- REBUILDING THE CONCEPT OF LANDSCAPE IN THE POST-MINING CONTEXT
Human perception is determined by our position in the world, our physical scale relative to our surroundings and the capability of our senses. In the context of landscape our senses provides us with a broad scale of impressions, ranging from the panoramic views of our vision to the direct contact of touch.
Human perception is, however, also determined by our lifespan and understanding of time relative to the processes of our environment. Landscapes are dynamic and always evolving, but often at rates that are not perceivable for us. In the post-mining terrain the rate of transformation is on a temporal scale closer to the human, and the landscape can be perceived as dynamic. With time the landscape evolves into states of higher order and the rate of the transformations slows down.
These two characteristics of human perception mean that we must perceive landscape through a series of experiences over time, where the spatial relationship is defined by the timespans between these experiences. We come to understand the landscape as we change our position in it over time.
The positioning in an unfamiliar setting, such as the post-mining terrain, requires a rapid processing of the environment; overall forms and patterns are recognized to increase understanding. Over time the rate of this processing slows and focus changes to details and anomalies that increase enrichment, meaning and associations.
The concept of landscape in post-mining context accordingly develops both from changing perception, acquisition of knowledge, as well as the continued evolution of the environment itself.
The appreciation of a landscape’s aesthetic qualities, amongst other things, relies on a feeling of compliance and coherence of a wide range of underlying processes that together compromise the landscape. The landscape is at any point in time the expression of the forces that have created it hitherto.
It is often not possible to fully comprehend all of the underlying processes, since there are too many components and a too high complexity at play. In the case of the post-mining terrain the underlying process is a singular manmade one of moving earth to be able to reach lower lying layers. The following processes of geological transformations and ecological succession that build a growing complexity into this landscape are measured and reflected on in the proposed Landscape Observatory.
The purpose of the observatory is to provide the basis for a gathering of experience that with time leads to understanding and eventually the emergence of a new concept of landscape. A concept that goes beyond the image, that is dynamic and must be developed through the continued building of experience, a concept fitting to and evolving with the post-mining context.
The process of mining is an extremity that through excavation transforms the land; decided by our society to satisfy our energy needs. It does not consider natural or cultural factors, but excavates the entire established area to extract the coal from the earth.
This process runs over timespans that are discrepant with our lives; that span generations, and are more similar to the timespans of morphological transformations of landscapes.
Therefore we do not believe that the effect of mining can be undone or ignored by a recultivation, where a layer of topsoil is added to restore economic value of the land.
We instead propose to end the human influence on the land with the end of the mining process, and letting this reset land back into the hands of nature to undergo a renaturation process.
The project proposes an addition to the mining process where structure is added and growing with the movement of the machines through the site. The intervention is therefore a consequence of the mining, as it is not being added at a later stage, in this way also avoiding the geotechnical problems of constructing in the turned sand.
The purpose of the structures is on a human scale to make the area accessible, so you can witness the stages of succession in the renaturation process and how the land is transformed and over time matures and settles.
On a landscape scale the structure works from the idea that it affects the outcome of the mining process, so it is no longer only a destructive process. Through the addition of the structure it also helps support and shape the emerging post-mining landscape. The structure architecturally manifests that the effect of the mining does not end with the last extracted coal.
The construction is simultaneous with the movement of the machines, in this way tracing their movement as well as the timespan of the process; growing as long as the mining continues and ending when the mining is over. As a consequence the structure is in places spanning the land, in other places densifying in points.
The structures spanning the land are walls, which through their effect of holding onto the sand, as well as working as windbreakers, help the emerging landscape take form and provide microclimatic advantages for pioneer species to settle. They mediate in the collision between industrial and natural landscape.
The concentrated points of structures are follies. Not merely pavilions in a landscape, they are “Relationskörper”, cultural bodies of reference that addresses the abstract aspects of the transformations that are occurring on a vast temporal and spatial scale, and relate them to the human scale by working as devices of measurement and reflection. Through their massive appearance the follies act as anchors, tying human presence and perception to the land.
To connect the structures and make the area accessible a system of pathways floating on the sand is added. Able to adapt to the changing surroundings, they stitch the site together again.
The Landscape Observatory allows human presence in the early stages of the post-mining land, where the loose sand otherwise leaves the area inaccessible. It provides the infrastructure for perception and the foundation for the gathering of experience with the transforming environment.
The knowledge of the context and the movement through the land, facilitated by the observatory, becomes the framework through which the realization of the post-mining terrain as landscape emerges.