27 April 2021

Extractive Ecologies:
An Earthly Writing of Space
Collaborative Adventures in Constructed Landscapes of the Upper Rhine Plain

LUS Institute, ETH Zurich

Respondent: Metaxia Markaki (ETH Zurich)

This research investigates human and non-human entanglements with anthropogenic landscapes in a Central European context, using the Upper Rhine Plain as an example. It aims to test and establish an earthly approach to spatial practice, by exploring how narrative and representation can challenge established human-centric relationships with nature and account for non-human perspectives. Recent literature in political ecology and ecogeography describes various interactions between humans, non-humans and the environment in the Anthropocene, but the implications of these narratives are not reflected in landscape design projects. Spatial practices have not acknowledged landscape as a living system of multispecies communities and therefore failed to develop a language that comprehensively represents this complexity and allows for considerations in the design process. A large fundus of work on the Upper Rhine Plain offers a rich source to reveal previously unconsidered entanglements across species, time and space and provides an ideal starting point for this project. Unpacking the living milieu of the region, this research links narrative with drawing to introduce a new representation method for landscape. Literature from political ecology, landscape theory and the history of landscape representation will serve as a framework to situate the project. Archival research will help to understand the narratives, techniques and artefacts that fostered the transformation of the landscape on the Upper Rhine but might also reveal alternate perspectives. Engagement with local experts will allow identifying species that are indivisibly linked with the extractive processes that shaped the region. Attuning to their worlds will make it possible to document unique spatial, ecological and social conditions. This investigation into the living milieu might enable more sustainable and inclusive landscapes practices.


Unframed Edges. Remounting Old Master Paintings in Italian Modernism

TU München

Respondent: Markus Lähteenmäki (ETH Zurich)

Ever since Adolf Loos’ famous essay Ornament and Crime (1934) had been translated into Italian, architects had taken an uncertain attitude towards the picture frame. Associated with ornament, wastefulness, and bourgeois culture, the frame was apparently banned from interiors. Architectural magazines like Quadrante and Casabella promoted the presentation of Old Master paintings “naked”. Once the edges of a canvas were freed from ornamentation, they revealed art in its materiality. Yet, as the presentation argues, it is from this discourse that the modernist interest in reframing took off. Far from calling on the elimination of frames, architects redefined form and function of these objects, prototyping art mounting mechanisms in contemporary idiom. Plain wood laths, iron stilts and carpeted panels, all displayed in spatial arrangements, also helped to reframe discourses of preservation and innovation in architectural terms. From Franco Albini’s technical drawings to Carlo Scarpa’s sketches, the illustrations in the printed media testify to a new eloquence of frames. This previously unexplored history offers insights into how Italian architects processed the role of ornament. Focusing on the mounting mechanisms and the discourse that accompanied them, the presentation chronicles the evolving sensibilities not only towards frames, but also towards authenticity, materiality and history.

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