Diana Balmori: A Landscape Manifesto
Shanghai Bun, Shanghai, China, Competition Finalist, 2008 By Balmori Associates with Beyer Blinder Belle. Rendering by Balmori Associates
In the RA Forum on 18 October 2010, internationally-renowned landscape designer, Diana Balmori, proposed A Landscape Manifesto. Chaired by Richard Cork, Balmori presented the Manifesto alongside specially produced work by Japanese architect, Mami Kosemura, followed by a response from Eric Parry RA.
Listen to this event
- Download the recording:
01:27 hours (30.1 MB)
- Subscribe to our Events podcast here
Landscape, argued Diana Balmori, is the central creative discipline of the moment. It had knocked sculpture off the perch it had in the late 20th century, which itself replaced painting in a chain of usurpation that would have had an attic tragedian reeling. Her 25-point Landscape Manifesto set out an action plan for how landscape can “learn to speak [again] through interaction with other arts” – disciplines which “are very interested” in the scale, variety and changefulness that characterises landscape.
Balmori concentrated on those points in the Manifesto that cover changefulness and connectivity. Projects in Memphis and St Louis work with the ebbs and flows of the Mississippi, bringing an experience of nature to the heart of those cities and their people.
Video artist Mami Kosemura’s images, made in response to the Manifesto points that deal with change, unfold a vision of landscape that appears through a veil of cloud, revealing change that occurs “little by little”, small changes that go almost unnoticed on their own but cumulatively mean that “A landscape, like a moment, never happens twice” (point 16).
One part of Mami Kosemura's ten part response to Balmori's Manifesto © Mami Kosemura
Turning to connectivity, Balmori argued that landscape can forge connections to all parts of life: in an unbuilt equestrian centre for New York’s 2012 Olympic bid, folded ground made vantage points for spectators, before flowing into a large park. Alternatively, nature could manifest itself as a series of 8m wide green oases along Manhattan’s Broadway, segueing with but adding variety to citizens’ everyday routines.
In his response, Eric Parry RA noted that landscape could transcend the architectural conception of space as defined by series of vertical and horizontal lines. Landscape was space without limits defined instead by light and movement, especially of water. Responding to Balmori’s Broadway project, Parry drew analogies with the way markets act as potential connectors in otherwise disparate urban infrastructures.
The onward march of urbanism makes landscape all the more important, noted chair Richard Cork, anticipating point 25 in the Manifesto: “We must put the twenty-first century city in nature rather than put nature in the city”.
Having spent the 20th century “shrubbing up buildings” Balmori argues that landscape's “time has come”: but it needs to regain the grip on aesthetics that practitioners like William Kent and Capability Brown gave it – and designers need to develop new ways of communicating its ideas and potential. Above all it must “learn to speak through interaction with other arts”.