“Public” “Natures”

MLA Thesis Section (2015-16)

Students: LAM Tsz Tung Jasmine; LAW Lok Yung Carol; LIU Stephanie; YU Xiaoran Erin

How can we begin to think of new configurations of ‘publics’ and ‘nature’ in the contemporary city, especially in the contemporary Asian city? In particular, how can we think of ‘publics’ beyond the traditional sociological or political science category, and how can we think of ‘nature’ beyond the categories of the natural sciences or the aesthetics of traditional landscape art? If we approach the city as a complex political ecology – a conceptual framework especially useful for landscape designers and thinkers – what sort of other ‘publics’ and ‘natures’ might we be able to uncover? Accepting this challenge, of rethinking the ‘public’ and ‘nature’, forces us also to think beyond the traditional concept of ‘space’ – a modernist invention, at least insofar as it is used in design discourse. Consider what the implications are if you move beyond the static and bounded notion of space and begin to think about the intricate networks, ecologies and dynamics of human and natural systems, their ‘instruments’ and ‘infrastructures’. We begin to develop a very different model and approach to matters of collective concern within the city. The philosopher and sociologist of science Bruno Latour has proposed the notion of Dingpolitik (see second reading below) to speak of assemblies of ‘things’, not just people or politicians, around matters of concern. This is part of a broader movement towards a ‘new materialism’ that may be especially rich for the landscape discipline. This approach demands a synthesis of technical knowledge, conceptual imagination and political-economic insight to issues that span the natural-artificial and nature-culture divides. Can we use these configurations to push beyond even the more recent topological models of urbanism that rely on ‘networks’, ‘borders’ and ‘differences’ to ones that reveal new patterns of organisation and possible ‘sites’ of landscape design intervention? In this thesis stream, you will be able to use landscape thinking and design to push beyond the confines of traditional approaches to ‘public space’ within the design disciplines. The issues that are opened up include: efforts to ‘control’ the weather, including pollution (cloud-seeding, etc, as seen in, say, Beijing in recent years), as part of a complex political negotiation with the city’s populace the possibility of interrogating and speculating about drone operations in the city in the myriad ways that are now being imagined and proposed, from surveillance and control to transportation and logistics the proliferation of extensive networks of ‘interior urbanisms’ beyond built forms (malls, atriums, passageways, tunnels, skybridges), encompassing their support systems, in ways that form entire atmospheres, environments and sensory experiences, as a complement or entire alternative to more traditional exterior urbanisms the ‘landscape’ effects of guest populations across a range of actors, from invasive plant species to economic migrants and refugees, in host environments the ‘landscape management’ (or mismanagement) of sites of trauma and the use of design strategies to cover or uncover collective memories, histories, inscriptions and traces in the urban environment. These are just indications of topics and ideas that might arise from the expanded way of thinking advocated here. The research within this stream is envisaged as contributing to the emerging efforts within design theory and practice to search out new models for thinking about political and ecological issues in the context of a heavily urbanised world.

Student theses this year included:
“Common Ground: Rethinking Tsim Sha Tsui civic landscape” by LAM Tsz Tung Jasmine;
“”Hui”: Our Authentic Country Fair: The Revival of country fair in contemporary Yuen Long Town” by LAW Lok Yung Carol;
“Fluid Past: Interpreting Hong Kong’s history through urban watercourses” by LIU Stephanie; and
“Living Space for Subdivided Flat Residents” by YU Xiaoran Erin.

Enlarge Photo: Stephanie LIU
Enlarge Photo: Stephanie LIUEnlarge Photo: Stephanie LIUEnlarge Photo: Stephanie LIUEnlarge Photo: Stephanie LIUEnlarge Photo: Stephanie LIUEnlarge Photo: Stephanie LIUEnlarge Photo: Stephanie LIUEnlarge Photo: Stephanie LIUEnlarge Photo: Stephanie LIUEnlarge Photo: Stephanie LIUEnlarge Photo: Stephanie LIU