Posts tagged land-lapse

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This is Iceland at 768 mph – the speed of sound – a time-lapse circumnavigation via the (Ring Road) that circles the island.

As a landscape architect and experimental filmmaker, I am always looking for new ways to communicate the profession. A few summers ago, I strapped an iPhone to my dashboard and compressed the four-hour drive from Malibu for Las Vegas into a twelve-minute time-lapse video in order to capture the shifting landscape ecologies along the route: the ocean coast, the urban megalopolis, the high desert.

The result – Twelve Minutes To Vegas – surprised me. Not only was the landscape continually shifting and mesmerizing, but I felt drawn in, as if by watching the video I was reliving the drive and I was in the landscape.

I have dubbed this genre of experimental film the land-lapse, a technique using video to immerse the viewer into a landscape to achieve an experiential quality. The use of time-lapse video compresses the journey into both a manageable length and allows the viewer to observe the dynamics of shifting landscapes. Finally an audio collage (wild sound, music, interviews, commentary) is added to provide a layer of cultural landscape interpretation.

Additional land-lapse films I have created include Westbank To Westbank (Baton Rouge to New Orleans) and S,M,L,XLA – a circumnavigation of Los Angeles created for a group installation at the Architecture and Design Museum, Los Angeles.

I culminated this series of films with From Sea To Shining Sea. This is a contemporary portrait of the United States of America experienced via a cross-county land-lapse and audio collage. This incredible landscape diversity – through twenty-two eco-regions from the Atlantic, over the Rockies, and to the Pacific – is united by a common visual element: the Interstate Highway System. By watching the film, one essentially takes the journey itself, and gains a greater appreciation for the sheer beauty of the American landscape.

In my latest film, Hringvegur, my goal was to capture the incredible diversity of the Icelandic landscape.

Iceland – the Nordic island country in the North Atlantic – is one of the most volcanically and geologically active places on Earth. This small European country has been described as if “someone put the American West in a blender: California’s poetic central coast, the Nevada desert’s barren expanses, Alaska’s glaciers and Yellowstone’s geysers”. The 828 mile (1,333 kilometer) long Ring Road (Route 1) that encircles the island and traverses these dynamic landscapes, has been characterized as “the ultimate road trip”.

Starting in Reykjavík, we travelled east across the lava fields along the North Atlantic and views of Vatnajökull glacier to Höfn; then heading north by northwest in a foggy darkness along fjords and blind curves. Twisting over the mountains (where a flat tire did not stop us), we crossed the inland gravel fields of Iceland’s desert interior to Akureyri; then west through alpine mountains, lava fields and fjords along the Norwegian Sea, and then through Hvalfjörður Tunnel back to Reykjavík.

Hringvegur was funded via a Kickstarter campaign during World Landscape Architecture Month 2015, and runs 70 minutes in length. Enjoy this 15 minute highlight reel – 3/14ths of Hringvegur.

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As a means of celebrating World Landscape Architecture Month 2015, I have been crowdfunding my 2nd feature film: Hringvegur, a time-lapse circumnavigation of Iceland. A follow-up to my 2013 feature From Sea To Shining Sea, Hringvegur is also an experimental film, the record of an exploration, and the possibility of a gallery video installation.

So what exactly does this have to do with landscape architecture?

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One of the most relevant examples in our portfolio is the award winning and internationally recognized Burbank Water and Power EcoCampus, the transformation of an industrial campus into a garden space with innovative stormwater treatment technologies. The EcoCampus fully expresses its place by means of a de-energized substation ruin that creates community via an employee courtyard; abandoned utility tunnels that allow for the installation of bioswales, stormwater infiltration and phytoremediation planters; existing crushed rock under the substation repurposed as planting mulch; Burbank’s distinctive geology and permeable soils allowing for increased infiltration and groundwater recharge; salvaged relics that allow for an artful juxtaposition within a re-created oak woodland landscape. This is how the EcoCampus expresses its place.

Simply put, the EcoCampus could only be here, because it could not be anywhere else.

This idea of dwelling on the idea of place (and site context) is prevalent in my film work as well, notable my triumvirate of Louisiana films: Scenic Highway as digging deep into the psyche of growing up in Baton Rouge; A Necessary Ruin as revealing how industrial ruins tell the story of the South Louisiana petrochemical landscape; and how the Phyllis Wheatley Elementary School could not occur anywhere but New Orleans. It’s about the place.

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Hringvegur, the project, is an exercise in revealing the nature of a place. In this case a foreign landscape that has been described as if “someone put the American West in a blender: California’s poetic central coast, the Nevada desert’s barren expanses, Alaska’s glaciers and Yellowstone’s geysers”. Aside from the off-quote line from The Player – that “Iceland is green and Greenland is ice” [sic] – I know little about the place.

I have dubbed this genre of experimental film the land-lapse. It is about using video to immerse the viewer in a landscape to achieve an experiential quality. The use of time-lapse video compresses the journey into both a manageable length and allows the viewer to observe the dynamics of shifting landscapes. Finally an audio collage (wild sound, music, interviews, commentary) is added to provide a layer of cultural landscape interpretation.

That’s the basic question of the Hringvegur project – and the land-lapse genre itself: How successfully can one be immersed in the landscape via a video medium, to actually feel as if you have been to Iceland?

I believe that engaging in exercises such as this, hones our ability as landscape architects to put place into our projects.

In 2013, I celebrated Landscape Architecture Month by running a Kickstarter campaign to fund my first feature film – From Sea To Shining Sea – a contemporary portrait of the USA experienced via a cross-county time-lapse video and audio collage. By watching the film, one essentially takes the journey itself, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and gains a greater appreciation for the sheer beauty of the American landscape. 

I continue to look for new ways to communicate landscape via video, so I am celebrating World Landscape Architecture Month 2015 with a follow-up Kickstarter project: Hringvigur. This is envisioned as a circumnavigation of Iceland along the country’s Ring Road. If the project is successful, I plan to shoot in August 2015 and complete my second feature film by the end of the year.