Between the Object & the picturesque

UG 2 2019-20

Undergraduate Design Studio at The Bartlett School of Architecture


Barry Wark

Maria Knutsson-Hall

In many cities our primary interaction with nature is through two perceptive models of appreciation, either as an object or as the picturesque. 

The object model is most commonly found in the potted plants filling our workplaces and homes. Here nature is removed from its context and turned into a sculptural artefact, in turn focusing our attention on its formal qualities. 

The picturesque model is served to us in abundance through documentaries and social media feeds where we bask in the visual stimulus of the colour, lines and compositions of what we see on our screens. This 2D representation of nature again draws us to the formal qualities of nature as image.

Nature is not an object, nor is it an image, it is a wide variety of environments and spaces in which we have evolved in and experienced for millennia. It is a complex ecosystem; it evolves over time and seasons; it is fragile and volatile and has to the power to comfort and unnerve us. As inhabitants of cities we experience very little of the afore mentioned qualities of nature. Our built environment has increasingly controlled, minimised and mitigated the natural world to the point where we have become physiologically and perhaps psychologically separated from its true essence.

We are now experiencing a period in history where natural disasters, recording breaking weather and the climate change activist group ‘Extinction Rebellion’ are bringing the message to the forefront that our planet is drastically changing through our actions. How can we re-establish our biophilic connection in the hope that it can change our behaviour and habits for positive environmental change?  How can we establish a sense of place within the biosphere as well as the city ?

This year UG2 will explore the territory between the object and picturesque in the creation of environments where nature is experienced and appreciated beyond its current prevalent consumption. We will create spaces that flood, rooms that wilt and decay and atmospheres that changes as often as the weather and seasons themselves.