Posted in Vol 13 No 3 by bsaab on August 4, 2010

Buffalo, by Keith Johnson

Photographs by Keith Johnson

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It’s almost a cliché: a landscape takes time. The knowledge that their work may take years, even decades, after construction to fully realize their design intention puts landscape architects on a sort of moral high-ground. Such patience! Such determination! Such delayed gratification! The rest of us feel slightly shamed in the face of such worthiness. Impatience is a common vice.

Recent photographs by Keith Johnson, however, offer a new understanding of landscapes: they have an intermediate life, a larval stage, when they in fact behave as landscapes even though they have not yet assumed their final form. These are the landscapes of process and construction, their materials — hydroseed, sod rolls, hay bales, geotextiles — as familiar as rhododendrons and cobblestones.

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The photographs were made between 2003 and 2008, part of a body of work that Johnson describes as examining “the ways we claim, construct, create, and recreate space in the pursuit of development.” These, too, are designed sites, although their aesthetics are most often determined by some anonymous hand, with results that are often, in Johnson’s words, “marvelously goofy.” Who chose the aqua and teal hues of hydroseed — and did they imagine we would mistake it for natural groundcover? Who designed the ubiquitous orange oval-mesh fencing, thus ensuring that the spirit of 1970s supergraphics would never die?

This suggests a new middle ground, so to speak. In the past two decades, landscape architects have begun to address “everyday” landscapes, claiming parking lots and median strips as extensions of their professional realm. But the temporary landscape of process — a mere blink of an eye in the lifespan of a project, but an eternity in the collective banality of everyday places — has received little attention. It’s a whole new land of opportunity.

One Response

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  1. Ninjas on the Webs | AMNP said, on August 16, 2010 at 4:02 am

    […] Blink, a great slideshow of landscapes in process […]

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