Unfamiliar Territory consists of two parts that are intertwined but could be divided between theoretical exploration and the study and design intervention on a specific site. While theoretical research focuses on the concepts of ‘the unfamiliar’ and ‘territory’, and deals with ways in which understandings of landscape reading, specificity, landscape intervention and landscape experience become reconfigured once looking at landscape as a complex and metastable system, design part of the project focuses on Fort de Vaujours, an abandoned nuclear contaminated site and an area of future gypsum extraction near Paris.

Project aims to propose ways in which we could productively engage with places of friction, or more specifically, with unfamiliarity of disturbed sites without reducing their complexity or eliminating their creative potential for the sake of ‘familiarization’. In times when novel approaches to contaminated sites are largely needed, the project with its alternative take on design methodologies rejects the fallacies of instant ‘solutions’ and puts forward a performative approach to design: combining landscape’s performative capacities with its power of cultural expression, embracing uncertainty and in time striving towards a multitude of affective encounters with ethically and politically enabling potentials. An important task in envisioning such open-ended futures and in laying the groundwork for people, publics, landscapes and communities to come is in the context of the proposed design intervention placed on gardeners which work on the ground and directly interact with landscape and its dynamics.

Project’s main challenge is not only to approach landscape as a complex system and constant process but to simultaneously look at a landscape intervention as a constant action - as creating a set of potentials that can unfold in various directions with various outcomes. An element of control persists and design proposal does not deny a certain amount of order but instead of fixing the boundaries within which landscape processes flow and play out, works with precise moments when the set boundaries shift and transformation occurs. In this way, differences that drive landscape processes are kept alive without reducing the complexity of the system they find themselves in. Proposed landscape intervention is therefore, compared to common remediation design techniques, not planned nor expected to have immediate effects. In fact, if successful, its most powerful effects are observed in the long run.


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Barbara Prezelj ©