Landscape Architecture Australia

MODELS WITHOUT NUMBERS: THE LANDSCAPES OF GÜNTHER VOGT

n the 1990s, prior to the ubiquity of the internet and with few built “design” projects in Australia as exemplars, being interested in design was a lonely affair. In drawings and physical collages – literally, a virtual reality – one projected qualities of landscapes that required one to imagine what from a re-presentation of in the real landscape. Books and magazines that made it to Oz (in boutique bookshops, now long gone) were voraciously sought and shared, then photographed for slides to use in university lectures. Publications from Europe were most sought after. After the Catalan journal and the French journal, , my most valued book of the time, as both a new studio teacher and landscape architect, was (Birkhäuser, 1997) about the work of Swiss landscape architect Dieter Kienast. I was fascinated by undefinable qualities that I felt, as much as saw, in the work of Zurich-based practice Kienast Vogt Partner – work that was produced by Kienast in collaboration with another Swiss landscape architect, Gunther Vogt. Twenty years before today’s Instagram filters could automate the process, in both this book, as well as the work of the two subsequent volumes in the series published after Kienast’s death in 1998 – (Birkhäuser, 2000) and s (Birkhäuser, 2002) – exquisite black and white photographs and beautifully collaged plans demonstrated a to the materiality of landscape that was then mobilized as a in Kienast Vogt’s design projects. Although the practice’s work during Kienast’s time often had an “esoteric” aspect (that I rather liked), such as their use of literal text in their “Et in arcadia ego” (I too live in arcadia) garden project, Kienast Vogt’s aesthetic was in stark, indeed austere, contrast with the dominant postmodern language of landscape architecture that was popular in English-speaking countries at the time. Working consistently with some of the most celebrated architects of the time, including Herzog and de Meuron, using simply grass, concrete, trees and steel edging, Vogt Landscape Architects (VLA) (as they became in 2000) demonstrated a deep understanding of landscape that presented the kind of all-encompassing approach that architects appreciated in the work of Bauhaus architect Mies van der Rohe.

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