An Archive of Contemporary Thought in Sustainable Architecture


Olgas, Australia, 2000



Posturbanism and Paradise: Real gardens, vicarious landscapes or virtual arenas for stillness and spectacle

Biennale of Electronic Arts Perth: CADE: Computers in Art and Design Education Conference 12-14 September 2007. Conference Proceedings,

ISBN 1 74067 530 4

Posturbanism and Paradise: Real gardens, vicariouslandscapes or virtual arenas for stillness and spectacle

Peter R. Diprose; Diprose ArchitectsRobert D. Hotten; Office for Sustainable ArchitectureKelly J. O'Meara; Diprose Architects


This paper investigates the paradox of stillness within posturban space, and in particular the garden. Posturbanism isidentified as a synthesis of two principle ideas: the city as an analogue of the mind, and for virtual urban space to satisfyimmaterial human needs. The contention is that for urban theory to be useful and satisfying it must direct the integration and extension of the real into the virtual. The human need for spectacle is described in an historical context.Only one element of urban landscape is explored here - the garden. More specifically, the Eastern/Persian paradisegarden is juxtaposed to the Western modernist city and park, drawing on (visual) commentary derived from film, virtualgaming arenas, and thirdspace hybrid landscapes. The paradox of stillness within the real and digital landscapes iscritiqued. It is concluded that a rehabilitated posturban landscape is required if stillness is to be revealed and embraced.


Garden, landscape, posturbanism, spectacle, vicarious.


This paper investigates the paradox of stillness within posturban space, and in particular the garden.At least two distinct trains of thought are evident. The first of these focuses on the potential forrecently emergent posturban space to satisfy human needs. This is discussed within an historicalperspective detailing the shift from reality towards virtuality as a primary means of satisfying thedesire for spectacle.The second train of thought (which cannot be fully detailed here) relates to the design andinterpretation of garden-space as a metaphor for stillness. Trinh Minh-ha defines the paradox ofstillness as "sound or silence, movement or stillness, not opposed to one another" (Minh-ha, 2005).In terms of the garden, we interpret stillness as „duration°o. Stillness as duration abounds in Eastern gardens. Accepting the quantum view of decoherence, there is a flow of information about anobject (for example, a garden) into its surroundings, and since information can be neither created nor destroyed, the duration of this flow is as timeless as the centuries between the construction of Eastern gardens and the present and future. The East°os social paradigm, which is underpinned by near totalitarian capitalism with its singularityof idea/information, provides a semblance of homogeneity, and thus immutability and durability, atleast to the outside observer. In contrast to this homogeneity that remains relatively undisturbed,the West enjoys the riches of disaffected/economic immigration, accentuating the paradigm shifttowards diversity and postmodernism.Many Western gardens do not contain information that is homogeneous enough to be retainedthrough time. Heterogeniety does not seem to lend itself to duration. Cosgrove notes the ephemeralnature of postmodern landscape space (Cosgrove, 1997):Biennale of Electronic Arts Perth: CADE: Computers in Art and Design Education Conference 12-14 September 2007. Conference Proceedings,ISBN 1 74067 530 4The concept of carnival is frequently employed in discussions of representation and promotionin postmodern space. In the renaissance city one can observe a parallel significance ofcarnival as a significant element in both civic and social life…the Piazza San Marco… Oftendescribed as a stage set, this celebrated apotheosis of urban landscape design is, in fact, aneclectic assemblage of architectural styles… It would not be inaccurate to describe this spacein terms now regularly employed for postmodern landscapes: „an architecture of spectacle,with its sense of surface glitter and transitory pleasure, of display and ephemerality, orjouissance°o …In contrast to the postmodern Western landscape, on a semiotic level the Zen garden is empty;movement is implied, yet stillness is the reality. Saito outlines ideas behind the placement of"principle and "subordinater", "pursuer" and "pursued" stones in the Japanese Garden (Saito,1970). The Persian garden embodies stillness as duration with its reflection pools of infinitestillness, in counterpoint to the constancy of noise generated by fountain jets. In the Alhambra,movement from cloister and pavilion, to loggia/veranda, and walled courtyard, varies fromcontainment to strongly axial: movement through creates spectacle, Grand Tour being the goal.(These metaphorical/interpretive design ideas are described in the visual presentation).Posturbanism, human-needs and spectacle Posturbanism is "identified as a synthesis of two principle ideas: the city as an analogue of themind, and for virtual urban space to satisfy immaterial human needs. The contention is that forurban theory to be useful and satisfying, it must direct the integration and extension of the real intothe virtual" (Hotten and Diprose, 2003).

This paper focuses on one aspect of posturbanism, namely that well-designed real/virtual spaces should satisfy immaterial human needs through theirprovision of settings and situations.The range of needs per se may be few and unchanging, but the ways in which these needs can besatisfied may vary markedly over time, or from place to place, and culture to culture. The human requirement for affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creation, identity, and freedom can all be satisfied to some degree by virtual cultural environments. However, some satisfiers are less satisfactory than they appear at first glance, and may in fact have the potential to undermine the genuine fulfilment of needs (Max Neef, 1992). For example, internet relationships/sex may seemingly satisfy the need for affection in the short-term, yet prove merely an addiction (Carnes,2001). An evergreen satisfier of understanding, leisure, identity, and freedom is that of the„spectacle°o. Whether a genuine satisfier, or not, the human desire for spectacle is well documented(Cosgrove, D. 1997, Hotten & Diprose 2000).From panoramic view, to cinematic view, to virtual viewMore than one hundred years ago the urge for (exotic) spectacle was satisfied by the 360-degreepanorama. Comment states the panorama was one of the most popular phenomena of the nineteenthcentury. "A motley crowd in search of wanton, enigmatic and rarely denied pleasure would rush tosee these spectacular paintings" (Comment, 1999).In general, the panoramic photograph or painting technique records and simulates comprehensiveviews of a portion of the earth°os surface, landscape, or built environment (Oettermann, 1997).Between 1787 and 1900, panorama painting was a medium through which ordinary people couldaccess and experience the other. Namely, for those living in the large established European cities,this „other°o was life beyond typical mundane existence, a reality experienced by others elsewhere atsome other time. Through the panorama, newly discovered exotic colonial landscapes andarchitecture were „captured°o by teams of painters for homeland audiences. An example is"Panorama of the Congo" by Alfred Bastien and Paul Mathieu. The viewer of this period was alsoBiennale of Electronic Arts Perth: CADE: Computers in Art and Design Education Conference 12-14 September 2007. Conference Proceedings,ISBN 1 74067 530 4able to gaze upon the totality of significant events in time and space through a single work. Anexample of this is "Panorama for the struggle for Tyrolean independence in 1809", by Michel ZenoDiemer. This was the nineteenth century equivalent of "Saving Private Ryan", with the viewerbeing transported to a hazardous time and location to experience a situation of spectacular interestin relative safety and comfort.At the beginning of the twentieth century the still panorama was quickly displaced by film as themeans of vicarious experience. With the introduction of television, and more particularly theproliferation of personal computers over the last decade, screen-based media, which satisfy the(instant) human desire for vicarious experience, have become pervasive (Hotten and Diprose,2000).Garden spectacle and movementThe garden can also be located within an historical framework of spectacle. However, thepopularity of the exotic garden has not wavered…until now. With the vicarious representation ofgarden in cinematic form together with the potential offered by virtuality to provide (instant)gratification of landscape spectacle, the future of the real „garden°o is now less certain. We suggest that the garden within human imagination is likely to become the major focus in the future, a statethat Riley predicted ten years ago (Riley, 1997):… vicarious… landscape experience… fantasy landscape or internal landscape narrative…Landscape scholars have paid almost no attention to this vicarious, internally structuredlandscape - despite our fascination with deconstructionism, with its tenets of theindeterminacy of the text and the open-endedness of interpretation and its common sense -confirmed contention that such landscape readings will exist and will vary. These internallandscapes might well be central landscape experiences in a person°os life.Our consciousness as observers may be vastly more powerful in our construction of visual textsthan ever imagined. Robert Lanza outlines this dualist dilemma (Lanza, 2007):…a reversal, of the central mystery of knowledge: that the laws of the world were somehowcreated to produce the observer. And more important than this, that the observer in asignificant sense creates reality and not the other way around... We are living through aprofound shift in worldview, from the belief that time and space are entities in the universe toone in which time and space belong to the living. Think of all the recent book titles - The Endof Science, The End of History, The End of Eternity, The End of Certainty, The End ofNature, and The End of Time. Only for a moment, while we sort out the reality that time andspace do not exist, will it feel like madness.From this view are we to expect „The End of the Garden°o?With the above ideas in mind we have created the following historical list of garden representationfor spectacle and stillness. Actual movement to satisfy need for spectacle is noted as well as the(metaphorical) concept of stillness as duration.

Real Gardens and Landscape:

1. Native landscape / authentic landscape / reality (Historical Eastern and Persian garden);Stillness and duration; BC to present

2. Exotic landscape / stolen landscapes / altered realities; Extreme movement; 1850s to presentArtistic and Photographic Representations of Gardens and Landscape:Biennale of Electronic Arts Perth: CADE: Computers in Art and Design Education Conference 12-14 September 2007. Conference Proceedings,ISBN 1 74067 530 4

3. Dreamscapes / artistic landscape / panoramic landscapes in 2D and 3D (for example, sci-fidrawings); Some movement; Panoramas 1800 to 1900Cinematic Representations of Gardens and Landscape:

4. Classic vicarious landscape / TV and epic cinematic landscape (for example, The ConstantGardener); Limited movement and stillness as duration landscape imagery; 1920s -1950s topresent

5. Hybrid vicarious landscapes / blue screen digital landscapes for cinema (for example, Houseof Flying Daggers / Matrix / Sin City); 1990s to present

6. Screen-based, virtual arena landscapes „A°o, cinematic-themed gaming arenas that are spinoffs from film (for example, Star Wars); Stillness and instantaneous gratification; 1990s topresent

7. Screen based, virtual arena landscapes „B°o, standard gaming arenas which may have moviespin offs (for example Final Fantasy / Spirits Within); Stillness and instantaneousgratification; 1990s to present„The end of the Garden°o &endash; the Posturban future

8. 3D fully immersive arenas / simulated 3D / 360 degree stereoscopic environments; Stillnessand instantaneous gratification; Late 1990s to present

9. Immersive virtual "parallel" realities and communities (for example, the Second Life 'game°oand addictive dreamlands; Stillness and instantaneous gratification; 2000s to present

Towards posturbanism

The posturban garden is more an illusion, as are film or digital gaming arenas or thirdspace hybridlandscapes, than a real artefact. One of the strengths of posturban landscape is that it providesneutral ground: a territory for fusion of peoples (for example, within online communities) beyondthe contested, sometimes over-regulated and typically inequitable landscape reality. We contendthat posturban virtuality can, in part, satisfy an individual°os need for spectacle. That is,understanding, leisure, identity, and freedom, embodied in examples such as the individualrealising/morphing themselves into a virtual person in Second Life (Sobchack, 2000); or ascharacter/player within an alternative internet gaming universe (Irvine, 2007); or as the location foran immigrant to rise above alienation within (an)other place, enabling reconnection toauthentic/native communities.Physical distance to exotic spectacle has been overcome, and reconnection to distant community isnow instantaneous. Stillness is the result. So what of the garden? Should real landscapes bereinterpreted with this in mind, seeking out timeless, authentic, and still places of sanctuary?Should real space be informed by new environments derived from film, virtual gaming arenas, andthirdspace hybrid landscapes? In schools of architecture this has been happening for many years asa regular aspect of the pedagogical instruction, directing students away from naïve reproduction ofstandard/functional types and towards creative processes informed by the realm of vicariouslandscape and idea (Diprose and Hotten, 1999).At one end of the spectrum the result may be (real) recreations of authentic still and timelessgardens reminiscent of the Generalife garden. This approach can be identified in the rusticmodernistgardens of Fernando Caruncho. Caruncho notes that "in order to travel into the future, itis necessary to walk towards the pure clarity of the past" (Cooper and Taylor, 2000). Thisauthentic/recreation garden type may be considered as a site of contemplation and of stillness, inwhich the mind is free to travel. In contraposition to this, our „death of the garden°o propositionsuggests the rise of a posturban thirdspace - a place of dazzling speed and diverse garden spectacle.This posturban landscape may include globalised gardens of varied phosphoric movementBiennale of Electronic Arts Perth: CADE: Computers in Art and Design Education Conference 12-14 September 2007. Conference Proceedings,ISBN 1 74067 530 4embracing the viewer - electric displays of instantaneous gratification resembling Eros (PiccadillyCircus). While the need for spectacle may be satisfied in this realm, the garden is recreated as arestless and uneasy site, inevitably overwhelming the mind. The desires of the designer and thegardener respectively are likely to be expressed and fulfilled within and between these spatiallyschizophrenic realms. "In today°os electronic space of computerized realities, the sage°os wordswould fare quite well, for one can hear in them all at once: the practical voice of ancient wisdom,the dissenting voice of postcoloniality, and the visionary voice of technology." (Minh-ha, 2005).Posturban space is likely to be a world colonised by architects and all those that seek designs anddreamscapes for stillness and spectacle. If that°os the case, we will see you there.


Bukatman, S. (2000) "Taking Shape: Morphing and the Performance of Self", inMetaMorphing: Visual Transformation and the Culture of Quick Change, Sobchack, V. editor,Mineapolis, University of Minnesota

Carnes, P. Delmonico, D. Griffin, E. Moriarity, J. (2001) In the Shadows of the Net: BreakingFree of Compulsive Online Sexual Behavior, Center City Minnesota: Hazelden

Comment, B. (1999) The Panorama, London, Reaktion

Cooper, G. and Taylor, G. (2000) Mirrors of Paradise. The Gardens of Fernando Caruncho, NewYork, The Montacelli Press P. 11

Cosgrove, D. (1997) Spectacle and Society: Landscape as Theater in Premodern and PostmodernCities, in Understanding Ordinary Landscapes, Groth, P. editor, New Haven, Yale UniversityPress, pp. 102-103.

Deleuze, G. (1991) Le Pli, Paris, Editions de Minuit

Diprose, P. and Hotten, R. (1999), From Paris Texas to the Road Warrior. Proceedings of ACADIAComputer aided landscapes and the road movie - the place of film and television media withinarchitectural education, Snowbird Utah

Hotten, R. and Diprose, P. (2000) From Dreamtime to QuickTime: The resurgence of the 360-degree panoramic view as a form of computer-synthesised architectural representation.Proceedings of ACADIA Eternity, Infinity and Virtuality in Architecture, Washington

Hotten, R. and. Diprose, P. (2003) Posturbanism: Eco design from norm to formlessness, SanFrancisco Institute of Architects, Eco Wave Conference, Berkeley, California

Irvine, D. (2007) Virtual worlds, real money, CNN Future Summit

Lanza, R. (2007) A New Theory of the Universe: Biocentrism builds on quantum physics by puttinglife into the equation, American Scholar, Spring 2007, VOL. 76 Issue 2, p. 18-33

Max-Neef, M. (1992) "Development and Human Needs", in Real-life Economics: UnderstandingWealth Creation, P. Ekins and M. Max-Neef (Eds), New York, Routledge

Minh-ha, T. (2005) The Digital Film Event, New York, Routledge

Oettermann, S. (1997) The Panorama: history of a mass medium, translated by D. Schneider, NewYork, Zone Books

Saito, K. (1970) Japanese Gardening Hints, Tokyo: Japan Publications

Riley, R. (1997) "The Visible, the Visual, and the Vicarious: Questions about vision, landscape, andexperience", in Understanding Ordinary Landscapes, Groth, P. and Bressi, T. W. Editors, AnnArbor, Edwards Brothers Inc, p. 207

Searle, J. (2006) Dualism Revisited, online paper, UC Berkeley course information.Virilio, P, (1991) The Lost Dimension, New York, Semiotext

Biographical Notes

Robert D. HOTTEN was most recently a guest "Professeur Associe" in Paris, and formerly aTeaching Fellow at the University of Auckland. With a Joint Program in Urban Design Mastersfrom the University of California, Berkeley, he has practiced and taught architecture, landscape,Biennale of Electronic Arts Perth: CADE: Computers in Art and Design Education Conference 12-14 September 2007. Conference Proceedings,ISBN 1 74067 530 4urban design, film, and CAD/CAE/CAM/GIS as a Registered Architect. He presented a paper"From Dreamtime to Quicktime: Panoramas" at the ACADIA conference in Washington, October2000. Recent work included papers at the SFIA Eco-Wave Conferences, 2001 - 2005, Berkeley,California. He continues to develop sustainable alternatives at his eco living community project inHawaii and has a highly rated web site in "sustainable architecture", Hispersonal interests include toying with a "virtual professor" status.

Between 1990 and 2002 Peter balanced his time between architectural practice in Whitford andteaching/research. Over those years he taught architectural design at the University of Auckland andlandscape design at Unitec. His theoretical interests include: Design for sustainability; the zone ofmediation between interior and exterior, veranda and outdoor room architecture; computervisualisation and landscape including panoramic representation and virtuality and film art andanimated imagery.Peter is past chairperson of the New Zealand Institute of Architects Environment Task Group andwas involved in writing and reviewing the NZIA Environmental PolicyMore recently Peter has devoted his energy and enthusiasm to architectural practice and specificallyto the integrated and sympathetic design of landscapes and architecture.

Kelly O°oMEARA joined the practice as a Landscape Architect / Architectural Assistant, aftergraduating from UNITEC in 2003. His strong design ability and software skills - including the useof ArchiCAD, Artlantis and Photoshop - add yet another facet to the office's presentation abilities.Kelly's Whitford background gives him an intimate understanding local rural development, heritageand planting. His knowledge of soft landscaping is as extensive as his plant obsession.


Figs. 1 & 2. Reflection Pools, Alhambra and Generalife Garden, Granada, Spain, P. Diprose, 2005Biennale of Electronic Arts Perth: CADE: Computers in Art and Design Education Conference 12-14 September 2007. Conference Proceedings,ISBN 1 74067 530 4

Fig. 3. Jets and Pool, Alhambra, P. Diprose 1995.

Fig. 4. Rock garden, Kyoto, K. O°oMeara 2006

Figs. 5 & 6. Zen Garden - Ryoanji, Kyoto, K. O°oMeara 2006

Figs. 7 & 8. Contrasting landscapes from "The Constant Gardener", UK Film Council, 2005

Fig. 9. Panorama of the Irwin Garden at the Getty Center Los Angeles, Robert Hotten, 1999

Figure 10. Rosales Garden, Madrid 1988, F. Caruncho

Figure 11. Caruncho Garden, Madrid 1989Biennale of Electronic Arts Perth: CADE: Computers in Art and Design Education Conference 12-14 September 2007.

Conference Proceedings,ISBN 1 74067 530 4

Figure 12. Caruncho Garden, Madrid 1989, F. Caruncho

Fig. 13. Eros, Piccadilly Circus, London Fig. 14. „Holodeck°o, CAVE Fakespace Systems 2007 copyright 1988-2015 robert hotten - all rights reserved