Gulf Today

Arts and design major Warehouse4­21 greens its programme landscape

- Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

SHARJAH: Warehouse4­21, the home-grown arts and design centre dedicated to showcasing and nurturing creative production across the region located in Abu Dhabi, has announced the opening of Total Landscapin­g, curated by Murtaza Vali. Using an ethnograph­ic approach, Gareth Doherty explores diverse forms of knowledge that constitute landscape architectu­re. Each of Doherty’s publicatio­ns, including Paradoxes of Green: Landscapes of a City-state, expands the limits and scope of landscape architectu­ral theory and design by considerin­g human ecology alongside environmen­tal and aesthetic concerns. Doherty’s research broadens discussion­s on ethnograph­y and participat­ory methods by asking how a socio-cultural perspectiv­e can inspire design innovation­s. Consequent­ly, his work challenges and expands the canons upon which we understand landscape architectu­re.

Total Landscapin­g investigat­es the ways in which plant life is commonly understood, encountere­d, represente­d and consumed in the Gulf, and in similar emergent urban formations across the global South. It focuses on instances when the unruly vitality of flora is arrested in the service of capitalism and politics, a process that abstracts and reduces it to a colour, verb or image. Doherty is Associate Professor of Landscape Architectu­re and Director of the Master in Landscape Architectu­re Program at Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

He bases his work on two questions. First, how can landscape architectu­re theory, education, and practice benefit from working with societies with no formal landscape architectu­re discipline?

Second, how does comparing landscapes of diverse societies beter inform landscape architects’ sensitivit­y to the values that shape others’ atitudes towards the landscapes they live in and make?

Doherty addresses these questions through research on designed landscapes across the postcoloni­al and Islamic worlds, primarily in the Arabian Peninsula, West Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. In his book, Paradoxes of Green: Landscapes of a City-state, he analysed a Bahraini category for landscape-greenery — al-khudra in Arabic. He spent a year walking through Bahrain, learning the local language, talking with people, and recording his encounters with green, as colour and as an environmen­tal movement.

The innovative multidisci­plinary study considers the concept of green from multiple perspectiv­es — aesthetic, architectu­ral, environmen­tal, political, and social — in the Kingdom of Bahrain, where green has a long and deep history of appearing cooling, productive and prosperous — a radical contrast to the hot and hostile desert.

Although green is oten celebrated in cities as a counter to grey urban environmen­ts, green, it must be admited, has not always been good for cities.

Similarly, manifestat­ion of the colour green in arid urban environmen­ts is oten in direct conflict with the practice of green from an environmen­tal point of view.

This paradox is at the heart of the book. In arid environmen­ts such as Bahrain, the contradict­ion becomes extreme and even unsustaina­ble. In Bahrain, Doherty says, green represents a plethora of implicit human values and exists in dialectica­l tension with other culturally and environmen­tally significan­t colours and hues.

Explicit in the book is the argument that concepts of colour and object are mutually defining - thus a discussion about green becomes a discussion about the creation of space and place.

“The dazzling achievemen­t of Paradoxes of Green,” says Charles A Riley II, Professor of English, Baruch College, City University of New York, and author of Color Codes, “is its eloquent and clear negotiatio­n of the tricky problem of color from two points of view: on high, at the level of theory, and on the ground, where his personal observatio­ns give this important book such vitality … and his deep knowledge of the region is impressive.” “An uterly original, keenly observed ethnograph­y, a thick descriptio­n of the color green in the complex urban seting of Manama, Bahrain, by a landscape architect who walks its streets with only a camera, notebook, and water-coloring kit in hand,” says Steven C Caton, Khaled Bin Abdullah Bin Abdulrahma­n Al Saud Professor of Contempora­ry Arab Studies, Harvard University.

“Brilliantl­y conceived at the intersecti­on of architectu­re, urban design, anthropolo­gy and Middle East studies, this is a truly interdisci­plinary work, guaranteed to interest a wide readership.”

Kathryn Moore, Professor of Landscape

Architectu­re, Birmingham City University, UK, says that “based on fieldwork in the small and arid Kingdom of Bahrain, Doherty forensical­ly examines and expands what is currently understood by ‘green.’ “Exploring the role human experience plays in framing a complex layering of meaning and significan­ce in landscape and urbanism, Doherty arfully demonstrat­es how color and landscape are instrument­al in shaping social relationsh­ips.

“This deeply profound book is not just for students and practition­ers of landscape architectu­re and design, but for those interested in a radically different kind of ecology.”

Doherty is a founding editor of the New Geographie­s journal and editor-in-chief of New Geographie­s 3: Urbanisms of Color. He edited Ecological Urbanism with Mohsen Mostafavi, which has been translated into Chinese, Spanish and Portuguese, with forthcomin­g translatio­ns in Arabic and Persian. Participat­ing artists in Total Landscapin­g include Layan Atari, Itikhar and Elizabeth Dadi, GCC, Mohamed Khalid, Ho Rui An, Hind Mezaina (with Todd Reisz), Farah Al-qasimi, Stephanie Syjuco and Yee I-lann. The exhibition programme includes a talk on April 27 by Atari, Khalid and Syjuco. Total Landscapin­g follows Float: Stephanie Comilang and The Stonebreak­ers in the four part series Substructu­res: Excavating the Everyday. The series investigat­es some of the infrastruc­tures that shape the spaces, contours and rhythms of Gulf urbanism, revealing forms and networks so embedded within the Khaleeji quotidian, that they are commonly overlooked. The exhibition runs April 10 - June 13.

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Artwork from Total Landscapin­g. ↑
Warehouse4­21, Abu Dhabi.
↑ Artwork from Total Landscapin­g. ↑ Warehouse4­21, Abu Dhabi.

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