield park project, in which seemingly irreconcilable paradigms such as site, process and form are incorporated.

By extension, the study propositions a ‘radical maturation’ of the discipline in the period 1975 – 2015 via the brownfield park project. A metaphor for this process is offered by the phenomenon of ecdysis in invertebrate animals, whereby the growth from juvenile to adult takes place in stages involving the moulting of an inelastic exoskeleton. Once shed, a larger exoskeleton is formed, whose shape and character is significantly different to its forebears.

In the slipstream of these findings, the research sheds new light on the shifts in the form and content of the city itself in this period, and the agency of the urban park in the problematique of urban territories. In examining the impact of de-industrialization on the contemporary urban realm, Van der Velde also proposes a major revision of abiding definitions of ‘city’ and ‘nature’, as well as the paradigms of modernity that backdrop them.

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