The Hedge and the Void
The landscapes of Dieter Kienast and an overview of his career.
By Marc Treib
Recent discourse in landscape architecture has centered on ideas
of bigness and natural process, with only limited attention addressed
to social use or spatial design. Projects such as large-scale parks
and brownfield remediation normally find solutions in open-ended
management schemes rather than detailed horticultural plans, and
the garden appears almost as a relic of a distant and romantic past.
Despite this valuing of process over designwhich retrieves
the profession's devotion to ecological process during the 1960s
and '70ssome landscape designers have continued to operate
with equal facility in both modes. One of those was the Swiss landscape
architect Dieter Kienast, whose work embraced a full range of concerns
from the small to the large, from the fixed to the mutable, and
from the natural to the constructed.
Although his early career did include public projects, Kienast
continued to make gardensrelatively small gardens for the
most partthroughout his career, and in some ways he retained
the lessons of the gardens even while working at increased scale.
"The garden is the last luxury of our day and age," he wrote in
1990, "because it is rooted in the very aspects of our lives that
have become most rare and precious: time, care, and space." In his
native Switzerland he applied these desirable qualities of the garden
to public landscapes such as parks, plazas, cemeteries, office courts,
and exposition landscapes. Almost without exception, they were well
conceived, refined as spatial and formal designs, and elegant in
materials and detail. Although they rarely called attention to the
facteither on site or in the publications that presented thema
considerable number of the projects were governed by an attention
to ecological process and a broad understanding of the forces by
which landscapes are governed. Rhetoric played only a very small
role in his designs, despite his prominent position as university
professor. More important was his consideration of landscape design
as a contribution to "the dialectic on artificiality and naturalness."
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