Dundee School of Architecture 2011 BArch (Hons) MArch

Monday, 25 July 2011

Mapping out : ‘Non Site’

In order to represent the materiality of the Walton backwaters samples of the earth are collected. The changing state of the earth from mudflat to cultivated arable farmland characterises the landscape.

Collecting a sample of the landscape is similar to Robert Smithson’s ‘Non Site’, the samples are then placed in a preserving Jar. The displaced material is then identified with a coordinate from the location it was collected. The coordinate creates a reference to the conventional cartographic maps. The juxtaposition of the coordinate against the organic matter within the jar highlights the conflict between the organic processes of nature and the geometry of man.

The airtight jars create a physical barrier between the viewer and the landscape; this separation symbolises man’s disengagement with the landscape.

Drawing the landscape

The landscape paintings by John Constable depict the picturesque region surrounding the Stour Valley on the Essex/Suffolk border. By concentrating on the characteristics of the region and understanding the elements of land, sky and water that impact on the landscape, Constable gained an intimate knowledge of the region. This deep understanding of the landscape and a particular technique meant Constable was successful in capturing a sense of ‘place’.  

The drawing of the backwaters describes a place and its form, atmosphere and texture that are otherwise ignored in conventional cartographic maps. The infinite sense of landscape is created by the horizon line and the sense of time and scale.

Tidal Observatory

As a monument for the 1953 floods the tidal observatory is a device for recording the traces of the tide. Similar to the Munro Gauge the tidal observatory produces sea level elevations, recording coastal processes; tidal response, storm surge behaviour and the rise in sea level. The ebb and flow of the tide draws lines, the rhythmic forces are recorded becoming a map that periodically highlights the instability of nature. 

 The Fluxing Landscape

Using historical maps it is possible to trace the changing landscape. A map from 1300, 1800 and 2000 are overlaid to show how the landscape has changed over time. Humanity has been adapting through history to a fragile landscape. The predicted rise in sea levels and coastal erosion allows us to imagine what the landscape will be like in 100 years. This method can illustrate the impact on local communities, towns and farmland lost to the sea. This is speculative and cannot accurately indicate the impact further sea defenses might have or how intervening in a landscape might effect its appearance and form. 

Explorative Mapping : Dissecting the O.S

In order to better understand a particular place O.S maps can be used to identify particular elements and features that exist in the landscape. The information that can be extracted from O.S maps include both man made and natural features, boundary, settlement and thoroughfare. By extracting each feature it is possible to understand the different elements that make up the landscape and their relationship between each other. 

The backwaters north of Walton-on-Naze is an area of tidal creeks, mud flats and salt marshes; protected by a spit of land they form a delicate boundary between the land and the North Sea. At first glance this baron landscape appears naturally formed. The organic forms of the mudflats are created through the constant ebb and flow of the tide however this landscape is contained by a series of sea walls, reinforced banks, and tidal gates. The man made elements that are depicted on the O.S map all have an effect on the formation of the landscape and therefore suggest the delicate ecology that exists in the backwaters is entirely managed by man.

Environmental Awareness

The relationship between man and the sea turned to tragedy during the floods of 1953, a tidal surge in the North Sea caused one of the most devastating natural disasters ever recorded in the UK, over 300 East Anglians died. This tragedy was shared with the Dutch, whose death toll was even higher. Events like this demonstrate nature’s strength, it is important for people to re-engage with the landscape and the processes that effect their environment. 

Filming the landscape

The short film is a collection of still and moving images documenting the landscape at the Walton Backwaters throughout a tide cycle. Observing in detail the effects of the tide on the landscape. The images on the film are no longer fragments of the place, captured in time, but details that attract attention, deconstructing the landscape. With these images we grow aware not of the vastness and complexity of the space, but of the existence of micro spaces: water, with a material density, rendered in changing colours, the transportation of sediments and reeds blowing in the wind, considered samples of landscape. These microcosms highlight the frailty of the landscape, exploring issues of space and time, the material and the symbolic. This deconstruction of a landscape symbolises the ongoing tension between man and nature within the landscape.