Landscape As House – In Search of a New Form of Topographic Living in the Alps
‘landscape as house’ is about animating the landscape of my family in Austria by means of a new form of topographic living: a fragmented house integrated into the forests, meadows and the village. As a result of the movement through the landscape, the size of a subsistent farmer’s land, this house creates a new form of living with rooms that inhabit the topography. Routines and rituals are rooted in the changing weather. Walking becomes a domestic activity.
The aim of my project is to renew my own connection with the rural landscape of my family and create a personal space that leads to a new form of topographic living in the Bregenzerwald region. Topographic living means a life of constant interaction: an interplay between myself and my environment, between what is considered to be inside and outside, between building and landscape, and between that which is mine and that of others. This way of living leads to a new formation and gradual transformation of the cultural landscape of the Bregenzerwald. ‘Topographic furnitures’ create new relationships between domestic activities and the landscape that they inhabit. Through these interventions a new meaning is given to seemingly ordinary landscape elements.
The fragmented character of space is essential to ‘landscape as house’, which leads to a daily rhythm of movement from room to room. This movement is created through the integration of a personal routine into the landscape and leads to more awareness of surroundings, time and space – a ritualisation of living. Seasons are a domestic experience, maintenance activities become ritual.
Therefore this house is continuously recreated by walking through it, forming new relationships between the landscape the rooms and myself.
This project is my personal exploration of what it means to live in landscape. To experience it, learn from it, animate it and take care of it. Every day.
Designing a Landscape As House
The design of ‘landscape as house’ is based on the interweaving of domestic activities and personal rituals with the existing landscape elements and man-made structures of the family heritage. Therefore the activities of a daily domestic life lead to personal but significant changes in the landscape.
Six rooms inhabit the topography – the buildings, water streams, meadows and forest plots of the landscape. The new rooms are nestled into this existing landscape and connect life to the transformation of the landscape. With the ‘topographic furnitures’ domestic functions are linked with their environment causing the slow transformation process. Gradually a new cultural landscape is made by inhabiting landscape as a dweller, not by farming as in the pastoral landscapes of the past. The ideals behind the making of this landscape are not efficiency and profitability, but exposure, connectedness and a new (bio-)diversity.
bedroom – sleeping and washing yourself in the forest edge
balcony – drinking tea along the mountain stream
workshop – working with others in the village barn
kitchen – harvesting, cooking, eating on the mountain slope
bath – taking a hot bath in the collective mountain well
salon – coming together in the forest clearing
At the beginning of the previous century my great-grandfather migrated to the valley of the Bregenzerwald in the northern Alps – the heart of Europe. He inherited a small farmyards, large enough to provide a family with food and passed it on to my grandfather. Like most people in the ear following the Second World War, the life of my grandparents changed from being peasants who lived from the land to being participants in a society where wage labour in an urbanised environment was the norm. With this major change in lifestyle, the deeper connection to landscape that people had through constant interaction with their environment, is now limited to having a house with a view and a garden. The direct interaction with the landscape, with which the cultural landscape was actively created by human hands is currently left to less than two per cent of the population. That applies to the whole of Europe.
‘landscape as house’ is about building a house through routines and rituals that induce a continuous interaction between oneself and one’s ‘Umwelt’. Not as a farmer, but as a dweller, an inhabitant of landscape. In this idea a house becomes a tool to live with landscape and assigns new value to the peri-urban countryside.
Although he was a policeman, my grandfather loved his inherited land. He animated an entirely agrarian landscape in his own way, by preserving and tending to this heritage. Through cutting, mowing, planting, building, repairing, he continued the connection to the landscape according to his own idea of inhabiting and living. His daughters would later inherit a house, a piece of forest and a piece of land. He strongly believes that everyone should own those ingredients in order to sustain life.
Through ‘landscape as house’ a new chapter within this landscape heritage is opened – the possibility, and eventually the necessity, to share the inherited land amongst the family. To reunite what has been split, enlarge the range of opportunities and find new meaning in what was once a farmer’s land.
With “landscape as house” Anna Maria Fink graduated as a landscape architect at the Academy of Architecture in Amsterdam.
On November 19th 2018 her publication ‘landscape as house’ was published by dutch booksellers Architectura & Natura. The book documents the project ‘landscape as house’ through a collection of themes: the meaning of topography, family heritage, collective memory, maintenance, remoteness and seasonal change. Like an encyclopedia it tells an open narrative about the personal making of place.
The movie ‘Landscape as House’ and the short documentary ‘The Rinderer Heritage’ are made by Elf Godefroy, a filmmaker based in Amsterdam.
Published on February 12, 2019