a note on clement

As pointed out early on by Mr. Julian Raxworthy, “don’t forget the big daddy, Gilles Clement,” and so a note has been long overdue. As a point of cultural difference, French landscape architecture seems to be far ahead of American in the ability to merge landscape practice with design events, with many precedents to draw inspiration from (Parc du Sausset, Jardin en Mouvement, Chemetoff’s stakes, Simon’s mowing, etc), but it is Clement above all who has fused the two into a distinct professional model.

Gilles Clement Mowing

Clement’s concept of a planetary garden is certainly an ideal in which many have found hope. As I’ve previously presented, my view is that of a planetary yard, reflecting human desires, containing the entropic spaces that the garden excludes from its image, and emphasizing the economy of batch operations over detail. But this is maybe just semantics: the realm which I am exploring is exactly that which Clement has set out: the paradise of weeds found in earth’s transitional, undeveloped, and officially preserved spaces as the ecological reservoirs of the future. Like Clement, my mode of interaction is that of a gardener (landscaper), founded on direct site observation to identify and edit emergence.

But while Clement has expanded the canon of what is “natural,” my ecology has trended toward the dark side, and I am less inclined to understand the environment as an integrated system than as a malleable network, where equilibrium is the product of a maintenance hierarchy that includes regimes of sustained disturbance. Instead of exempting adverse forms of energy for architectural production while striving for a balance with nature in other pursuits (this is the same model every industry takes), promoting a third landscape of ecological diversity should change the debate between good and bad tools to which instruments are necessary to better integrate these messy spaces within our cultural landscape.

As I have briefly hypothesized and will continue to expand upon, landscape maintenance is an infrastructural service, a continual and essential practice which enables the cultural landscape to exist. As such, it has the potential to design the paradise of weeds beyond the walls of the garden—and Gilles Clement is the godfather of this pursuit.


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