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Manufactured Landscape - Landscape as Architecture
by Luis Alves
2008-04-03 09:41:04
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Who are the users of an industrial structure like a factory, a mine, a quarry or an industrial village? Obviously they are the workers. In fact, who defines the requirements of those structures are the investors or the capital owners.

However, it should be the governments and the populations to have the power to decide the projects’ viability, both engaged in a formal process of EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) that is also an educational process, because it involves professionals and users.

On the other hand, who defines the indirect environmental impacts of the material and human resources exploitation, in remote areas? Maybe nobody does it. In fact, the resources “developers” of those areas leave them abandoned after the contractual period of exploitation. Perhaps they aren’t aware of the profound scars that their action causes in the environment.

In the conception of industrial structures, the “function prevails on the human factor. These are true examples of a brutal anti-aesthetic, on a inhumane scale - the abysmal geotechnical excavation; the corporation of thousands of enslaved human beings, ; the dormitory building, where the workforce is massively accumulated.

It’s evident the lack of creativity and appeal to the senses in the architectonic conception of these spaces. But the photographer is able to transform the ugly and astonishing reality of the current times (“function”) into an artistic imagery (aesthetics).

In absence of architectonic art, the landscape itself could be architecture. Landscape as architecture is the “synthesis”. Functional structures (formerly designed mainly to minimize the production costs) became art landscape, by intervention of the artistic “expression”.

While observing these powerful images, we can also revisit the past - the same historic ingredients of the industrialized countries are perceptible on it. Like when we visit abandoned places feeling the “atmosphere” of the past times.

fotograf_edward_burtynsky3_400 Today, there is a massive industrial revolution in China, which is responsible for 19% of the world’s aluminium consumption, 20% of copper, 27% of steel, 31% of coal and 47% of cement. 30% of the US goods come from China and 20% of the products imported into the USA are American products manufactured abroad by US firms. The present global competitiveness model is based on the cheap workforce (manual and intellectual) of the developing countries.

"The concept of the landscape as architecture has become, for me, an act of imagination. I remember looking at buildings made of stone, and thinking, there has to be an interesting landscape somewhere out there, because these stones had to have been taken out of the quarry one block at a time. I had never seen a dimensional quarry, but I envisioned an inverted cubed architecture on the side of a hill. I went in search of it, and when I had it on my ground glass I knew that I had arrived." - www.edwardburtynsky.com 

"MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES is a feature length documentary on the world and work of renowned artist Edward Burtynsky. Burtynsky makes large-scale photographs of ‘manufactured landscapes’ – quarries, recycling yards, factories, mines, dams. He photographs civilization’s materials and debris, but in a way people describe as “stunning” or “beautiful,” and so raises all kinds of questions about ethics and aesthetics without trying to easily answer them.
The film follows Burtynsky to China as he travels the country photographing the evidence and effects of that country’s massive industrial revolution. Sites such as the Three Gorges Dam, which is bigger by 50% than any other dam in the world and displaced over a million people, factory floors over a kilometre long, and the breathtaking scale of Shanghai’s urban renewal are subjects for his lens and our motion picture camera.(...)" www.mongrelmedia.com

Part 1 of this article: Function and Aesthetics

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