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In the making of landscape: the "site" 1

Alain Nada

Introduction ..........................................................................................................................................................................................1
1. Landscape: state of the art...........................................................................................................................................................1
2. From "La Sapinire" to "Le Bois des Ventis": the emergence of a landscape...................................................................3
3. Site: state of the place...................................................................................................................................................................9
Towards landscape policy...............................................................................................................................................................11

This work has been carried out with the support of the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, Direction of
Architecture and Patrimony, Office of Architectural and Urban Research.

In conjunction with the rise of environmental concerns in western Europe since the seventies, landscape has become
an important issue in EU policy (Convention Europenne du paysage, Florence, 2000). Sustainable development, the
future of rural areas with the decrease of EU agricultural activity, urban design, public participation (Convention
d'Aarhus, 1998) and quality of life are major areas of concerns in this policy. Landscape appears to be a transversal
concern, involving both an esthetic and environmental issue. Landscape-design projects and, more generally,
landscape-processes (such as, for instance, the "Chartes de Paysage" in France) are collective processes reshaping
territories, territorial identities, barrows, urban or rural areas. Landscape has clearly acquired a public dimension. It
has become a powerful argument in environmental controversies (Trom, 1996). It is nowadays subjected to both
environmental and cultural preservation, which seems to contradict its dynamic essence.
This paper is directed at the making of landscape. It does so by revisiting an old notion, a sort of companion of
landscape that has recently retained theorists interest: the 'site'. The site of the classics is a site-situation: a situation
in which a town might be sited; a situation from which or over which a view is offered. In the sixties, the land-artists
revisited the notion as they had to transpose their in situ installations to the museums in order for the public to meet
with the work. Along the way, the site and its many representations were reformulated, becoming, for instance, the
"non-site(s)" (non-sight) in Robert Smithson's work. More recently, the rise of internet virtual reality triggered new
attention to the notion (Cauquelin, 2002). Finally, another instance of contemporaneous practice involving sites is
landscape design: any place submitted to the work of a landscape design project is called 'site' by landscape
designers1. This 'site' is interesting to the extent that landscape designers undertake through it a joint-recomposition of
place and nature: they plant, implant, transplant, replant in order to reshape places that are most often called "public
spaces" as they are spaces dedicated to public use2 3.
The landscape designers' 'site' refers thus to a practice from which we might learn about the dynamic relation between
nature, place, space and landscape. While this might help us to depart from a common-shared view that posits
landscape into esthetics and perception (e.g. the Renaissance vedutta's painting), it might also allow us to recast the
terms in which landscape policy has been debated since the eighties, especially in France.
We will first briefly recast the debate about landscape and landscape policy. We will then follow a landscape designer
at work on a small project in the Parisian outskirt (France). We will try to seize the contribution of the 'site' in the
making of landscape and understand what the landscape designer means by 'site'. Finally, we will try to derive clues
from this, which might help us to recast the debate about landscape policy.
1. Landscape: state of the art
As interest in landscape grew during the eighties, researchers have tried to define a path for landscape policy that
would take account of both the dynamic/evolving features of landscapes and the possible need for preserving existing
ones. Existing theories diverge in the way they consider the relation between landscape and its process of emergence.
Geographers and historians have covered the historical emergence of archetypical landscapes such as wetlands,
mountain- or coastal-landscapes (e.g. Briffaud, 1995; Corbin, 1988; Cosgrove 1984; Luginbhl, 1992). In doing so,
they referred landscapes to geographical entities and social, technical or cultural contexts (Donadieu 2000). They
defined landscape as a social-construct that had been 'naturalized' through history and culture. They made landscape
into the result and the product of a socio-technical process rather than into the process itself.
Esthetic theories underlined the pictorial and conceptual history of landscape (Cauquelin, 2000; Berque, 1995;
Cosgrove et al, 19884). They made landscape into a representation. By doing so, they separated it from the territory it
derived from, making the land into a (passive) substratum, while landscape became a cultural entity, erected to the
status of esthetic-, sight- or art-derivative (e.g. Roger 1978, 1995, 1997). The emergence of landscape was traced
back to the Renaissance and to the panorama of the vedutta paintings. So-called "real" landscapes, rendered in these
paintings, resulted in landscapes being detached from the process of their territorial emergence. The emphasis on
representation even led Cosgrove (1984:32) to state that landscape as an ideological concept was a denial of the idea
of process in that it called for the exteriority of sight. This very idea of the need for an outsider's sight in order for
landscape to emerge as a concept or representation pervaded a good part of the literature and theoretical writings on
the subject. Arguments have been manyfold: local people do not use the word "landscape" and do not care for it
(Cueco, 1995), they do not have the sense of it (Roger, 1997) or, if they have it, it is not conscious and thus not valid
(Boutinet, 2002). Even the few philosophers, who argued for the inseparability of land and landscape, have come to

defend the need for cognitive-exteriority in the perception of landscape (Kessler, 1999). This double split between
land/landscape on the object-side and outsider/local on the subject(perceptive)-side - has been salient in the French
debate and has become pervasive in the broader litterature (e.g. Cosgrove, in the above). The situation can thus be
sketched as one in which dualism remained prevalent, despite the wishes and attempts to overpass it and have
landscape play a role of hybridization in land and urban planning (e.g. Dagognet et al, 1982).
The issue is not only theoretical. It was and is still political for several reasons (Dagognet et al, 1995). The first one is
that the concept of landscape ensuing from this esthetic hijacking is exclusive: it excludes the territory and the local
population from the making of landscape5. The second reason is that the static essence of dualism6 made it hard for
landscape theories, faced with the issue of environmental and patrimonial preservation (Chabasson, 1995), to define
dynamic fundamentals for landscape policy. As a matter of fact, landscape has been faced with two risks of reduction.
The first one has come from ecologists, who tend to reduce it to a mere environmental concern, considering it should
be preserved as such and denying it cultural dimension. The theory of artialisation developed by A. Roger in the
eighties pointed at this ecological reduction and defended the right to redesign landscapes on the ground that they
were cultural entities. Yet, the theory was so rooted in dualism that it fell into the trap of cultural preservation in its
attempt to fight ecological reduction7. This second risk is thus cultural preservation, currently illustrated and enacted by
the UNESCO labelisation of patrimonial landscapes. The very vivid debates surrounding the attribution of these labels
show that the related risk is to freeze landscapes and transform them into cultural icons (UNESCO, 2001)8.
What appears, in the end, is that dualism structured these approaches and resulted in concepts putting a distance
between landscape and its process of emergence. They casted landscape as a product/object rather than as a
process and became unable to tackle dynamic issues related to the emergence and the re-design of landscapes. In
short, the constructive dimension of landscape has been overlooked.
The assimilation of landscape to a process has been proposed by Hirsch and O'Hanlon (1995). Based on
anthropological case studies, they proposed to define landscape as a cultural process, meaning by this a broad
concept taking form in a field of tension defined by a set of couples: space/place, image/representation, inside/outside,
foreground actuality/background potentiality. Their approach is ultimately inspired by Bourdieu's philosophy and theory
of practice (Bourdieu, 2000). Space, image and inside relate to the foreground of daily social activity, the non-reflexive
perception, while place, representation and outside relate to a background stage of daily social activity, namely: the
reflexive experience beyond the everyday life. Landscape is thus a culturally determined process through which "men
and women attempt to realize in the foreground what can only be a potentiality and for the most part in the
background" (:23). While this approach opens a new perspective on landscape in which the pictorial representation no
longer is landscape per se - but only one possible state of it , the most static one - it still makes landscape, even as a
process, into the resulting and determined entity. The form taken by landscape is a matter of 'social' context, of power
and history: "[...] everyday life can never attain the idealized features of a representation. The attempts to transcend
this limit brings us to questions of power and history [...]"(:23). Landscape is the reflection of the 'social' in daily life.
The constructive dimension of landscape - i.e. the many ingredients, trades, negotiations through which landscape
emerges and is constructed - might be captured in the case studies, but it is not in the set of border-concepts defining
the field of tensions in which the landscape process is supposed to unfold. To put it differently, the landscape
processes described in the case studies do not seem to be captured by the conceptual framework, which refers to
landscape as determined by an undefined and given entity: the background or 'social'. The ancient border between the
given (Nature) and the constructed (Culture) has shifted place. It now separates landscape as the variable/constructed
from the social as the given/determining, but the distance between landscape and its process of emergence seems to
As a result, it seems that if we really want to understand the ways through which landscape emerges and is reshaped,
we should merely turn to the ways in which it is constructed, pay attention to the details of the process itself and open
the scope in order to consider all the ingredients that it requires, humans and non-humans included9. Concepts such
as 'collective agency' and 'mediation' by objects developed in art theory (Gell, 1998; Hennion, 1993; Yaneva, 2003)10
might be useful in this constructive task.
Last but not least, in landscape theories, the forclusion of the constructive process has taken on a tricky set up that has
to be clearly understood before proceeding with the analysis. Esthetics theories and many philosophical essays on
landscape defend its cultural essence by opposing it to Nature. Some of them (e.g. Cauquelin, Roger) are even
explicitly positing the constructed essence of landscape. As we just argued it, this does not mean that they take
account of its process of construction. We might find this constructive assertion tricky. Indeed, we are used, especially
with sciences (Latour, 2001), to have problems stem from the denial of the constructed nature of facts, and not the

opposite. Yet, here, it is precisely the insistance of landscape to impose itself as the constructed thing (separated from
nature) that seems to generate experts and exclusions quite similar to the ones spawned by the pretended naturality of
facts in science. The reason for this is that this assertion is a flip-side. In fact, the argument defines landscape first
and above all by opposition to the immutable and given Nature. A Nature that would be its dark side, its science part.
A Nature that cannot be constructed because it saves the bastion of modernity intact, hidden in the shadow of the
constructed landscape. Indeed, if Nature (land or country, in our case) was constructed as is landscape, the pretended
need for exteriority in the making of landscape and the double split land/landscape - local/outsider would no longer
hold. The part played by local people would have to be re-integrated in the making of landscape. Hence, the fear of
landscape to be dissoluted (dissolved in the environment) appears to be a flip-over of naturalism11. It is then only by
working on the frontier between landscape and nature in order to trace their co-construction that we might be able to
cast a new light on the construction of landscape.
The value of the practician's 'site' for this task relies on the fact that it is a category of action. Indeed, identifying this
'site' requires tracing the ways in which the landscape designer reconstructs nature and landscape through it. It is then
likely to help us understand how landscape gets reconstructed. This might open to a redefinition of the concept of
landscape. At least, this is what we will argue in this paper. In order to do so, we will invite the reader to follow the
early phases of development of a landscape project in the Parisian outskirts. The project takes place on a twelvehectare evergreen plot, called "La Sapinire" (Grigny - La Grande Borne, Essonne). I will not analyse the project in its
final form but try to follow as closely as possible the work of the landscape designer and its links to the project 'site'. I
will direct the analysis towards the making of things, the many ingredients, associations and negotiations generated by
the development of the project.
2. From "La Sapinire" to "Le Bois des Ventis": the emergence of a landscape
On December 26th, 1999, coming from the South West, the Lothar storm crossed France and devastated entire
regions. In Grigny (Essonne), it tumbled down the safety zone of the Fleury-Mrogis prison. It whirled on the "Patios
Houses" of the district of "La Grande Borne", slipped on the "Private Fields" which face it and swept through an
evergreen plot named "La Sapinire", leaving behind it a vegetable Mikado. The day after, birds were mute. Time had
suspended its flight. Marie, a local sculptor, was contemplating with stupefaction the damage.
One year later, the weather is fine in Grigny. Everyone is on time at the town hall: professors of fine arts and school
teachers; Marie; the head of a local bird watching association (Ligue de Protection des Oiseaux, L.P.O ); members of
various local non-profit organizations; Alain, landscape designer and author of these lines. They all came for the same
reason: "La Sapinire". Teachers and professors are organizing art workshops there with Marie. The sculptor just
finished there a monumental art installation in memory of the 1999 wind. This sculpture was carried out on behalf of
the municipality. The L.P.O is undertaking a bird-inventory in "La Sapinire" and might disclose its results in the near
future. Regional non-profit organizations want to organize a big cultural event in "La Sapinire" during the next spring.
Last, but not least, Alain was contacted a year ago by Marie (following the storm), in order to develop a landscape
design project in "La Sapinire" with Bleuet, a colleague of his. The head of the urban department explains to all of
them that they have been called to come in order to coordinate their actions in "La Sapinire", keeping in mind the
need for "safety and compatibility", given that the storm had left a lot of damage on its way through the wood.
As a matter of fact, the 1999 storm has been a turning point in La Sapinire. It triggered the emergence of two
projects. Four years later, in 2003, Alain has produced several sketches, but money suddenly ran dry and put an end
to his work. In the meantime, Marie has installed "L'Onde" (literally: "The Wave"). It is a three hundred meter long
sculpture, made out of one hundred twenty trunks in line (and on feet) and of their corresponding windfallen woods.
Trunks in this span had been broken by the storm following a sinusoidal-wave pattern. The artist put back part of the
windfallen woods together on their trunks, leaving a vacuum in order to show the tear caused by the hurricane. She
did so by means of metal splints (twenty splints). Quoting the artist, the vacuum materializes the "Matter of the Wind",
which is the subject-matter of the sculpture. The piece is alive. It is intended to be reabsorbed by moulds,
mushrooms, parasites and vegetation, which will all gradually take their rights back. "L'Onde" provides the opportunity
to follow this process of evolution; it is an "ecological laboratory"12.
2.1 Genealogy of a project
The story of "La Sapinire" can be traced back to the Sixties way before the storm. Grigny is a small village perched
on the slopes of the Seine river, overhung by an agricultural plateau. The village lives off farming and quarrying. After
the war, levelling grinding is used to rebuild Paris as France develops its territory. The highway reaches Grigny and

splits its territory into two parts. In the meantime, three huge State-projects are planned on this territory: "Grigny II"
(5000 joint-ownership residences), "La Grande Borne" (3500 rental residences) and the prison of Fleury-Mrogis (the
biggest one in the Parisian region). The regional urban planning regulation requires the built-mass of the prison to be
offset by the plantation of a wooden area. Fifty hectares of evergreen trees (1,5 km by 0,3km) are thus planted in
between "La Grande Borne" and the prison, in order to hide one from the other. This curtain of conifers is planted in
rows after having filled up the last quarry (one does not know with what). As the layout of the new infrastructures does
not match the communal borders, a complex exchange of land plots is made. In the game, part of the evergreencurtain (350 meters of it, that is approximately 12 hectares) gets split apart and changes hands. Initially the property of
the municipality of Fleury-Mrogis, it then goes into the hands of the Ministry of Justice under which it is part of the
safety belt of the penitentiary area. It finally ends up as a concession under Grigny municipality control. The barbed
wire, which was facing the Patios houses, is then removed. The new penitentiary border is installed on the other side
of what will, from now on, be called "La Sapinire" by the neighbouring residents. This evergreen plot is now facing
both the last buildings of "La Grande Borne" and the district of the "Patios".
Thirty years later, in 1994, the community of Grigny buys "La Sapinire" from the State, with a vision of turning it into a
public park (Town council meeting of October 22,1994). As regards the social aspects, the plot is already perceived by
the residents as a place of danger. This reputation is supported by multiple events, such as: overdoses, the temporary
refuge of a recently released prisoner, a rape, two murders, daily pitbull dog training. In order to make the place look
safer and entice people to use it, municipal technicians undertake cleaning and forest works (e.g. pruning, clearing,
path opening, clearing of sick trees). They do it under the supervision of the National Office of Forestry (O.N.F). A
note by this Office (dated from that time) estimates that trees will start degenerating within thirty years, that is by 2024.
Believing this expertise, a plan for the renewal of the timber cover should soon be devised and implemented.
In 2000, that is to say six years later, the success of the cleaning operations is considered by the landscape designer
to be very relative. People still frequent the place only sporadically. The ecology of the place is described as being at
a turning point. Trees are high (25 to 30 m). The Lothar storm partly destroyed the timber cover. It allowed the ground
to receive light and allow an undergrowth to develop.
By this period, begins the story we mentioned in the beginning. Marie submits the idea of an art project to the
municipality team: a set of monumental sculptures to the memory of the storm. Her idea attracts interest and triggers a
debate about the future of the place. The artist joins a landscape designer, Bleuet - who calls for Alain (second
landscape designer) before withdrawing himself from the project - in order to submit a design sketch to the minicipality.
The project ends up covering the 12 hectares of "La Sapinire". It becomes a "landscape with sculptures" named "Le
Bois des Ventis"13 by the artist and the landscape designer. In accordance with the wish of the municipality, the project
aims at preserving, diversifying and renewing the timber cover. It also proposes a new design on the borders of "La
Sapinire" in order to insert it into the neighbouring urbanism: stadiums, "La Grande Borne" and the "Patios" districts,
the prison of Fleury-Mrogis.
As a matter of course, the landscape project follows four phases. Each of them closes with the delivering of a report
including a new version of the design project. These phases are: a design sketch ("Sensitive Reading" [Dec.
1999/Janv. 2001]/"blue" and "green" reports); an analysis ("Inventory" [Janv. 2001/Dc. 2001] / "kraft" report); a call for
tender and the signature of the contract ("Regulatory Framing" [Dec. 2001/Mai 2002]/methodological note) between the
community of Grigny (sleeping partner MAXX) and the landscape designer (project manager MOXX); and a more
detailed sketch ([May 2002/Juin 2003]/ "Avant Projet Sommaire (APS)" document)14. As a result, the work seems to
progress through downscaling15, starting with a global apprehension of the project and moving towards a greater level
of detail and definition. However, a closer and more systematic look at it proves that its course follows a slightly
different logic. As the project unfolds, some entities which are part of the site, such as young oak tree seedlings,
windfallen woods left by the storm or the underground of the former quarry, become increasingly salient among the
issues at stake. They mobilize most of the energy and the work dedicated to the project. Even more, they
progressively become entities from which and through which the issues at stake can be figured out and the project
developed. The research work lined up the archives of the landscape designer and the artist (e.g., faxes, letters,
meeting reports) and pointed out these entities in order to gather their story throughout the course of the project.
These stories show the ways through which such entities become central in the many reconstructions allowing the
project to be developed. Based on this material, we propose to the reader to explore one of these stories: that of the
young oak.

2.2 The Young oak tree: a wood-project

The capacity of the natural seedlings of young oak trees to ensure the regeneration of the timber cover in La Sapinire
is a key issue. It emerges gradually in the development of the project and turns the young oak into one of its main
actors. This salience of the natural seedlings gets built through different ways that we will now explore. The story
unfolds in four acts, each corresponding to one of the project phases.
Act I: The stooge
The preliminary surveys and the first sketch are strategic: the landscape designer and the artist have to convince the
municipality to engage in the project. The issue at stake, as formulated by the municipality, is to make it possible for
the residents to again frequent "La Sapinire", while preserving its timber cover. In order to answer it, Marie and Alain
develop a strategy that takes three approaches.
First, they dedicate careful attention to the ecology of the place. Indeed, the municipality has proved to be very
sensitive to the environmental dimension of "La Sapinire". The first document, delivered by Marie and Bleuet at an
early stage of the work, is a photographic course through the fibres of the trees which have been torn by the storm.
Pictures detail torn wood fibres, laid down trees and after-storm views of the span in which "L'Onde" is supposed to be
installed by the artist. A short text of intention suggests repairing the "weakened place" by means of sculptures and
landscape design and "broadening out the reflexion to the whole site". Surreptitiously, the place (weakened) becomes
a site in which the project aims at taking place in order to build a new place.
The deconstruction, so to speak, of the place is the second trick used by Marie and Alain. "La Sapinire" is
progressively turned into a site of project by their argumentation. The first sketch echoes the poetry of the "weakened
place" by underlining clues of the negation of the place. Pictures show tree collars covered by street embankment at
the border of the site. Traces of uses known as "illegitimate" (e.g. pictures of car seats or supermarket caddies
dumped into the middle of wood) are convened to set a scene in which the social is a metahor for the ecology, so that
the place endorses a wavering identity: it is threatened with rejection by attempts to close it (fencing); it is threatened
with disappearing if the dead wood is cleaned out without taking care of replanting ... "[...] Half-way measures were
not enough to allow the place to get a new identity [...] The place hesitates [...] La Sapinire is in search of
an identity, a wholeness that would open it to new uses, attract residents and allow them to develop
genuine territorialities in it". The question, the stake of the project, is thus the place as a net of uses and
territorialities. The reading of the place by artist and the landscape designer starts with the ground, the plants, the
ecology and slips to the social and the uses. It starts with "La Sapinire" as a "weakened place" and slips to "La
Sapinire" as a site for a project.
The third way is the reconstruction. Whereas the project started by deconstructing the place in order to set the site,
reconstruction goes into reverse. It recomposes the place by composing the site, as the successive mass plans drawn
by Alain throughout the development of the project will show it. Reconstruction begins with the first sketch and
gradually revolves around the young oak tree.
The cadrastal plan is the only one available map at this stage (autumn 2000). "La Sapinire" is figured as a white
polygon in the urban fabric (cf Plan 1). The pattern according to which the trees had been planted has been lost. Alain
strides over the plot in order to identify it and derive statistics about the population of trees. Results and figures give
reality to the apocalyptic account developed in the first sketch: only a third of the initially planted trees are alive, most of
the standing trees are dead trunks. The feeling of there being a timber cover holds as much to these dead-timbers
than to alive trees. The counting is reported on the cadrastal map by means of black dots (cf Plan 2) roughly locating
the trees. The new plan is used as a basis for the sketch.
The issue of natural regeneration (i.e. from natural seedlings of young oak trees) is already present in the first sketch.
The landscape designers describe an ecological milieu that is fast changing and needs some care to back up its moult.
They propose to limit mowing and to clear out the wood by means of soft methods such as draught horses. Seedlings
of young trees should beforehand be "identified, protected or put aside" in order for them not to be injured by the
works. However, the role of the "natural seedlings" remains very secondary in the project. While the first sketch report
advocates taking care of them, the budget relies mostly on the replantation of various species of trees (more than 50%
of the total cost of the project). Replantation is planned to be transversal to the initial scheme of plantation in order to
get rid of the rectilinear pattern and of the "functionalist spirit" that overarched the creation of La Sapinire in the
sixties. Wet ditches, aimed at draining the soil, give a dynamics to the project mass plan. They echo the obliques of

the town planning and break the tree alignments (cf Plan 3). The reality of this effect in three dimensions is less
convincing as testified by some graphic and naive views of the project included in the project report. All things
considered, the young oak tree is mostly an environmental rhetoric. It appears neither in the vegetable strategy nor in
the mass plan. At this stage, this plan reveals a graphic and pictorial approach to the project. The landscape designer
used young oak tree to his ends, in order to convince the municipality, but he did not really convene it in the
composition of the project.
Act II: 'Relying on' or the delegation
Whereas the natural seedlings were not very present during the first sketch, they become a key entity during the
second phase of the project. Indeed, during this phase of analysis (the "Inventory") the landscape designer starts
forming the project upon them.
Inquiring into the history of "La Sapinire" [Spring of 2000], Alain discovers a note by the O.N.F. It is dated from 1995
and gives, on average, fifty years of lifespan to the trees. This means that trees might approximately start decaying in
2020 (plantation in 1967). The issue of the perenniality of the timber cover in "La Sapinire" is thus confirmed to be at
stake. Pictures of the undergrowth in "La Sapinire", also dated from 1995, are found at the same time. They display
a carpet of pine needles, without any other vegetation on the ground. It is very different from the state of the place
during this Spring of 2000: the undergrowth is made out of a dense cover of herbaceous and shrubby plants.
According to Alain, the contrast attests to the dramatic change in the ecology of the place over the past twelve years
and to its high potential for evolution. Alain decides to dedicate his work to the assessment of this potential. He is
advised in this task by Narcisse, who is landscape designer and ecologist.
Based on the survey undertaken during the Autumn of 2000, Alain draws up a map of the tree-cover densities in "La
Sapinire". He picks out four forest stations (30 meter quadratic), each located in a zone of different density and sun
exposure, and undertakes their analysis. The goal is to count the natural seedlings of young oak trees and to describe
the undergrowth (herbaceous and shrubby plants) and tree cover under which they grow. The implicit assumption is
that the sunlight, the density of graminaceous plants and brambles are the determining factors. The young oak tree is
heliophile: it requires plain sun exposure in order to grow. Under dry conditions, it might be threatened by hydric stress
due to the competition of graminaceous plants. If those have grown in a dense cover, they can also hamper acorns
from rooting in the soil. Brambles (Rubus sp.) also like and colonize sunny places. Different from lianas (e.g.
clematites of the hedge (Clematis vitalba)), which choke the young tree seedlings, brambles are said to protect and
"educate" them. They protect them from both predators (which do not come under the brambles) and the competition
by graminaceous plants (which do not grow under brambles). They "educate" them by shading. The shade entices the
seedlings to grow in search for light. It is a source of natural selection, favorable to the survival of the most vigorous
seedlings. This overall approach to the issue of forest regeneration reflects Narcisse's empirical experience and view.
Again, Alain undertakes the analysis by striding over the plot and counting. Results confirm the importance of ground
lighting and the density of the tree cover (shading). However, one question remains unanswered. Brambles have
colonized the southern part of "La Sapinire" because it is sunnier. There, they are invaded by lianas (e.g. clematite of
the hedge (Clematis vitalba), bindweed (Convolvulus sp.) which form an hermetic cap. Apparently, neither the sunlight
nor the young trees could pierce it. Yet, it is also impossible for Alain to explore through it and check the presence of
young oak trees in these thickets.
In spite of this unsolved mystery, Alain draws up a long-term forest management scheme, which relies upon so-called
"natural regeneration". He is still advised by Narcisse in this task. Narcisse has experienced on his own plot of land
various modes of regeneration developed by a non-profit organization called Prosylva. Prosylva's take on forestregeneration contrasts with that of the O.N.F. The O.N.F approach to forest renewal has tradionally been one of mass
production, based on rough cut and mass-replantation. Prosylva has developed an individualized and more gradual
practice: it is based on targeted breaks, which aim at selecting and fostering the most vigorous seedlings already in
place. The sketch drawn up by Alain (autumn 2001) is based on five chronological schemes simulating the evolution of
the forest cover within fifty years. On each of the schemes, the operations that have to be undertaken (clearing,
pruning, clearing out ...) are represented and pointed out. Windfallen woods and brambles are kept in place. It is
assumed that young oak trees will grow in and through the brambles in order to regenerate the timber cover. The
regeneration is "natural" only by name: it is in fact based on periodical human interventions over the first ten years. For
instance, during the first five years, foresters (in fact, the municipality technical staff) would have to yearly stride over
"La Sapinire", go through the brambles and cut the lianas choking the young oak trees.

During the Spring of 2002, "La Sapinire" provides a real-size test for Alain's scenario. The Wave is in place since the
fall. Workers are sent there by the municipality in order to clear remaining windfallen woods. The team supervisor
praises the "softness" of the operation: woods are cut up on the spot, manually taken away or crushed by means of a
small engine. No big trucks, no massive operation. The opportunity is even seized by the municipality engineering
department to give reality to a dream: 'the old dream of an accessible, clean and sure undergrowth" as Alain names it.
Windfallen woods and undergrowth, except for young oak tree seedlings, are cleared from spots located in different
parts of "La Sapinire". The seedlings are left in place. They are supported by a fluorescent stake in order to make
them more visible and prevent potential damages to them. A few days after, Alain and Narcisse are striding through
"La Sapinire". They observe with caution the results: stakes are stolen; young oak trees are lonely leaning their head
on an English lawn; they have sometimes been already damaged by the clearing; they are in any case exposed to the
first comer who might want to lie down in these bucolic clearings. According to Alain and Narcisse, brambles would
definitely have better virtues than fluorescent stakes and English lawn. However, there are two conditions for these
virtues to work out. The first one is that municipality technicians be ready to yearly go through the undergrowth and the
brambles in order to clean the young oaks from cumbersome lianas. The second one, which Alain could not check, is
that the young oaks actually grow under the impenetrable brambles.
As a consequence, several issues remain unsolved. Firstly, the landscape project delegates its future to a hypothetical
young oak tree. Secondly, the engineering-department-young-oak-tree is not likely to survive the frequentation of "La
Sapinire". Thirdly, Alain-and-Narcisse-young-oak-tree is far from convincing the engineering department but, without
the assistance of its technicians, the young tree is condemned by lianas. No solutions are found to these
contradictions but the survey, the countings and the striding through the place have deeply modified the design of the
project. The new mass plan displays these changes. Its scale is not different from that of the former one (1/1000) (cf
Plan 4). Yet, windfallen woods and spots of natural regeneration do now appear on it. They are the spatial translation
of a reconstruction under way: that of the young oak tree. This one has thus become an entity through which the
project, its logic and drawing are being figured out.
Act III: Cutting costs and competing
The regulatory framing gives the opportunity to the natural seedling to endorse a new role. It serves competition on the
public market. Its mystery, still unsolved, becomes an argument in the economy of the project. It allows the landscape
designer to justify selling an ecological expertise. This is, at least, what a methodological note included in Alain's
answer to the call for tenders launched by the municipality dwells on: "[...] The objective is to preserve the timber cover
and the natural aspect of the site while [making the project] rely as much as possible on natural regeneration [...]
detailed analyses in different parts of "La Sapinire" are necessary [...] the complexity of the problem [...] justifies the
cost of the expertise [...] A detailed ecological understanding might allow the project to better rely on the ecology of "La
Sapinire" and reduce the cost of wood regeneration [...] This might allow us to increase the part of the budget
dedicated to the other parts of the project, such as the works on the border of "La Sapinire"". In short, the economy
generated by the comparatively low cost of natural regeneration (as compared to replantation) should make it possible
to invest more money on the other parts of the project and increase their quality. In other words, the signature of the
contract (May 2002), by devoting the project to the Alain-Bleuet team, also makes the young oak tree endorse the
future of this project. The contract gives six weeks to the team (APS, detailed sketch) in order to make clear whether
or not the project can rely on the young oak tree and the "natural" regeneration. Alain has thus to assemble into a
project the young oak tree, the birds, the L.P.O, the Wave, the residents, the users, the municipality technicians, the
timber cover and so on.
Act IV: Regenerating a wood / reconstructing a place
The prospect of budgeting (in euros) the project and, eventually, having to choose between parts of it, entices Alain to
divide the site into modules. Each module is named in order to make the discussions and negotiation with the
municipality easier: "Wood", "Northern Grove", "Patios Pier", "Southern Slope", "Stadium Entry", "South Edge" (cf. Plan
5). They result from guesswork. Each of them is supposed to raise specific technical problems and to be
characterized by a particular function. For instance, "Blooming rooms" are installed in the wood along the main
circulations so that residents can safely settle there while being close to birds and regenerating spots. Each module is
thus dedicated to a set of uses that makes it into a place. A meeting with the municipality around the modules mass
plan and some perspective views "Before/After project" allow the landscape designer to get the agreement to proceed.

Alain has thus to assess the cost of natural regeneration in order to figure out the trade-off, if any, between the
In search for a regeneration strategy compatible with the municipal technicians, he orders a short expert assessment
by the O.N.F. The O.N.F technicians are categorical when they see "La Sapinire"'s undergrowth: the density of
natural seedlings is not high enough so as to support a natural regeneration. Moreover, young oak trees need much
more light than what they get there in order to grow. Clearings of at least twenty meters in diameter would be
necessary around each seedling to ensure its growth. The O.N.F report advises replantation in spots, which would be
maintained manually during the first five years (e.g. cleaning, clearing, thinning, pruning, etc). Its management by the
municipality technicians seems possible to Alain: replantation spots are usually clearly delineated spots in which a
"carpet of regeneration" (as foresters call it) is planted. They are thus easily identifiable and accessible by comparison
to natural seedlings disseminated in the brambles. However, the clearing of regeneration plots raises a problem in
regard to the landscape. It would break both the continuity of the timber cover and the matrix of the place. In Alain's
view, the O.N.F-young-oak-tree would thus fit the municipality technicians practice but not the landscape design.
This young oak tree also does not prove to be very compatible with the L.P.O's approach to the place. The L.P.O's
report describe birds through a synthetic table, entitled "Constraints", which lists their environmental requirements
(biotope). According to this table, most of the bird species living in "La Sapinire" reproduce in the bushes and
brambles that have colonized the southern part of the wood. In addition, this part is less frequented by people because
it is far from the main access to the place and close to the prison's edge. The L.P.O thus proposes to keep it
untouched and turn it into a bird zone.
According to Alain, ecological dynamics are missing in this analysis. Brambles were not always in place in the
southern part. They came to colonize it because it was strongly damaged by the storm (which came from the south
western) and received a higher sun exposure. In short, bushes and brambles are there because there came to be
fewer trees. Yet, if there are fewer trees, a succession to them should be prepared in order to keep a timber cover in
this part of "La Sapinire" unless one is ready to give up the idea of a timber cover there, which even the L.P.O. would
not think of. The issue is then slightly different than what the L.P.O states: it is to know whether or not this undergrowth
shelters a relay for the timber cover. In short, are there or not young oak trees in the bushes and brambles ? Alain
launches a new survey aimed at counting the young oak trees and at locating the environment in which they elect
place. Results show that natural seedlings do not grow under the brambles. They grow in their periphery or on the
edge of open spans (under southern exposure), in places where the sun exposure fits their needs without being
enough for graminaceous plants to become invasive. Moreover, as brambles totally invade the southern part of "La
Sapinire", they make it impossible for natural seedlings to grow there.
Alain cross checks these results with the density and replantation thresholds that were provided by the O.N.F. This
allows him to divide "La Sapinire" in four zones, each corresponding to a level of density and a specific need for
replantation. The overall quantity of replantation and surface dedicated to regeneration plots are significantly reduced
compared to what they were in the O.N.F prescription. The spatial distribution of the plots is devised directly while
drawing the new mass plan of the project. The criteria guiding this spatial distribution are made explicit by Alain: "the
location of regeneration plots follows three goals: to keep a diversity of milieu in "La Sapinire"; to manage a good
accessibility for the maintenance of the plots; to keep a reasonable distance between the plots and the main
circulations". The choice of these criteria is driven by the future uses of "La Sapinire", so that regenerating the wood
is composing the place. Indeed: the "diversity of milieu" is a request by the L.P.O for birds; the "accessibility for
maintenance" is targeted at the municipal technicians; the "distance from the main circulations" aims at protecting the
young seedlings from trampling by users without prohibiting access to certain parts of the wood. This hierarchy of
circulations is the way through which the landscape designer defends a principle of cohabitation between birds, natural
seedlings and humans: "Social expectations [...] are translated into spatiality through a hierarchy of circulations:
opened and safe-feeling main circulations [...] blooming rooms, place of vegetal sophistication and of a more intimate
contact with nature [...] no fencing or prohibited access, but natural barriers made out of windfallen woods, which
reduces public frequentation in the remote zones where only curious people will venture". These principles contrast
with L.P.O's view, which aimed at partitioning the place. The project report (phase APS) points at the antagonism. It
does so in order to entice the muncipality to open a debate on this issue. However, the municipality will never do so
and the project will soon stop.
Overall, the reconstruction of the young oak tree has been at the core of the reconstruction of the place. The new
mass plan (scale 1/500) display the changes in the project (cf Plan 6). It clearly figures a new spatial distribution of
windfallen woods, zones of natural regeneration (protected by clusters of windfallen wood) and replantation plots. The

new sketches of the project feature the young-oak-tree and the natural regeneration. They play on a "contrast between
raw and sophisitcated nature". For instance, some perspective views of the wood show an empty span before the
project that is converted, after the project, into a "blooming room". The after-project picture contrasts the sophisticated
"blooming room" with a backstage of vegetation muddle figuring the wood under regeneration.
From the economic point of view, the young oak tree holds its promises since the mix of natural regeneration and
replantation has reduced the cost of the module "Wood". This makes it possible to allow for all other modules in the
project budget.
3. Site: state of the place
The story of the young oak tree features a landscape designer who is asked to assemble into a landscape scenery a
living entity and the future of a place. The requirement to combine and to stage life and future is rather common in the
profession. Any architectural project deals with potential users and uses. The story of the young oak tree is then
interesting in that it is focused on the mediation of vegetable entity in the composition of the place. The overlaps and
the recombinings of the different forms of lives in the making of the project become then readable. The municipality
expects the landscape designer to compose a place: people, birds and trees should become able to tune their
territorialities under the new project. Landscape design should thus open a new perspective that makes it possible for
the young oak tree to enact this place -i.e. to combine regeneration and territorialities. In short, while the issue of the
project is rather common - to make a place- the story shows that it is dealt through a joint reconstruction of the place
and what we usually gather under the heading of "Nature". We will now have a closer look at the ways through which
this joint-reconstruction proceeds in the story.
The young oak tree gets recomposed through what we might call successive ontologies, in the sense that they are
successive accounts of its existence. We can summarize them as follows.
Narcisse's approach to the young oak tree is shaped by eco-systemic and phyto-sociological considerations. The
collective dimension of vegetative life is underlined in this approach, but the young oak tree is also endowed with an
individuality, as the expression "education by brambles" translates so beautifully. The ensuing forest management
relies on the individual potentialities of the young oak tree. However, these potentialities are assessed and considered
in the context of its forest environment. The reccurring reference to nature ("natural" regeneration) in this type of forest
management does not mean the absence of human intervention. On the contrary, it relies on a wide range of technical
actions (e.g. pruning, selective clearings, etc), which allow the "natural" seedling to express its potentialities. The set of
actions targeted at each vegetative entity is a differentiating process. It builds both individualities and the nature that,
assembled together, they will compose.
The O.N.F also seizes the young oak tree as an entity interacting with its milieu. Yet, it does not endow it with
individuality but approaches it as a generic identity: the young oak tree is heliophile, its existence is recognized and
considered as long as it is shaped in a settlement, as the expression "carpet of regeneration" translates so well. No
concepts of individualities then at the horizon of this ontology, but rather the idea of mass-management, matter, wood
fibers and steres. The spatial display of the young seedlings and their maintenance fits these principles. Seedlings are
gathered in regeneration spots where they are subjected to homogeneous conditions of milieu and grown as a generic
identity: a population. The famous foresters' "fullgrown timber tree" embodies this ontology.
The users of "La Sapinire" do not seem to care much about the young oak tree. They steal its stake. They trample it
inadvertently. Unfortunately, we did not interview them directly. Yet, the reader might allow us to have, here, one
spoken for all them. Marie, artist and resident from the Patios district, evokes the prodigality and the absence of limit in
"La Sapinire" as follows: "[...] This Sapinire is not a natural place [...] it is a natural lock [...] one goes
there as one breathes, whenever one wants, but at the same time it is a forbidden place [...] one takes what
one wants from this place [...] one goes there naturally to do anything [...] it is a place
that one does not
want to see, a place that one would always like to have here. It is very ambiguous."16. Nature is seized here
through its absence of limit: prodigal nature; nature with no end; nature that will always be there; nature that does not
impose any limit on anyone; nature which does not have any existence as an eco-system. In short, a nature to which
interiority is denied.
Albeit under a different appearance, municipal technicians also seem to deprive nature of interiority, as attests their
need to isolate the young oak tree from the undergrowth. It is only extracted from this undergrowth, staged on a green
lawn and maintained by a colourfull stake that the young oak tree acquires its right of existence. Otherwise, the young
oak tree has no future. The undergrowth is formless, invading, choking and threatening. The young oak is fragile and

has no chance to grow older if it is not extracted from the vegetable magma. Identity, or even individuality, can only be
acquired through the differentiation from the undergrowth17. Here again, ontology builds a future to the young oak tree:
a future of isolation, vulnerability and dependance on human protection, as attests its shape a few days after the
technicians work.
The L.P.O has a static view (a "fixist" view, to refer to Narcisse's words). It approaches the undergrowth as a sort of
built environment, already existing and stable, with no dynamics. The nature does have an interiority: trees, insects,
bushes, herbaceous plants are parts of it. The nature is a complex entity made of many parts. However, it is given
once and for all and has thus to be preserved. The young oak tree is present/absent in it. It is present because it is
part of the undergrowth. It is absent because, as a seedling, it is not necessary to bird life. By suggesting to prohibit
the access to a part of the undergrowth that does not ensure the regeneration of its timber cover and by proposing to
leave it as it is for birds, the L.P.O builds a dubious future for the young oak tree: a future based on a hypothetical
Finally, the landscape designer is acting on behalf of the municipality. He is missionned to compose a new place. In
the case under consideration, he also has a predilection for ecology: he was the one calling for Narcisse to come work
on the project. In order to compose a place, he has to devise a spatial display that weaves the potential uses and the
terriorialities of the potential users of the place. Looking for a way of co-habitation, playing on continuities and
contiguities, he combines de facto into a spatial solution the many ontologies we just described. By doing so, he lays
out the future of the young oak tree. For instance, regeneration spots are contiguous to "blooming rooms" so that
users can see the former from the latter. They can glance at the tumble of brambles and bushes without having it be
easy to go there and trample the seedlings. This prodigal nature is staged through sceneries that are made textually
explicit and spatially perceptible by the landscape designer: for instance, laid down windfallen woods at the
circumference of the "blooming room" are supposed to manage both the contrast and the proximity between 'rough'
and sophisticated 'nature'. In the same spirit, L.P.O's partition of the territory is replaced by a hierarchy of circulations,
which makes it possible to play with the potentiality of the natural seedlings: forest regeneration is delegated to the
young oak trees when they are present in the thickets; replantation plots are introduced when this is not the case.
These situations are spatially distributed while drawing the project mass plan. Their display is decided according to
criteria of uses, which are then made explicit. There is thus a co-construction of the landscape - as a spatial,
perceptible entity and a net of uses - and of what we usually include under the heading of "nature": the young oak tree,
the wood. Regenerating the wood is recomposing the place and the reverse: constructing one is constructing the
This co-construction arises out of what the landscape designer calls: 'site'. We hitherto (Cf. introduction) designated by
this term the place subjected to the project work. It is now possible to define it more accurately. As we saw it, the first
phase of the project deconstructs the place. It makes it into a "weakened place" / "wavering identity" and gives way to
the emergence of the 'site'. The following phases ("Inventory" and "APS") reconstruct the place. They do it out of the
site, by crossing it time and again, scaling up and down, recomposing at each passage part of the place: the young oak
tree, the empty spans, the thickets. The landscape designer undertakes these crossings litterally and figuratively
through several ways: drawing (e.g. evolution of the successive mass plans), expert statements (e.g. Narcisse, O.N.F
technicians), analyses (e.g. urban history, ecological analysis), in situ observations (e.g. striding through the site,
countings, observing the technicians works). He crosses the site in order to deal with concrete issues raised by the
development of the project: senescence of the timber cover; possibility of saving money by relying on natural
seedlings; competition on the call for tender. These stakes and their related risks gradually converge to the young oak
tree and makes it into the touchstone of the project. The young oak tree becomes salient in the development of the
project. It progressively becomes the unit, the monad endorsing and embodying the complexity out of which the
landscape designer is enabled to formulate the issues and design the project. The salience of the young oak tree
emerges in several episodes. It is successively: an environmental stooge; a delegate to the regeneration of the whole
timber cover; a stake of competition; a delegate to the regeneration of only part of the timber cover. It is first quasiabsent in the project, then omnipresent and finally endowed with a singular ethogram. The protagonists who are
gradually called to co-operate on the project shape this evolution in that they emphasize or even provide evidence of
the multiple uses of "La Sapinire". By doing so, they entice the landscape desginer to take account of theses uses
and wave the related ontologies (just described in the above) in the project design. In the way, the generic-young-oaktree ethogram incorporates the uses of the place and acquires a translation that is singular and specific to "La
Sapinire": the APS-young-oak-tree ethogram".
The landscape project spatially mirrors this evolution. Its mass plan evolves from a schematic graphical design
towards a more complex and realistic display, which allows new uses to cross and overlap in the place. Through this


process, the project becomes anchored as a new spatiality and net of uses in the ecology of "La Sapinire". The site is
thus the state of the place which allows this transformation. We might then be able to define it, if we understand what
makes it possible. Before the project, the young oak tree was quietly growing and crossing the old uses in the
undergrowth of "La Sapinire" (e.g. unnamed birds, 'illegitimate' uses, sporadic visits by the residents). The project
came to suddenly question these uses and pull the many links and ties that were holding the place together. The
deconstruction of the place launched during the early phase of the project (preliminary studies/first sketch) opens the
way to the 'site' by suspending what could be called the matter-of-uses, meaning by this the material and spatial
display allowing the current uses to hold the place. The project questions these uses where the answers are crucial for
its development: What is the lifespan of the timber cover? Should "La Sapinire" be replanted or not ? Little by little,
the net of the matter-of-uses is unweaved and the place is transformed into its open and unstable form, which is called
'site'. Stakes that had been frozen in the former matter-of-uses recover life. They get tied to the development of the
project and change shape: the future of the wood leads to the young oak tree which leads to the ecologist, the
municipal technicians, the users, the birds, and the L.P.O. The undergrowth becomes regenerative; the empty spans
become replantation spots, vegetal tumble and "blooming rooms". In short, the project work suspends the sedimented
uses in order to allow for a recomposition of the place under a new spatiality. The site, hitherto defined as the place
subjected to the work of the project, is thus this sort of plastic state of the place which is the place in suspense of its
Towards landscape policy
Defined as such, the site of the landscape designer shares a lot in common with that of the virtual reality. According to
Anne Cauquelin (2002), this 'site' is distinct from both place and space. It is virtual to the extent that it does not
preexist to its constitution. It gets built in the course of an action endowing it, at once, with both a spatiality and a
meaning (e.g. the informational meaning and the spatiality of the net built by surfing on the web). It has a primarily
cognitive virtue, as did the middle age maps: they were figuring the unknown territories, not in order to represent them
but in order to help discover them19. This site has thus a propensity to entice one to act-and-cross rather than to seeand-contemplate. Different from the site/situation of the classic age, which was worth the current visions it offered (e.g.
the site of a city), the site of the virtual reality is worth the extent of the non-current visions it might reveal in the course
of action. This action gets spread through the links and networks that cross the site and allow it "to leave the place of
its conditioning", as Anne Cauquelin phrases it so beautifully.
However, whereas this author makes it into a contemporary category (i.e. it overcomes the traditional opposition
between place and space20) born out of the development of virtual reality and information technologies, we have just
crossed a site, which does not owe anything to these technologies or to the numerical network, but much more to
socio-technical networks in general21. More important even is the relation betwen the landscape designer's site and
the construction of nature. Indeed, this site somewhat recasts the relation between landscape, space and nature. The
author of "The invention of the landscape " (Cauquelin, 2002) argued for the built character of landscape; built character
that has been unceasingly "confronted with an essentialism that tries to turn it into a natural data" (pp1). Admittedly,
but the landscape designer's site clearly shows, if it was necessary, that nature and landscape are co-built: they are far
from being separated entities, remote one from the other as the representation can be from the thing. The alledged
"transparency of the landscape to what it figures [i.e. nature]" (Cauquelin, postface) is even probably due to this coconstruction.
We assumed, from the beginning on, a sort of parallel between site and country, project and landscape, uses and
inhabitants. The implicit assumption was one of a set of analogies between these notions, as follows: 'site' would
mean to 'project'22 what 'country' means to 'landscape'; 'uses' would mean to 'site' what 'inhabitants' mean to 'country',
etc. If such is the case and if the 'site' is a state of the 'place', then the 'country' would be another state of the place,
analogous to what the site is to the place, but in another register. This register would be the stable one of the essence
by difference to the plasticity of the proposal at work characterizing the site. Analogy relations would work as displayed
in chart 1 (below): country, landscape and inhabitants would be the respective stabilized forms of project sketch, site
and uses. The way from one register to the other is bridged by the project work: (1) the shift from factuality to virtuality
corresponds to the opening of the project work and the emergence of the 'site'; (2) the opposite way corresponds to its
closing and to the stabilization of the modern entities (space, nature, place). The register of "proposal" neither displays
nor requires the naturalists splits separating the usual categories of space, nature and place. As we saw in the story of
the young oak tree, it is because the landscape designer works with entities without worrying about their essence (i.e.
about the modern splits23), that he is able to jointly re-compose space, nature and place24. It is also for this reason that
the resulting spatiality has an ontological reach. Indeed, it is by circulating time and again through the undifferentiated


site that the landscape designer becomes able to play with the pooling of undifferentiated entities. This finally gives
spatiality and materiality a new pooling embodying a new frontier between humans (place) and non-humans (nature).
The way out of the project stabilizes the frontier. It separates the landscape from the country. It makes the country
into a sort of substratum (a base, a land), which no longer seems to have played any role in the emergence of the
Chart 1: The making of landscape
Proposal (virtual)
(1) (project work)

project sketch







Essence (factual)

Let us now venture a glance at landscape theory in light of this chart (chart 2, below). The "degr zro" of the
landscape to which Alain Roger reduces the country, a sort of given environment or substratum, appears to be only
one of the possible states of what is called 'nature': its factual state, stabilized and inactive in the making of landscape.
The other state, the active one, the 'site', has been forclosed. The same could be said about the opposition between
the constructed landscape and the given nature as argued by Anne Cauquelin (2002). Isolating in this way one state of
things (be it nature, state or space) in order to oppose landscape only to it, raises a misunderstanding: it cuts
landscape from its process of construction and makes it into an "essence" that no longer has any ties with the related
nature or place. Along the way, the representation of landscape also loses these ties and can mistakenly be taken as
the point where landscape orginates. Landscape becomes a framing, a view or a perception. The artist or the
landscape designer is posted as the outsider's viewer, in the place of the expert in charge of inventing the landscape
through representation. Insiders, inhabitants are included with the country under the heading of nature. Yet, only one
state of nature is left in this scheme: the fixed and immutable essence which corresponds to the modern Nature.
Chart 2: Current state of the theory
Proposal (virtual)
(1) (artialisation)


Essence (factual)


artist / landscape designer





As a consequence, the political issue of landscape preservation cannot be overpassed by only demonstrating that
landscape is a constructed entity. Arguing that landscape is constructed does not free us from preserving it. As shown
by table 2, contrasting landscape with nature on the basis of its construction leaves the modern nature intact. Even
more, as the difference between table 1 and 2 shows, it is by reducing landscape to this opposition that the modern
Nature is founded. Defenders of Nature are then legitimate to oppose the evolution of landscapes. To put it in a
nutshell, "country" just gets vitrified into "Nature" and can thus pretend to be preserved. As these tables also show, the
'site' is the only entity testifying to the co-construction of landscape and nature, and enfranchising both of them from the
essentialist argument. This is why it promises a way out of the debate about landscape preservation. Indeed, if nature
and landscape are co-constructed, the meaningful issue is no longer how we should preserve them in their current
state but how we should have them evolve together. It points at the ways through which the making of landscape
should open, devolve and close. To put it differently: it points at the ways through which landscape might pass from
virtuality to reality and vice-versa. As shown by the story of the young oak tree, the site is endowed with a role of
mediation in these operations. It enables the landscape to be endowed with an ontological reach since it is the open
state of things (be it space, nature and place) through which the actors (in the broad sense of human and non-human
beings) in charge of the making of landscape can be recruited and recombined. The question is then that of the
procedures ensuring both an open game and the proper (and temporary) stabilization of an essence.


Plan 1 : Cadastral Plan

Plan 2 : Plantation scheme

Plan 3: Mass plan, first sketch (original scale: 1/1000)

Plan 4: Mass plan, second sketch (original scale: 1/1000)

Plan 5: Plan of the modules

Plan 6: Mass plan, third sketch (APS) (original scale :



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I will use the term in this context, without defining it further at this stage. On the contrary, 'place' will be used in a rather
usual meaning, also accepted by the landscape designer, referring to the idea of a sedimented frequentation, that of a totality
or a spirit associated with a locality (e.g. genius of the place). The distinction between site and place is debated. At first
sight, our definition seems different from the ones proposed by art theorists who assimilate the site to a synthesis between
place, space and scale (De Duve, 2002) or between landscape and place (Escande, 2001; Tieberghen 2001).

A set of potential uses are generally listed upstream of the intervention of the landscape designer. This list is established by
the developper and composed into a "program". Public consultation might take place either at this stage or, for the very big
projects, later on, around a first sketch of project.

The distinction between space and place is implicit in this situation. A "place" is already invested by uses, referring to the
idea of a quality, a memory (choros), a presence (locus genii) . Space has a more abstract meaning referring the the spatial
display (topos) that might be dedicated to specific uses.


As cultural-geographers Berque and Cosgrove contributed to both theoretcial fields. Berque worked on the representation of
landscape distinguishing between 'landscape' and 'non-landscape' societies, depending on the existence of pictorial/linguistic
representations of landscape. Cosgrove worked on landscape as a social and symbolic formation and developped a history of
the iconography of landscape with S. Daniels.

The irony is that, in the meantime, EU agricultural policy attempts to entice farmers to become the keepers of the landscape.

Dualism or naturalism, in the meaning given by Philippe Descola to these terms. Descola distinguishes between several
ontological systems according to the role dedicated to similarities/differences in insideness(soul)/physicality(appearance)
between existing entities in the definition of the border between human and non-human beings (a pair of concepts borrowed
to Latour in order to account for the mobility of this border). The modern occidental border between mankind and nature
appears to be one possibility among others, one that parts apart the existing entities into Nature and Culture. Among other
issues, it raises the political question of how to hold them (back) together into a collective (Latour, 2003b).

In a famous speech, A. Roger argued in Japan for the restauration of the Mount Fuji, on the ground that it was part of the
cultural heritage (Roger, 1997, p23).

For instance, wine growers in the Saint-Emilion area worried that patrimonial labels could hamper them to implement future
technological changes in wine-growing if it happened to impact on the appearance of the Saint Emilion landscape.

This pair of concepts has been proposed by B. Latour as a substitute for the modern couple of opposite subject/object in
order to account for the mobility (the constructed nature) of the border between the two terms.

Gell (1998) analyses the making of art as the distribution of a collective agency in a network through which 'subjects' or
'objects' might alternatively be endowed with an active (agent) or a passive position (patient). Hennion underlines the role of
mediation endorsed by objects in these networks (Hennion, 1993). Yaneva (2003) analyses the interaction, association and
infinitesimal adjustments which, in the vicinity of art installation, are making up the process of art production.

The inversion is typical of what Bruno Latour describes as the creation of gods "faitiches" by the moderns. Moderns who
are pretending to free themselves from the non-modern's fetishes inject their 'faitiches" (i.e. little gods of facts) in the nonmodern cultures (Latour, 1996). In our case, theorists pretend to free the landscape from the modern Nature. In fact, by
doing so, they place the modern Nature at the heart of the definition of landscape and tie local people to it (peasants are part
of the country, in Roger's theory).

12 Unless it is specially mentioned in the text, the quotations are drawn from the documents of projects established by the

artist and/or the landscape designers.


"Ventis": windfallen woods.

This phases are neither standard nor in a complete sery. The project "Sapinire" has been stopped, probably for lack of
money. However, as shown by recent surveys, the duration and the sucession of the phases is uneven (Lanton J.M., 1999).

Downscaling is going down in scale (1 for 1000, 1 for 500, 1 for 100, 1 for 50). It allows the sketches to enter into the
details of the project. Upscaling is the reverse.


Interview by the author.

The isolation and the cares provided to the seedling somewhat turn it into a specimen, both in the sense of a representative
item and of a curiosity.

We might refer here to Bruno Latour's concepts of proposal (site) and essence (place) (Latour, 1999). The former is
badly/not yet articulated; the latter is temporarily stabilized through a set of proofs and procedures. However, we should
keep in mind that the place will be frequented by the public and run a life of its own. Public frequentation might also generate
a set of proofs, so that the place might be a transitory state. Many public places become disfunctional (or considered as such)
after a time and are put under project in order to be remade.

See Jean Marc Besse's analyses about XV et XVI century cartography as a cartographical act (Besse, 2000) or
Tiberghien's analysis of Robert Smithson work with maps (Tiberghien, 2001, p70-75). Tiberghien quotes the landscape
designer James Corner, who wrote: "for urban planners and landscape designers maps are sites out of which new or alternative
modes [of planning] can be devised" (p74).

More specifically, Anne Cauquelin suggests a double analogy in order to describe the current renewal of the notion of site.
The site of the classics would be in between space and place. The contemporaneous site would be in between possible (set of
occurrence that might happen) and virtual (built through action). The double analogy would work as follows: place would mean
to space what possible means to virtual. This would lead to the "possible place" and the "virtual space" (pp138).

The point here is not to deny the importance of new technologies. It is simply that the features of the site that we have
crossed in this paper do not depend on these technologies and on the emergence of virtual reality.


'Project' sketch in fact, which is the provisional state of a future landscape.

As Thierry Vernant (1965) argued it, the isonomic, universal and democratic "space" is a production of greek democracy. It
derives from a split, a reification of the antic place.

Emilie Gomart shows it (2004), in a detailed fieldwork analysis of a designers'work in Holland, how design images endorse a
political role. Her analysis of successive representations of a territory under work (what French landscape designers call 'site')
at a designer's office traces how, playin g on formalism, colours and representation, the designer reframes political issues in
the course of his work. In her field, formalism seems the way through which, paradoxically, politics (as planning) is brought
into suspense in order to be reframed. The designer follows a quite usual path in the work. He looks for current patterns in
the occupation of the territory, extracts them as formal patterns and argues a new planning based on a spatial repetition of
these patterns. While working from and to the site through images, the designer puts politics into suspense to reframe it.
Here again, it is because uses, spatiality and materiality remain unseparable during the course of the work that politics might
be reframed through spatiality.