About Öresundsect

oresund
Photograph: Alexander Henriksson

Imagine the Öresund region had the project to develop a Water trail to discover its particular landscapes and raise the awareness of inhabitants and visitors for particular beauties, histories, conflicts and change in the Öresund’s water landscapes. Wouldn’t a raised public appreciation of the Öresund’s specificities lay the foundation for a more valuable development? In this course, we have set out to explore the Öresund metropolitan region through transecting travels in order to discover unfamiliar sites, rediscover familiar ones, stumble over unknown relationships, celebrate hidden atmospheres, become aware of Öresund realities that have so far been overlooked. Through field- and studio work, we have interpreted the Öresund urban landscapes anew and composed another picture of this region – one that could launch the discussion for a discovery trail open to all those who want to follow our traces.

Inspiration has been taken from France: When Marseille became the European cultural capital in 2013, an association of hiking artists led by publisher Baptiste Lanaspèze composed and realised a hiking trail through the Marseille metropolitan region, allowing inhabitants and cultural capital visitors to understand, feets-on, the specifics of the metropolitan landscapes. Called GR ® 2013, the trail refers to the popular French ‘Chemins de Grande Randonnée’ (GR) that span a network of hiking paths across the country and promote its natural landscape beauties. The GR ® 2013 reformulates this concept in leading a 365km long path (as many kilometres as days in the year 2013) through the landscapes of Marseille and its surrounds, crossing 38 communes and 5 regional parks, allowing for a total of 20 days of hiking. The marking is the same as on an ordinary GR but the beauty revealed is unsettling: comprising port feeder roads, sun-exposed parking lots, the thorny macchia, shady pine groves, high rise ensembles of the 60s, overgrown brown-fields, stunning views, suspicious smells (www.mp2013/gr2013). The experience of hiking through strange landscapes full of stories and opportunities sharpens the minds of those involved for site qualities beyond the officially accepted touristic highlights. It caters for an appreciation of existing site specificities and for a revision of value systems and concepts of landscape beauty – from such a public awareness of landscapes ‘as found’, new design concepts can arise.

Within urban development planners and designers all too often dismiss existing site features and build up sites anew, which is resource-intensive and unsustainable in regard to social and ecological systems. We, the initiators of this course, claim that this common practice is based on an inherited understanding of design as creation ex novo, a prevalent architectural paradigm since the Renaissance and highly appreciated during 20th century modernism. To counter this tacitly accepted concept and pave the way for a resource-saving and respectful practice, we propose to promote an alternative understanding of design as a translation of that what already exists on a site, based on contemporary site theories. This means to look both at the concepts of design and of heritage in a new way. The question is then, how to identify and communicate site values, be they material, immaterial or dynamic, as a basis for a sustainable development of urban landscapes?

This course aims to familiarise the students with a method for appropriating site qualities through deep fieldwork-based empirical enquiry and evaluation that becomes part of the conceptual design act: the travelling transect. Its theoretical foundation relies on a reinterpretation of Alexander von Humboldt’s trans-areal and mobile empirical science. In this course we have trained landscape architecture students within the NOVA university network, to use and to reflect about a new theoretical outset and methodological framework for design and heritage. With this course, we wanted to enable the students to revise their understanding of design and heritage and to influence their generation of designers, design researchers and heritage specialists in the Nordic countries and beyond.

In the Öresundsect, the students have transected the Öresund region in multiple moves, group wise and individually, with a baggage of theories appropriated pre-course and during initial seminar days, and with a set of practical instruments on board – to write, sketch, photograph, film, record, measure, interview, in short: to capture site qualities. Through in-studio work over the last course days and post-course, the students have interpreted and elaborated site findings into individual Tableaux Physiques, alluding to Alexander von Humboldt post-travel artworks and scholarly publications. These Tableaux Physiques were first presented as spatial installations on campus (Öresundsect Exhibition, pages 35 – 43), and they were then reinterpreted as hand-ins to this documentation (Individual Tableaux Physiques, Öresundsect Documentation, pages 45 – 121) and to the course website (https://oresundsect.wordpress.com). We consider them as way stations on the (discovery) path towards the biggest ‘tableau physique’, the Öresund water landscape itself, which is to be discovered over and over again through transecting travels by many more than this course’s participants.

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