What does the curatorial approach mean for the field of architecture/ landscape architecture?

Antje Stokman and Katarina Bajc

Antje Stokman verfolgt seit 2018 als Landschaftsarchitektin und Professorin für Architektur und Landschaft an der HCU Hamburg ihre interdisziplinäre Forschungspraxis in Hamburg und arbeitet seitdem eng mit dem Hallo: e.V. zusammen – zunächst um das Flusssystem Bille als öffentlichen und sozialen Raum zu erforschen. Durch ihren Fokus auf transsektorale Kooperationen ermöglicht sie als Beraterin und Inputgeberin maßgeblich den PARKS-Prozess und entwickelt dabei den Raum als Lernraum an den Schnittstellen zwischen Landschaftsarchitektur, Ökologie, Umwelttechnik, Architektur und Stadtplanung weiter.

Katarina Bajc, die nach Ausbildung und Forschung in Ljubljana, Hannover, München und Kalifornien bereits zusammen mit Antje Stokman in Stuttgart arbeitete, setzt diese Zusammenarbeit auch in Hamburg fort. Mit einem besonderen Interesse auf Landschaftsarchitektur als kuratorische Praxis begleitet sie den PARKS-Prozess ebenfalls bereits lange Zeit und hat hierzu Lernformate vor Ort gestaltet.

“Alles ist schon da!” Everything is already there. This can be said particularly about landscapes: Plants, soil, water, animals, climate, people, atmospheres, occupancy, care, dreams, hopes for the future, relics from the past. Landscapes are transitional, in a constant state of change and becoming. Yet, who is steering their existing complex spatial and temporal context? How do processes of interaction and change influence the development of urban landscapes? Is there a curator? Do we need one?

In this workshop we want to critically address these questions from a landscape architectural perspective: What does it mean to curate a park instead of planning, designing and building it? What does the curatorial approach mean for the field of architecture/ landscape architecture? What is the role of collaboration with different actors from the planning and designing disciplines, cultural actors, civil society and public authorities? How can we generate design approaches from direct engagement with a site? The workshop will explore these questions with a focus on practices of inventive frugality, care, repair and maintenance as a contribution to the renewal of urban communities.

Between Hamburg’s rivers Alster, Bille and Elbe, the new landscape corridor “Alster-Elbe-Bille PARKS“ is in the making. The development process of this park is intentionally gradual, drawn from the existing conditions, spatial atmospheres and local genius loci. The transformative and active participation of local actors (human and non-human) and involvement of different institutions is vital for such an approach. The landscape architect or designer in this situation merely acts as a curator, accompanying and guiding the existing local natural and cultural processes with an ecological and social sensibility. This means not implementing a fixed plan but following a vision and uncovering hidden potentials along the way. A landscape architect´s project is never “complete”, but always changing and growing. As Klaus Hoppe, head of the Public Agency for Landscape Planning at the City of Hamburg puts it: “Green open spaces in the city need space that is open to development, open to change. At the same time, these spaces should be distinctive and unique.”

To be able to strengthen the unique character of green open spaces, a landscape architect has to first reveal current and potential individual qualities and atmospheres, the characteristic processes of growth and decay, urban development and local activities as well as dynamics and changes which happen in the landscape over time. Such an approach is necessary for the development of green open spaces with strong local identity, as well as for adequate habitats for flora and fauna which also find refuge in urban contexts. However, current design and planning approaches in the field of landscape architecture seldom act as a curatorial practice, as they usually follow the strict requirements and routines of a formalized planning and construction process. This is foremost based on the defined planning phases and honorarium regulations for architects and engineers (HOAI, Honorarordnung für Architekten und Ingenieure), a federal ordinance regulating the fees for architectural and engineering services in Germany.

These include:
Phase 1: basic evaluation with an examination of the cost budget (Grundlagenermittlung mit Prüfung des Kostenrahmens)
Phase 2: preliminary planning with a cost estimate (Vorplanung mit Kostenschätzung)
Phase 3: design and planning including cost calculation (Entwurfsplanung inklusive Kostenberechnung)
Phase 4: approval planning (Genehmigungsplanung)
Phase 5: detailed design (Ausführungsplanung)
Phase 6: preparation for award of contract, including determination of quantities and preparation of priced bills of quantities (Vorbereitung der Vergabe, einschließlich Ermitteln der Mengen und Aufstellen von verpreisten Leistungsverzeichnissen.)
Phase 7: participation in the award of contracts including a cost estimate (Mitwirkung bei der Vergabe inklusive Kostenanschlag)
Phase 8: site supervision, construction supervision and documentation (Objektüberwachung — Bauüberwachung und Dokumentation)
Phase 9: property management including warranty tracking (Objektbetreuung inklusive Gewährleistungsverfolgung)

Also, the administration bodies of the public agencies do not have much chance to deviate from the prescribed procedures of planning and maintaining the public urban spaces. This leads to planning and design processes based on the perception of the landscape as a tabula rasa that should be reinvented from scratch with each project. The more expensive a design implementation is, the more expensive construction materials and plants are used, the higher is the honorary fee of the landscape architect. These procedures determine a linear landscape development and implementation process with a set sequence of consecutive stages, which do not foster approaches integrating simultaneity, frugality, iteration and learning, as well as the incorporation of the specific potentials which may only be discovered through interventions on the site and the relating practices of care, management and use. On the contrary: the initial design and planning phases are treated as separate from the maintenance and management process. If the intentions of a planning team are not tuned in and coordinated with the care and use afterwards, this leads to rupture in the development process of a landscape.

In the workshop we will focus on the question of how a curatorial landscape design philosophy can be applied to develop resource-efficient, creative, recognisable and inclusive urban landscapes. How can such an approach be integrated in the existing planning statutes, instruments and procedures and how can it be fostered in the future? We will discuss what practices already exist, what we can learn from the approach of PARKS and how existing statutes might have to be changed to accommodate curatorial practice. Which actors, stakeholders, individuals and users might need to be included in the curatorial process? Which new roles for designing, planning, managing and maintaining need to be invented and formalized? We take the ongoing Project “Alster-Elbe-Bille-PARKS” in Hamburg and other works of contemporary landscape architecture as references, and reflect the curatorial design principles which are already applied by landscape architecture studios like Atelier le Balto, EMF, Studio Vulkan/ Robin Winogrond and others. Concurrently, we will examine, explore and document the existing landscape in and around PARKS to reflect on characteristic local processes, uses and atmospheres, as well as the role of different landscape architects within the landscape process until today. We will discuss with the involved landscape architects of Atelier Le Balto and of the authorities about which planning frameworks and processes led to the results so far and what is planned for the future. As an outlook, we will discuss and develop first concepts and ideas how to change the existing paradigm of Landscape Architecture towards a Curatorial Practice.

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