The Augmented Landscape, Smout Allen #1

THE AUGMENTED LANDSCAPE, SMOUT ALLEN #1

‘The Augmented Landscape’ is a drawing that appears in Smout Allen’s contribution to the Pamphlet Architecture series, Augmented Landscapes (2007). The image extends almost to all four edges of a double-page spread. Four large irregular black blocks, articulated  with fine markings in white and hatched sections, surround a smaller, more fractured block. Looking at the drawing as an isolated artefact, there are few clues as to what it delineates. It feels like a plan, although the heavy dominance of black in the drawing conveys more solidity than we’re used to in plans. There are certainly no indications of perspectival or axonometric depth. One possible indicator of the drawing being a plan is the grid of cross-shaped index marks oriented at about 40º across the page, recalling the overlays of aerial surveillance imagery used to piece together composite photographs. Another indicator might be the logic of scattering at work in the image. Various types of element: the big irregular circles, the little pockmarks (some solid white, some hatched, some merely fine outlines) and even the arrangement of the black blocks themselves, appear as if they’ve been scattered across the image from above. And of course, the drawing is labeled as a landscape.

The drawing is in fact a plan (of a sort), for Smout Allen’s proposed “Grand Egyptian Museum”, intended to re-house the Museum of Egyptian Culture. The project articulates the ground as an “augmented landscape”, “a hybrid environment, a utilitarian topography, a sustained artifice” (6). The proposal is for an underground museum, with sunken circular workshop courtyards, and an active landscape as a blanket over the top, accommodating a heterogenous array of features: chasms, a “vegetal chronograph”, floodplain gardens, wet blankets for evaporative cooling, draught corridors, and a qanat network. None of these things are easily recognisable, and Smout Allen seem to be quite deliberate in not providing the objects or features that typically allow for a drawing to be readable: there are no chairs and tables, no existing roads, no cars in the garage, no door swings, contour lines, or scale bar. At least to some degree, Smout Allen don’t want us to recognise this drawing. The drawing deliberately recedes from the representational codes of the professional architectural drawing.

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