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Working with scarred landscapes

How to create hospitable pockets within difficult milieus?

Published onSep 14, 2020
Working with scarred landscapes

In my research and practice I am exploring how to transform landscapes that have been scarred by human use, into hospitable milieus. I am doing so in the south of France in landscaping projects in gardens, parks and fields as well as in a doctoral research project at the Geography Department of the University of Frankfurt. My research critiques a paradigm which inventories landscapes into quantifiable parts to find recipes for regeneration.

Despite ‘regeneration’ being a keyword of the moment, I suggest that it is still unclear what is meant by it and how successful regeneration actually happens. Instead, I make use of the term ‘revitalisation‘ and take it to mean making places more hospitable to humans and other forms of life alike. I propose that a core element of such work is to pay attention to and to be able to work with ‘what is already in place’, however unfavorable such conditions might seem.

Before entering this research field, I had worked in a community restaurant in Tel Aviv and in a social housing project in Berlin. In these projects, I saw how many well-intended interventions faltered when the purely mental ideas of how to ‘develop’ a quarter met real neighbors, existing atmospheres and ecologies. This disquiet about ‘regenerative planning’ led me to understand landscapes as shared milieus that come alive and hospitable as they are experienced and lived in. I am now exploring how to approach work with place as relational and dialogical practices that require to hone one’s capacity to listen and respond to a web of relationships.

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