The travelling transect: Capturing island dynamics, relationships and atmospheres in the water landscapes of the Canaries

Ellen Braae, Lisa Diedrich, Gini Lee

Abstract


The practice of landscape architecture is most often a cultivation of open space alongside an open-ended dialogue with the presence and complexities of the cultural and natural features of places, usually resulting in projects generating site resolution rather than pure invention ex nihilo. However, when working with the more unpredictable qualities of sites as in water-made landscapes, designers often lack mapping and representational tools capable of capturing and expressing ephemeral qualities - dynamics, relationships and atmospheres. These abstract qualities, that exist over physical site conditions, correspond to the fields of natural sciences and to spatial aesthetics. The Travelling Transect method, inspired by Alexander von Humboldt’s method of transareal travelling and transversal collecting of ephemeral information from site, informs our exploratory fieldwork in the water landscapes of the Canary Islands, adopting the working title Canarysect. Seeking altered expressions of the abstract qualities of places, we test three well-known tools: the sketch, the photo and the model in response to the site conditions that meet us along the journey. While acknowledging these tools’ familiarity in everyday practice, the Canarysect project negotiates testing and capture of the dynamic, relational and atmospheric qualities encountered along lines of transect across island lands and waters. Individual sketching, photography and modelling gestures merge into a common archipelago of thinking around the water landscapes of the Canaries. Through the medium of the Nordes 2013 exhibition, coexisting tableaux of imagery and form produce another mapping of already-known island landscapes, brought to contemporary presence through a gaze informed by the layered histories of the landscapes and peoples, sites and programs.

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