Augustin Berque: Milieu and human identity: Notes towards a surpassing of modernity

In an ongoing  discussion on a Linkedin group LANDSCAPE URBANISM  on the most 10 most important texts for a  Landscape Architect /Urban Planner, the usual suspects came up, an interestingly a discussion ensued on the Western orientation of the suggestions and the name of 2009 Fukuoka Prize laureate Austin Berque was proposed as an entry into Japanese thought  – not having heard of him before, I could find nothing in English other than this brief review. The resonance of finding a holistic  worldview to counter the prevailing enlightenment view that seems to be responsible for our alienation from the environment we depend on. This resonates with me and  in my opinion  of the views of Konjian Yu in his The Conscientizacao of the Landscape: An Interview with Kongjian Yu and the recent Prizer Prize Laureate Wang Shu Wang Shu Discusses Urbanization in China, that seem to be providing a way to value the environment of the present and the past without creating a”museum ” or “zoo” and on how we might find embodiment in our understanding of the landscape as a complex of the temporal natural and anthropocentric world. from SPACE AND CULTURE posted by Anne Galloway:

Reviewed by Andrea Mubi BrighentiDepartment of SociologyUniversity of Trento (IT)

After the catastrophic events that hit Japan, and particularly in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, a large scale debate about the sustainability of our energetic, economic and even civilizational model is badly needed. Such a huge task which is before us, and which calls for a general rethinking of our ecological approaches and aspirations, could perhaps start from some spatial and environmental insights that Japanese thought itself has transmitted to us.

The collection of short essays reviewed here provides an excellent introduction to the work of the French geographer and orientalist Augustin Berque (born in 1942), who has devoted most of his life to an exploration of Japanese thought and culture, with particular reference to its peculiar spatial and environmental attitudes. Not much of Berque’s oeuvre is available to English readers, yet his major theoretical works (Berque 2000a, 2000b) can be said to engage a dialogue with Japanese philosophical tradition in order to develop reflections that are more widely applicable to the contemporary world, rather than a merely philological reconstruction of certain sources – an intellectual project that somehow recalls what François Jullien has done with Chinese thought.

Traditional houses in Ogimachi by Guillaume Brialon

[CC image credit: Traditional houses in Ogimachi by Guillaume Brialon]

In a larger work that appeared nearly at the same time as the collection on milieu and human identity, Berque (2010) has explored the notion of the ‘ideal habitat’ and has questioned the contemporary transformation and sustainability of that ideal. In these shorter essays, written during the last ten years, the focus is rather on the notions of landscape, milieu, common heritage and identity. Starting from the acknowledgement that western modernity has produced a grave disequilibrium in the relation between the human species and the world – as landscape devastation, waste of natural resources and the many aberrations in the design of the urban built environment testify – the author advances a distinction between a western conception of landscape, pivoted around the subject, and an eastern conception, which instead focuses on the predicate–the latter logic being best represented by Nishida Kitarô’s basho no ronri, or logic of place, a text from 1966. Continue reading

Nature as Infrastructure- An Interview with Kongjian Yu

An architecture report from Domus by Ethel Baraona Pohl

Turenscape’s founder Kongjian Yu demonstrates how nature can be a cost-free service provider in an urban context. Ecology is a synonym of economy

The cross-disciplinary project is an urban stormwater park and a national nature reserve. It filters storm water from the city and protects against flooding. The new urban district of Qunli New Town was zoned with only 16.4% of developable land as permeable green space

Ethel Baraona: Let’s talk about the close relationship you have with natural environments. Where does this interest come from?
Kongjian Yu In Chinese tu means dirt, earth and ren means people, man. So, Turenscape means “people from the land”, the wonderful metaphor behind our name is that we are “the land and the people”. I come from a rural area and grew up with people who lived there for decades, which gave me a true sense of nature. I started Turenscape with my wife and a friend. One of our first projects began in 2000. We finished it in 2002. Suddenly it became really famous. People were admiring projects they never had seen before in China.

A network of walkways is built into the pond-andmound ring allowing visitors to observe the wetland, which Turenscape planted with native marsh grasses and silver birch trees. Platforms and viewing towers lend panoramic views of the surroundings

Is ecology part of an economical system?
That is a key point. Economy means ecology. Nature has no waste. If species can’t have minimum energy to survive, they die. So, nature is economy. We should consider the city as an organism and parks should provide all these services. At the same time this project is very economic. We used a very simple cut-and-fill system on the ring with a minimum cost. We built the sky-walk, a kind of jungle inside the park, with wood, bamboo, stone: all local materials. And it is important as a social node too.

Read the full interview

Read other posts on Turenscape and Konjian Yu
Terragrams -delivering the landscape

The Conscientizacao of the Landscape: An Interview with Kongjian Yu