Visualized Landscapes
Joaquín Cerda D’apremont For Lofscapes

Undoubtedly, one of the challenges of addressing landscape themes and/or projects in recent decades has been, first, understanding these as a “functional, connecting and organizing matrix of the objects, processes and events that are situated in it” and, consequently second, representing the dynamic component of this matrix and the multiple layers that compose it and that make it operational as infrastructure. Based on the interactive modeling of the Aconcagua River watershed, the author proposes a possible response to this challenge.

If we understand the landscape according to the architect Alex Wall’s approach, it is “an active surface that operates as a functional matrix that connects and organizes the objects, processes, and events that are located in it, structuring the conditions for new relationships and interactions among the systems it supports.” It is precisely the dynamic component of said matrix and the multiple layers that compose it and make it operational as infrastructure, which poses a challenge to its representation (1).

(1) The original quote is: “Here the term landscape no longer refers to prospects of pastoral innocence but rather invokes the functioning matrix of connecting tissue that organizes not only objects but also the dynamic processes and events that move through them. This is landscape as active surface, structuring the conditions for new relationships and interactions among the things it supports.” Wall, “Programming the Urban Surface: Recovering Landscape,” in James Corner (ed.), Recovering Landscape: Essays in Contemporary Landscape Architecture (Nueva York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999), p.233.

With this challenge in mind and in the framework of the defense of the thesis El Proyecto del Corredor Bioceánico y su Inserción en la Cuenca del Río Aconcagua: Infraestructuras Paisajísticas de Activación para un Paisaje en Expansión (The Bioceanic Corridor Project and its Insertion in the Aconcagua River Basin: Landscape Activation Infrastructures for an Expanding Landscape), which explores the possible synergistic relationships that could occur between a purely engineering work of infrastructure and the natural and anthropic systems present in the territory in which it is inserted, a technique that would permit the site in question to be displayed for analysis was considered. This was to be accomplished through tangible and didactic three-dimensional interfaces (2).

(2) The thesis for a Master’s in Landscape Architecture PUC was directed by Alejandra Bosch in May 2015.

This is how the intention arose to use a data show to project the planimetric information developed during the site analysis process. Using the GIS layers projected over a three-dimensional model of the topography of the valley, the matrix occupied the same reference frame and thus the correct fit between the GIS layers and the matrix was ensured. In this way, it would be possible to achieve the deformation of a flat image according to the topography of the model, that is, to map the tangible conditions of the site for intervention.

The three-dimensional model of the study territory, corresponding to the Aconcagua River hydrographic basin, required a continuous white mantle, devoid of right angles in its topography, to ensure the projection of light throughout its surface. For this, the 177 x 80 x 7 cm model was developed using 3D digital modeling tools and later prototyped in expanded high-density polystyrene, for which a CNC Router was used to remove the material [to obtain the desired topography]. On the other hand, the successive layers to be projected were elaborated through multiple graphic editing software and geographic information systems (GIS), then compiled to configure sequences that would complement each other progressively, thus demonstrating the possible links between the case study and the different territorial systems present in the valley.

Although, on the one hand, the method used entails certain technical difficulties for its execution, on the other hand, it exhibits a series of comparative advantages over the tools that are traditionally used to represent territory in three dimensions. Among the first is the need to have a showroom that can be darkened and has a sufficient height that allows for a fit between model and image, in addition to requiring a projector of high brightness and resolution to obtain a good sharpness and graphic quality. Despite the above, the multiplicity of material that can be displayed using a single physical model is undoubtedly one of the greatest attributes of this technique. This system can be used to account for the different territorial systems separately, the relationships they establish with each other, their sequential transformation over time through current and historical satellite images, and the way in which it is believed that the study site will continue to change. In fact, once a common frame for image and model has been chosen, the number of studies and the graphic material for projection can continue to increase indefinitely.

If we assume that the complexity of the discussion around the landscape involves the dialogue of various forms of interpretation, the representation technique presented here proposes an effective way to move in this direction. It allows for a dynamic understanding of the multiple systems that support a landscape along with the way in which they have been modified over time, thus forming a substrate with which to imagine and project new future scenarios.

Joaquín Cerda D’apremont is an architect and holds a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile(2015).

(1-6) Process of elaboration and use of the 3D model © Joaquín Cerda D. for LOFscapes
(7) Explanatory section made for thesis defense in Sergio Larraín Hall © Joaquín Cerda D. for LOFscapes