Photos by Gregory Han
Halfway across the world I find myself thinking about my AHBE Lab colleagues, wishing they were here in Tripoli, Lebanon at the International Fair of Tripoli – a phantom landscape that never realized its intended purpose due to an outbreak of civil war that began in 1975 just at the precipice of the project’s completion.
Designed in 1965 by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, the International Fair of Tripoli is the sort of public utopian modernist project we never see today, an expanse of visionary landscape intended to unite people shoulder-to-shoulder under a unifying experience intended for global audience at a massive scale. The landscape of Niemeyer is grandiose, yet immediately inclusive – firmly, yet invisibly guiding visitors through carefully articulated arteries of walkways interconnecting 15 pavilions, halls, auditoriums, and other structures at a massive scale. The invisible hand of the designer still haunts these abandon walkways.
Perhaps the closest one could imagine as the modern day equivalent of Niemeyer’s International Fair of Tripoli are the commercial campuses of Apple’s or Google’s respective headquarters, each incorporating a similar architectural vocabulary of communal spaces and pavilions, but each restrictive and redefined by their privatized intent – a pale equivalent to an era of design that embraced an internationalist, humanistic egalitarianism rather than one manufactured and guarded by capitalistic mechanisms. For that, we are all a little less well off.
This is architecture at both its most political and apolitical state, somehow both defining and erasing the lines of where and how humans of different backgrounds interact and engage with one another. Ironically, it was the last gasp of optimism before the dire pessimism of conflict swallowed the region whole, leaving the grounds abandoned for years, now to slowly fall into a state of beautiful decay (but become a playground to skaters as the sun falls, a small consolation) – a crumbling concrete reminder our best intents occasionally succumb to the worst of social forces outside a designer’s control.
This Saturday I took a bike ride from Silver Lake to Long Beach via the Los Angeles River Bicycle Path. It was about a 30 mile journey, one way, with many memorable sights, sounds, and characters along the way. These images above reflect my experience and show a side of Los Angeles you don’t always get a chance to see.
All photos by Jessica Roberts
All photos by Calvin Abe
I had the opportunity to visit Biei, the northern most Japanese island of Hokkaido, for the third year in a row this past winter. Although I have never traveled to the island’s quiet and beautiful landscape in the spring or fall, photographs online tell me that the location is equally beautiful during those seasons.
As I reflect upon my last visit – already almost three months ago – I wonder what is it about this place that piques my interest and ignites a strong desire to return. Biei is a place where I return to experience silence, beauty, and the sacred. The simplicity and the quiet is surreal, unworldly and restorative. And besides, there is nothing like sitting outside in zero degree temperature in an “onsen” (hot bath) naturally sourced from a hot spring, with long distant views of nothing but rolling snow covered landscape.
In London’s Hyde Park can be found a sculptural water feature which flows with animated urgency and audible energy, its sounds and flow only hushed once its circular journey comes to rest within a peaceful basin at the fountain’s bottom. This recent Easter holiday I made way to visit Kathryn Gustafson’s 2004 landscape memorial, “Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain” to experience this landscape experience firsthand. I discovered a sculptural channel that resonated with me for its texture – both physical and aural.
Gustafson Porter + Bowman’s design expresses the concept of ‘Reaching out – letting in’, taken from the values and practices in the inclusive spirit of the Princess of Wales. All photos and video by Evan Mather.
545 pieces of Cornish granite – each shaped by the latest computer-controlled machinery and pieced together using traditional skills – were interlocked to create the cascade.
The fountain is not static. Water drawn from London’s water table bubbles, gurgles, falls, twists and turns, bends and breaks – creating distinctive sounds as it flows down the in separate eastward and westward flows. Alongside the simplicity of the project’s materials, the playful layout, and the fountain’s adjacent location near Serpentine Lake, what I will most remember from my visit to the Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain will be the dynamic nature of the water experience – one rewarding both looking and listening.
If you’re like me – and I figure most people in 2017 are – you listen to music while walking, running, ride sharing, or driving through the landscape. Music has the power to express complex emotional and spiritual concepts, teleporting the mind to a certain time and place, or even bring about an altered state.
Beyond its role in audio-visual bias in spatial perception, your earbuds and track 13 on Anderson .Paak’s Malibu album can heavily influence experience and emotions, or even spiritually connect to your surroundings.
This augmented experience becomes landscape around you.
When I think of the tie between music and landscape, or music and nature, I think of a few examples of music augmenting the landscape. An artist can teleport you to a certain setting. An artist can reify a natural landscape’s unpredictability or ominous scale. Music can explain concepts within nature that are too broad for our consumption. Music can mimic nature. An artist can capture and isolate parts of nature.
That is a lot to think about!
Before we get into it let’s get some definitions out of the way:
- Landscape n. – in a broad sense, the features of an area of land and its landforms; how these features interact with the broader nature and man-made features. This includes features both physical and cultural, natural and anthropological. Landscape can also be described as setting, a geographical location at a moment of time.
- Music n. – sounds combined to produce a beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion.
- Nature n. – the physical world and its organisms; features and products of the earth as opposed to humans and human creations.