Wildwood Plaza, Uster

Studio Vulkan Landschaftsarchitektur: Today the urban dweller searches for increasingly powerful experiences of „landscape“ and „nature“ in shrinking territories on the edge of town. It has become the charge of the landscape architect to look for new languages which at once immerse us in the sensations of landscape while providing functional space for recreational uses. Thus a genre of „soft tourism“ rethinks recreational space. The City of Uster is surrounded by three distinct landscape typologies, each with a strong atmosphere and materiality: woodlands, glacial drumlins and lake marshes. For a new path encircling the city our design proposes a circular void, a „looking glass“ or cyclorama from which to immerse oneself and observe these various landscapes. The first phase, three woodland plazas, has just been completed.

Writer John Fowles describes the „uncapturability“ of the woods. „(They) defeat view-finder, drawing paper, canvas, cannot be framed…words as futile, hopelessly too laborious … trees warp or create a variety of times: here dense and abrupt, there calm and sinuous“.

On our small site, three vivedly contrasting woodland images lie just a few hundred meters apart. Walking slowly, strikingly different experiences of „being in the woods“ display nature as a machine of response. The woods turn, twist, grow and shrink, becoming an expression of their ephemeral conditions. The first circle lies beneath grand silver trunks and high crowns of the climax beech trees, Baudelaire‘s „temple of living pillars“, having survived hurricanes on the protected slope of the hill. The second circle, „emptiness in progress“, is enclosed by dense pioneer growth where hurricanes rased the exposed eastern slope. Select exotic trees have been left within the void. The third circle expresses the bizarre beauty of nature‘s deformation and adaption. Many storms have left an apocalyptic scene behind. Hazelnut trees, with their shallow root balls, torn out of the ground, lie like fallen giant brooms. Rhizomes shooting in all directions. Ancient, enormous root balls create a strangest topography.

Our projects explore place as catalyst of imagination, a dialogue between place and people. There is a long tradition in landscape architecture of creating spaces for us to lose ourselves in. This project explores this tradition.


Landscape: Studio Vulkan Landschaftsarchitektur, Zürich
Location: Hegetsbergstrasse, Forhölzliwald Uster, Switzerland
Project phases: Construction 2013-2014
Client: Stadt Uster
Photography: Daniela Valentini (dv), Robin Winogrond (rw)

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