NO LIFE WITHOUT SHADE Alex Hill
Today our entire class had the pleasure of experiencing the unique opportunity of having an intimate talk with the Adriaan Gauze, principal of the world-renowned landscape architecture firm West 8. Their Rotterdam office sits unassumingly on the waterfront of the antebellum port Schiehaven, which is now a “dead” harbor. The day started with an office tour by Lydia who works in PR, and was followed by a presentation from Adriaan. He spoke to us about three projects: Lincoln Park/Soundscape in Miami, Florida, West Kowloon Park in Hong Kong, and the new Rotterdam Centraal Station in Rotterdam. All of the projects presented seek to “accelerate reality”, an ethos of the firm in which they take from or add to contextual relationships and amplify them in an effort to make a connection to the Sublime. In our talk he also underscored the importance of focusing not just on the technical aspects of design but on the cultural, pushing us to understand both our own and others’ identity and what makes you tick. Throughout his presentation he encouraged the entire class to make sure we read, listen to music, visit museums, and watch films as a way to expand ourselves and experience life through multiple lenses. He said if there is no focus on these aspects of life, we will fail.
Adriaan’s process is quite beautiful as he starts to familiarize himself with a culture and landscape by looking at and analyzing current and past works of poetry and art from the region of the project’s location. This becomes reflected in his designs, further contextualizing the site within broader landscape constructs. During the talk he summarized placemaking by stating that “A park should be like a song or poem, it should leave an impression”. He spoke about his childhood and how he saw the anthropomorphic shapes in a bridge in Zeeland. This is reflected in the new Rotterdam train station, where forms that mimic open arms and legs merge indoor and outdoor spaces and are repeated through structural elements of the building and in the trees of the plaza. As we were walking through Rotterdam Centraal Station to get back to Utrecht, I could not see or experience the space the same as I had blindly before. I immediately began to make connections between the intentional design that merges form and function, indoor and outdoor; I was living in Adriaan’s accelerated reality that made a very mundane experience forever memorable.