River landscapes represent a complex space-time process, shaping the surrounding territory in different ways and, at the same time, the environment. The design in this chase is the representation of complex processes that characterize river landscapes. The large amount of data and maps that were previously drawn were disconnected one from another, and presented themselves as separate layers. For this reason, the research has focused on how this information could be kept together in one image, thus stimulating a new understanding of the territory. The representation and the data are combined giving rise to circular shapes, where the shape suggests a previously lacking 360° degree spatial vision. The circle containing the map becomes at the same time the container and interface where the latent relationships between territory and quantitative data are shown. The representation is therefore transformed and acquires the ability to communicate a new identity.
Landscape architecture plays a profound role in the reconstruction of the meaning and value of our modern cities and communities, on urban, regional and geographical level. Not only it generates natural and open space areas, but it represents an important invention of a project whose goal is to build the human spirit, develop the structuring of deep forms of being, experiences and shared values.
With this in mind, how can the river landscape be summarized in a drawing?
The problem of representing a landscape lies in the fact that it is very different from the architecture of a building. In fact, the word “landscape” carries the meaning of “perception”, and not just from a single point of view, but a 360° degree spatial vision. For this reason, through the word “landscape” we try to convey not just an image, but rather a moving landscape.
Not surprisingly, the European Landscape Convention states: “Landscape means an area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors.”
So how can the river landscape be told through a unique design while describing the totality of the place? The representation and the data are combined giving rise to circular shapes, where the shape suggests a previously lacking 360° degree spatial vision. The large amount of maps that were previously drawn were disconnected one from another, and presented themselves as separate layers. For this reason, the research has focused on how this information could be kept together in one image, thus stimulating a new understanding of the territory. The circle containing the map becomes at the same time the container and interface where the latent relationships between territory and quantitative data are shown.
The research was conducted in a defined geographical area: the catchment area of the Magra river. This is a flood plain located between southern Liguria and northern Tuscany, location of a historically disputed territory between water and human presence. The survey choice of this location was determined by the present problems in terms of hydrogeological, landscape and perceptual instability.
Each river models the surrounding landscape in different ways and the same is true for the environment, which has an influence on the river: one conditioning the nature of the other. Precisely for the outlined multiple factors that determine its shape, there are few elements in nature like the river, whose ability to transform in both time and space and depending on the environment allows it to preserve its right to exist. The river landscapes are thus the expression of a complex spatial-temporal process.
For this reason it is necessary to start with a thorough analysis of the phenomena and of the features characterizing complex river landscapes. The chosen approach was to investigate the phenomena and systems in an interdisciplinary and comprehensive way. The analysis could not ignore that the perceptual quality of the landscape, and the ecological, structural and structuring elements are in a constant dynamic relationship between themselves.
It was therefore necessary to factor in the elements characterizing the landscape, in order to analyze its multiple points of view, both primary and secondary, and those purely scientific, engineering, and perceptual; after the analysis, reassemble the pieces and generate a new understanding of the territory.
Starting from this basis, the method applied is marginally based on the methodological prescriptive-technical theory, giving instead more room to perception and to the culture of imagination
In this analysis, the method divides the territory into several abstract “spatial layers”, describing them as individual and distinctive systems of landscape geography. The deconstruction is dictated by the choice of keywords that have characterized the “drift” in the basin of the Magra river.
From these premises, the territorial system, defined in this case from the social point of view, has given rise to three main areas:
The mythical dimension
The utopian dimension
The daily dimension
From this input were defined seven possible starting cues, seven routes which cross the materiality of the landscape in a spiritual way, and only at a later stage in a physical way:
is defined by the development of mental constructs, which affect the territory and its cyclical nature, conforming to the requirements of crossing. This type of process is imperceptible, since it invisibly plows the territory.
defines the necessary condition for grasping and assimilating the complexity of the landscape, manifesting itself through perceptive capacity. Therefore, by associating the human dimension to a territorial system, we can create and understand new forms of perception or simply reveal others that have remained latent.
is read as a system of differences rather than as an image or an isolated presence. This marking element expresses a visual value, signaling the system to third parties as a public reading.
characterizes our architectural and artistic ability, becoming the measurement unit for the landscape, generating new urban, territorial and geographical scans, mostly becoming an eidetic and generative activity rather than a simple method of analysis and reflection.
presents itself as the instrument through which the landscape is generated, resulting closely related to geography and topography, and presenting itself as a highly characteristic phenomenon. One can therefore understand how the landscape is formed by the set of spatial, cultural and natural pattern relationships.
generated through the new relationship established between space and form, connotes a new method of analysis, where the two elements appear to have two meanings, signs or weights of relative equivalence. This new link will be perceived in two different ways, by means of the “bi-perceptual significance”, which resides in the same object by generating an ambiguity between the background and the figure, and the “bi-conceptual value”, which is located in the relationship between the elements rather than the event itself.
describes in a unique way the geography of a given place, making it known to us through an accumulation of fragments, deviations and incidents, that settle their meaning, overlapping doses to what already exists. The geographic system, both territorial and urban, therefore cannot be reduced to a single point of view or frozen at a single moment, because a certain system features and repeats an infinite number of landscapes sometimes in individual form, some others simultaneously.
merges with the history of previous maps, giving the place a significance that exceeds that of the original function. It defines the place as the only possible milestone of the path that was previously started. This event, which is imperceptible to consciousness, gives the landscape a new mode of perception, transforming it from a physical presence in a spiritual one.
The “Synoptic Map of Hydrography”. Thanks to its circular shape, this map is able to highlight the complexity of the branching of the hydrologic system of the basin of the Magra river, thus describing all primary, secondary and tertiary tributaries. The comparison of the quantitative data concerning the width of the sub basins, the length and the average flow of the tributaries, with the drainage capacity of the “Landscape Units”, has highlighted the critical areas of the river.
The research thus relates the elaboration of “geographical synoptic maps, closely linked to spatial layers” defined by the “drift” understood as freedom of the vision enjoyed on the water level of the Magra river. “The action of going adrift” is defined in this case as the first approach to the exploration of the territory, where by means of the crossing partly casual and partly planned, people can discover the nature of the place.
“Drift”, manifests itself in the projection on the catchment area of seven “spatial layers” that, through their symbolic power, try to tell the spatial complexity of the catchment area of the Magra river.
The condition for developing this approach is accepting that the landscape is not frozen in a concluded moment in time and within a static frame, but on the contrary it is crossed by numerous imaginary, perceptual, spatial, and temporal layers that define sensorial and formal geometries.
“Spatial layers” materialize on the territory by turning “geographical synoptic maps” into circular shapes.
The data and “geographic synoptic maps” are crossed with the aim of making new information clear, such as the link between Land Use and Geology, the identification of the Landscape Units and studies concerning the link between Land Use and Soil Permeability.
The “Synoptic Map of Land Use”, results to be one of the more complex elements that descrive the river basin, not only because it lists all the usage of the land that defines the immediate proximity of the river, but also defines what happens outside of that area. In this way we can comprehend how the information merging inside this complex territory, defines the constant evolution of the morphological and the anthropological factors that affect the river itself.
The “Biogeocenosis” is the link established between the Land Use and its plant cover, describing the places in two respects, which inextricably links the anthropogenic component to the natural one. This overlapping therefore demonstrates how the drainage capacity of the soil varies due to its being dependent on what the ground bears on its surface. Drainage capacity constitutes a key element in the description of the hydrogeological, perceptual and landscape instability of the river system.
The “Synoptic Map of Sacred Streets, Churches and Hospitals” acts a link between past and present, thanks to its circular shape, this map is able to define how during time the pilgrimage defined and shaped the territory of the Magra river, generating not only new centers of religion but also consolidating the old ones. The external circle shows how this 3 Sacred Street pass thought the basin of the Magra river, combining themselves to the environment and landscape, describing the territory.
The 6 “Synoptic maps of the Landscape Units” were subsequently designed, allowing for an in-depth investigation of the landscape and morphological traits of the territory. These characteristics have configured the definition of the term “Landscape Unit” as “measuring unit” of a territory that features physical, biotic and anthropic homogenous traits. This characterization and analysis have been studied through the use of geographical sections, which have a constant size of 2,780.00 m.