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To the studens of the schools of lanscape-architecture. 2000 students of the schools of lanscape-architecture 2000. Translation by Philippe Coignet Landscape-Architect

1-Work oneself into a state of excitement

During the first hours, without much precision in the program nor on the site that will be the object of your intervention, I invite you to set up two parallel actions of a great intensity: on a territory that is mostly unfamiliar to you, you need to make up in a short period of time, an enormous deficit of knowledge and a thousand question must be asked: what happened, what is going on on this site? What does one want to do to it? And who wants it? What was its apex, its decline, why is it available today and why does it need to be transformed? What are its inclinations and in what order of linked spaces is it inscribed?

All these questions and many others that should be answered at a particular moment during the design work, can stay for a while evasive, suspended. It is the questioning itself that will determine and will engage you into the reality, it is that which will galvanize your focus. From the early moments, a certain cognitive emulation must sharpen your vision and your sensitivity. This insatiable need to be informed and the work that is required should not however delay the commitment to the formal work of the design.

At the same time, without waiting for all the answers to your questions, you can formulate work hypotheses and draw the first landscape propositions.

Intuition is the momentum that should be the genesis of your design. It seems to me, the importance is to take a design attitude as soon as possible in order to avoid the procrastination of a previous preliminary analysis.

2-Traveling in all directions

You have to search the entire site and its surroundings in every sense, observing and registering all configurations, all the things down to the smallest and the most negligible; you do not have to lose anything from this written page. Francois Dagognet in “Epistemologie de l'espace concret » tells us : “Do not leave the ground, the inscription, the habitat, the landscape, there where the living establish themselves, the materials, the data.” “ The landscape is a method, one finds less in it than through it.” It is at the surface or even in the futility (almost) that the truth shines and can be “stopped”. Nowhere else”. “The scientist is too tempted to neglect the traces, the folds, the hatches, the integuments; it is in the secondary, or even in the derisory, that Life is recognized and can be apprehended.”

All the territories proposed to you will have been historically the object of natural disruptions, successive occupations that will have left traces, configurations and distributions. Some of them will be maintained over many decades or centuries, and be confirmed by successive uses. It is not useless to know how to take into account in your design, or to transpose for the future, what we can consider as real foundations. This sort of economy of means given to your proposition will allow you to not disrupt with the identity of a place, to keep the idea avoiding ruptures that are too brutal.

It is the observation, the investigation, taking into account a maximum of number of givens, of any event system, of any circumstances that weave, on a morphological and cultural plan, our relationships to things that will make your decisions and your design be inspired, inspired by the world itself.

3-Exploring the limits and surpassing them

Any project on the territory should begin by a reevaluation of the apparent legitimacy of boundaries convenient for one purpose, refusing to let the landscape fragment into multiple “terrains of action”, blind to each other. On the contrary, the design of every place needs to be instructed by a broad knowledge of the site that houses it, its design must work together all the data induced by adjacent spaces which by linking, compose the diverse horizons of a site.

You must not be focused on the exclusive ascendancy of one domain. You need to sneak away, take some distance, join the limits in order to discover the different exits by which you can escape. By enlarging your point of view, by surpassing the given limits, you can measure their resistance, the state of their porosity. By stepping away, you will test various conditions by which here, space asserts itself or there, tips over into adjacent spaces, and which are the gates from which it overflows and opens itself on the distance. Your escapades will determine the true horizons of this place.

In the landscape, there is not a hard limit, so closed that it does not crack and open on adjacent spaces. There is not a true discrimination between different places. The elements of a landscape are always characterized by their faculty of overflowing, by the diversity and the complexity of pacts that link them to the next element. In the landscape, there is not a precise contour, every surface and every form vibrates and opens on the outside! The things of the landscape have a presence beyond their surface. This particular product is opposed to any genuine discrimination. 

Therefore, it is at the limit situations that one finds the deposit of all qualities. Those that affirm the presence of things and those which at the same time, blend qualities to allow them to coexist and melt together into a broader milieu.

4-Leaving to come back

During your first investigations, the more you explore the site, the more you will discover: the archives of any space are inexhaustible. The more knowledge you will accumulate about a situation, the stronger you will make the field of contradictions between different parameters: those of from the site and of the program for example. The more you analyze the givens of the site and the client’s proposal, the less capable you will be to act. If you are not careful, you can get mired in the complexity of a landscape situation! You should regularly take some distance away from the site, leave it to work in your studio with specific tools that represent and transpose reality. On site, you might be overwhelmed by the quantity of data and then, not be able to make any decisions.

The design begins by some reduction of the real than you can grasp. In studio, you quickly need to formulate the first hypothesis, knowing that the work on space itself, or more exactly its representation in the design, opens up some opportunities that thought or cumulative management of given can not foresee. Space has its own resources that allow for the reformulation and calming of some contradictions that analysis exposes. Things join by degrees, pieces are placed or displace in a general uncertainty which is the obligated partner of any client. However, this irreducible part of secret subjectivity produces a body of knowledge and ideas that can be transmitted. By this, the design unfolds!

But, once your first decisions are engaged and stabilized, you must go back on site to test the validity and measure the distance between the early steps of your design and its adaptation to your site. If you neglect this recommendation, the design that you started will quickly unravel from reality. Intervene in the landscape, in this world of complex interrelationships demand knowledge, touch and control. If your work is too inattentive, the griffon that you propose has all the possibility to be rejected or to appear despite all insolent and discordant.

5-Crossing through scales

Solidarity, spatial and temporal linking of all things and situations that compose the landscape contribute to the intimate interlocking of its different scales. Most often, there are numerous correspondences between the constituting local elements and the global. Crossing through scales is about controlling simultaneously and in the same way, the general and the specific, the close and the far.

In the space of your design, you need to carry and transpose the way that makes the landscape elements associate and hold together.

The park of Versailles is a sublime example of the linking of scales. A coping of a pond, a step, the trim of an hedge makes reference implicitly and sometimes explicitly to the composition and to the formal work of the overall garden. The crossing and the control of scales are or all of these paths or aptitudes, the most difficult to acquire, those that require the most experience so, I invite you to practice without delay.


A more and more noticeable attachment to the context predisposes you to look at the territory in a dynamic way. The different configurations of the site that you discover translate into a general movement, a steepness that expresses the physical and cultural time of the work in the landscape

Previous knowledge of the development and the organization of the site reinforces this mode of thinking. The method that I propose can be compared to the use of the editing table by movie makers: keep unrolling, in one sense and another, all the images that testify to various times that have shaped and configured the landscape; pushing the cursor to its extreme, you can almost extend this sequel and have a glimpse of the images that play a role in the future of the site, which will invite you to a specific transformation.

In the profusion and the chronology of clues that you would have guessed, you will know how to recognize the main tendencies, the ones that offer the most chances to conduct and support forthcoming modifications, the ones that allow interference with the real by consuming the least amount of energy.

The project is a blend of souvenir and anticipation. You should not understand the recommendation to ground your design in history and geography of place as an incitement to passivity and conservatism. It simply offers you the chance to work no longer on the Tabula Rasa but by engagement with the site’s memory.

7-Defend open space

I think that preserving open space is a value to defend or, more exactly, that it is important to stand against a systematic accumulation of space. I have argued for the importance of deficiencies, of intervals, in the game of the relationship with the horizon, and landscape architects should not be the accomplice of  the “fury” that consists of controlling everything, building everything, recomposing everything; Get away, I am designing!


They should stand against those who accumulate all kind of practices on space, all kind of junk, sometime well designed and very photogenic, but that contributes to a general overweight in the landscape. The responsibility of the design on space is to insert and sort certain things, but it is often also not to do so. The control of the design requires measured and well thought-out decisions.

8-Open your design in process

The creators, the persons on charge of the project, have a lot to say about what rules their design and what is being realized from it, but testimonies on the act of designing are more rare: on the set of energies mobilized, on diverse modalities, on diverse levels of elaboration, according to which the chronology is organized. They overshadow their processes, its evolution, initiation and conclusion. I would like to invite you to engage yourself in an approach that would shed some light on the process more than its ending.

The most difficult question is to make the functioning of the design visible. It matters to not confuse the design as process in time with the result of this work. All persons in charge of projects know perfectly that what decides the end of their design is the deadline, agreed with the owner to start construction. Without this time pressure, the design might never be finished.

The creator’s whole concern is focused, from the first, on the extent of creation, the ongoing decisions, numerous and sometimes very small, by which in space, step by step, is transposed the demand that he has been made, by experimentations and back and forth movements. Obviously, all these creative energies are directed towards their completion, but I think that designers are often wrong to neglect talk about the wanderings of their design work. To make the result valid, they too often make up, a posteriori, implacable logics that hide all hesitations throughout their process, which makes it permeable to the exterior world. By exhibiting only the result of a work made in the secret of the studio, the designer ensures the basic non-communication of the design work whereas, he should, according to me, shed some light as much as possible on its process. I am always surprised by the incomprehension discovered between those who design and those who will judge and experience.

Professionals, teachers and you, students, should have a common preoccupation: open all windows on the space and time of the design; make this practice as transparent as possible in order to understand its sources, dynamics, modes of resolution and history; finally, give up the romantic position of the isolated artist in the secret of his studio and widely explain yourself on the genetics of your design.

9-Keep control of your own design

Opening the time of your own project and making explicit its different steps of elaboration are an appropriate method to share it and enrich it if necessary; but you must be careful not to let the core of the design be invaded, monopolized, and finally deviated by the person you speak with (starting with your teachers!). The creator is the only one able to make sure about the coherence and unity of his work in making forms. Therefore, you should stay the guardian of your own designs

Traduit par Philippe Coignet, Paysagiste d.p.lg,Landscape Architect, MLA


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