While researching a forthcoming post last night (which I can assure you will live up to the site’s title, at least in length), I stumbled across this fantastic interview with Alan Berger conducted by Abitare. The interview deals first with Berger’s work in the Pontine Marshes, but expands to discuss his general working methodology (airplane reconnaissance), other projects, academic philosophy, and general thoughts on the future of landscape architecture as a discipline.
I’m particularly interested by two things in the interview. First, Berger’s Pontine Marshes project indicates the potential of design disciplines to contribute something — in this case, a designed ecology — to the organization of landscape infrastructures which those who have typically organized them (politicians, scientists, engineers) do not. This seems to me to be a question which is often left unanswered when landscape/architects make proposals for infrastructures: it’s clear what we get out of our involvement in the work (we get to do exciting projects and have the kind of influence the profession craves), but it is often much less clear what about our contribution to the project ought to convince a government (at these scales, one is almost always working with government) to hire a designer rather than an engineer as the project coordinator (shorter version of this question: why would you hire a landscape architect to design a sewer?). That Berger has been able to convince the provincial government to pursue the implementation of the project indicates that they’ve found real value in his approach to the remediation of the Marshes.
Second, I’m quite intrigued by the historical trajectory of Berger’s work, by how the cultivation of relationships with scientists (the EPA, in the case of the Breckenridge mine project) and politicians (the provinicial government, in the case of the Pontine Marshes) has allowed Berger to make a direct and linear transition between unfunded research projects and the funded implementation of landscape infrastructures. While it’s quite possible that this trajectory is only possible within an academic environment which provides the flexibility needed to pursue years of unfunded research and thus that this is not a plausible trajectory for more traditionally organized architectural firms, it nonetheless illustrates a clear path for developing the agency of designers in new fields.