Project Title: Monist Kingdoms
Built, Unbuilt or Under Construction: Unbuilt
Project Year: 2011
Student Name: Max Hooper Schneider
University: Harvard University Graduate School of Design
Faculty Advisor: Andrea Hansen
Project Description: In the last two decades there has been a call to expand and reinvent understandings of landscape and landscape architecture under the influence of theoretical and practical concerns arising both inside and outside the discipline (see, for example, Krauss 1983; Corner 1999; Swaffield 2002; Waldheim 2006; Bonnemaison and Eisenbach 2009; Mostafavi 2010).
In service of this goal, The Monist Kingdom series adopts the materialist philosophy of Benedict Spinoza (1632–1677): everything that exists is composed of a single substance, matter, and all matter is alive. Bodies across all kingdoms of classification, a plurality of matters—plants, animals, minerals, machines, buildings, and landscapes—act and are acted upon. From this perspective, landscape and aesthetics are transformed into physical inquiries: examining what a body is capable of and how particular bodies combine in what may be beneficial or destructive encounters.
In landscape architecture, the only thing that matters is how bodies interact with and transform one another. As in the original meaning of aesthetics, concern is not with beauty or taste, but with how the world strikes the body. Therefore, a body of organisms or molecules is understood in terms of its powers of self-agency: how it increases or diminishes the powers of other bodies (human and nonhuman, natural and synthetic) with which it interacts. These collages, which mass together a multitude into a singular form, explore the potency of these parameters. Color, temperature, form, and pattern collide in the moment and site in which they are experienced by perceivers, so that, together, a dynamic, morphogenic assemblage of bodies constitute the matter—a Monist Kingdom.
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