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One of the more curious exercises in the making of a book of this kind, is the fact that, in a fairly compressed time frame, you can gather and compare a considerable amount of information. It is also a synthesizing and clarification effort, necessary for explaining, as simply and directly as possible, our reasoning, our solutions, our proposals. We have thought a great deal on how to present these studies. Not because they lost, but because of what they represent. Would it be more convincing to present them in chronological order? Organize them by the scale of the action? By order of importance?
Even though each proposal responds to a specific competition program, and in this sense, represents a unique and unrepeatable solution, our practice has demonstrated the existence of certain thematic groups, underlying the different solutions. These themes do not claim to be an imposition of certain, previously established ways of acting, but a support for the action, sensitive to the real needs detected in each situation, and highly flexible to the different contexts we come across.
The thematic group which arises more forcefully, is composed of themes of a more theoretical character which we have developed in over twenty years of practice – Landscape: multiple definitions. A group that includes themes like the understanding of the role and importance of landscape, the concepts of space and time, the reading of marks and signs, the artifice/nature binomial, the notion of limit or the idea of beauty. Arguments that underlie landscape architecture, and are therefore, frequently definitional in the character and expressions of our project solutions.
The second great thematic group relates to the interpretation of the landscape’s affirmation as a support for the consolidation of life in the territory – Landscape as support. In this perspective, the landscape behaves, on one hand, as a macroinfrastructure, capable of assisting Man in the continuous transformation processes that ensure his survival, and, on the other, as way of making human existence compatible with every other life-form with which Man necessarily shares time and space. In this case we are talking about the study of such themes as the role of infrastructure in contemporaneity, the definition of concepts like urban, city and public space. A thematic group that is bound up with a profound awareness of the role of landscape architecture in the reconversion and updating of currently obsolete areas, the rehabilitation of degraded areas, and the attribution of new uses.
A third group of themes, more circumstantial than structuring, seeks to answer problems arising from the often preponderant or abusive human occupation in coastal areas – Landscape and Coastline. Our close attachment, on a personal and professional level, to the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, and their coastal areas, has led us to very distinct experiences of permanent or temporary human occupation, capable of establishing completely different relationships with the water, the beaches and the coastal ecosystems. Reflections that have alerted us to the existence of a common denominator transversal to the Mediterranean communities, which, in different forms, could be applicable to other places where the influence of the coast on human occupation is preponderant. To this thematic group also belong themes like the perception of the coastline’s fragility, the definition of the concept of coastal front, or the role of landscape architecture in making human use compatible with autochthonous ecosystems.
The fourth and last theme group was defined by one of the most significant features of work in landscape architecture – Making a Park. A park is a piece of territory of public use, dedicated to the people and their lives, destined for collective recreational appropriations: for walking, socialising and experiment. It is also a witness of the history of those who create it, who maintain it, who validate it, and an attempt to reconcile it with the natural factors of that landscape. A park is an artifice that seeks to affect the metabolisms inherent to these natural qualities, in a close relationship between sustainability and adequacy of use. This, more operational theme, leads to working arguments like the notions of urban void, value of the soil, agriculture or load bearing capacity.
The twenty competitions we present here, explore these thematic groups in an interconnected fashion, a holistic approach, characteristic of our attitude to the landscape. We have never sought solutions that were airtight and attached to a single concept, but rather, dynamic proposals that demonstrate a clear desire for conceptual vibration, for thematic exploration and for experimentation with the different natures of the places.
This collection of competitions lost, but frequently included with the prize winners, is above all, a homage to the culture of competitions in landscape architecture and architecture. A demonstration that a competition is a commitment between a community and the project team, connecting the two in a climate of close partnership, essential for the healthy development of the whole process.
Twenty competitions that demonstrate the path of our team over the past decade, and which gave us innumerable opportunities to work, often more than once, with other teams, other methods and other approaches. A course in constant change, always unfinished. A continuous learning process upheld by competitions we have won and others we have lost.
Text written by Tiago Torres Campos