The Middle Landscape (after Lerup)
1994-96 & 2008
I returned to Houston in 2008 after 12 years of absence, I had only a few days to get reaquainted with the Middle Landscape, and there is that reverie that comes with revisting a place that you were once familiar and intimate with. The changes are felt not only because of the physical changes in the landscape, but also as your relationship towards it, since you are in a different mental and emotional space now. This city that I was an alien to in 1993, once offered a window to a new world and a new way of reckoning it your place within it, perpetually resisting contemplation as an encapsulation of the tragedy of nostalgia. It was a fragmented city then, it still is now. I recall the tactics we'd use to embrace this city as metaphors, typologies, predictors, heuristics and other coping mechanisms.
“Alice in the Cities”. In this Wim Wenders film, a girl is lost in a different part of the country and is trying to find her way back home with the help of a man who has ‘volunteered’ to help her locate her home. Without the aid of addresses or phone numbers, the search can only take place on an experiential level, relying only on the girl’s past memory of landmarks, events, spatial configurations and temporal distances.
“In the Labyrinth”. In this novel by Alain Robbe-Grillet, a soldier is wandering through the ruins of a war torn city to deliver a package in fulfillment of a wish from a dying comrade.
The automobile remmains as the cartographical instrument by which to navigate and understand the city. However, the perception of the city In order to engage the perception of the city at an experiential level, it would be necessary to determine a method whereby one can either map the city out perceptually or have the city mapped empirically, while temporarily suspending pre-knowledge of the map. The process will be to construct a device which enables the city to be mapped as an experience.
The Middle Landscape was the philosophical framework and exploratory mandate set by Professor Lars Lerup, Dean, School of Architecture, Rice University in the early 1990s in attempt to address the postwar American cityscape.