Florencia Rodriguez, Mercedes Peralta, Jeannette Sordi (Editors)
Lots of Architecture –publishers, July 2020
Paperback | 8-1/2 x 11 inches | 208 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1732010635 | $23.00
The second issue of our monographic series reflects on the project of Landscape as Urbanism in the Americas, led by Charles Waldheim and the Office for Urbanization at Harvard Graduate School of Design. Curated together with Mercedes Peralta and Jeannette Sordi, NESS.docs 2 explores the potentials for landscape as a medium for urban intervention in the specific contexts of Latin-American cities.
More than twenty Latin American practices are shown and grouped in five different themes: Biological Environments, Resilient Grounds, Performative Systems, Revealed Protocols, and Assembled Natures. Finally, a conversation between Charles Waldheim, Florencia Rodriguez, and Luis Callejas deepens the discussion of our academic curricula, drawing as representation, political spaces, and the general sensitivity around landscape.
What is NESS.docs? According to Pablo Gerson and Florencia Rodriguez, editors of the young NESS magazine, it is a monographic series that "would not only feature individual practices but would also address topics that [they] thought deserved visibility, discussion, and reflection." The first NESS.docs, devoted to Hashim Sarkis, came in 2017. Sarkis, who splits his time between Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Beirut, was named curator of the Venice Architecture Biennale one year after the monograph was released. (With the pandemic, that Biennale has been delayed until a May 2021 opening.) The second publication in the series departs from the focus on a single architectural practice, as their words attest, but it tays firmly in Cambridge, featuring content culled from Landscape as Urbanism in the Americas, a multi-year collaboration between the Office for Urbanization at Harvard GSD and various Latin American institutions.
Between March 2016 and May 2018, five conferences were held under the Landscape as Urbanism in the Americas banner in Medellín, Santiago, Brasilia, Mexico City, and Buenos Aires. A sixth, scheduled for March 2020 at Harvard GSD, would have brought the initiative to a conclusion, but it was canceled due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, the project's voluminous digital archive of more than sixty projects of landscape urbanism in Latin America provided plenty of content for a publication. In its final form, NESS.docs 2 features 25 of those projects in five thematic chapters (Biological Environments, Resilient Grounds, Performative Systems, Revealed Protocols, and Assembled Natures), with each chapter accompanied by a short essay addressing the topic.
The book may be based on academic conferences that are focused on landscape urbanism — the sometimes contentious theory that challenges New Urbanism and elevates landscape and ecology over buildings — but the book should appeal to a wide range of architects and landscape architects due to the selection of the two-dozen projects and their presentation taking up most of its pages. Like the conferences, the projects range over much of Latin America. Much-published projects like Plan:B's and JPRCR's Orquideorama in Colombia are found alongside lesser known projects like Metro's Ladeira da Barroquinha in Brazil. Not all of the projects are built, but on the whole they show a strong embrace of landscape urbanism principles in Latin American contexts. As expressed by Charles Waldheim in his introduction, this embrace has occurred, in part, from Latin American architects carrying the theory with them after being subjected to it at the GSD. Whatever the case, the projects in NESS.docs 2 are an strong argument for landscape urbanism's continued relevance.