Landscape Architecture Magazine

AN ANTIDOTE TO EXCESS

Doing almost nothing” as a designer can provoke harsh criticism. Surely the point of designing a site is to transform “D it in some way? Isn’t doing nothing an abdication of design? Marc Treib’s book Doing Almost Nothing: The Landscapes of Georges Descombes offers an antidote to the compulsion to impose design onto the landscape. The Swiss landscape architect Georges Descombes’s work exemplifies the power of doing little, the skill of the careful reading of the site, which leads to the most subtle of responses, as Treib puts it: “restraint and the small gesture.”

Georges Descombes’s body of work has long held a fascination, the gentle and finely tuned design moments that were alluring but frustrating, in that it has been difficult to find very much published about any of the projects. The glimmers of projects such as the Voie suisse (the Swiss Path around Lake Uri) and the Parc de Lancy (Geneva) were provocative and very different from the landscape architecture that was featured in contemporary coffee table books. These works almost looked as if they weren’t there; the designs suggested a way of being in the site, of gently directing experience. It is very timely that Treib’s Doing Almost Nothing brings a comprehensive overview of Descombes’s work, which, like all of Treib’s writing, is intellectually engaging and thought provoking.

is elegant and compact in its format, an 8-by-10-inch volume of 240 pages that echoes the feel of some, which was also published by ORO. The layout is inviting, with nearly 20 double-page spreads throughout the book including color and black-and-white photographs, as well as drawings. The book is richly illustrated with more than 120 color photographs, as well as 13 black-and-white photos and a couple dozen drawings that range from Descombes’s enchanting gestural sketches through to formalized plans.

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