The Theory of Landscape in Architecture

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Introduction

To begin with, argumentating the significance of the concept of Landscape design , we

need to focus on the linguistic ideas , which are the appropriate materials to gain relevant

knowledge as well as to enhance creativity.

The design language consists of ‘signs’ which are categorised using the scientific

elements , materials taken from the architectural vocabulary of semiotics and ­

especially from the Unwelt-theories by Jakob Von Uexkull .

Furthermore, explaining the meaning of this study we need to keep a set of codes of

architectural communication, to correlate a unique expression with a specific

interpretation. These symbolical codes depend on the interpreter’s language.

Considering in depth the semiological meaning of landscape design we need to examine

critically the context and the detailed expression of the cultural background as well as

experience in it through the sign language.

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The binary opposite meanings of landscape constitute the perceptions of ‘visual ideology’ ,

as way of seeing the world- as well as the arena for daily life ,which is another basic

assumption of the semiological study.

Umwelt theories have proved that all things outside a specific subject are full of purpose

to that subject, even if the same thing has different meanings at different times.

Determinng the potentiality and limitations we are able to see other visions of landscape.

Especially, this is clearly illustrated in the debate on the ‘survey-analysis-design-method’,

In which the idea that landscape is composed of natural phenomena ready to be surveyed

and analysed like physical facts , is accused of resulting in design methods that give little

room for imagination and creativity.

Using elements and concepts from semiotics it s possible to develop a theory or model of

landscape that reflects the language-structure of the mind and the landscape .

When we grasp an idea we activate new connections in our mind , which open up further

opportunities for cognition . A similar process takes place when a child develops it’s

language .

In design and architecture we can consider the environment as a network of linguistic signs.

An iconic sign, like a clump of trees in an English Park landscape indicates the symbol of

wealth.

All signs have several meanings which focus on the context and the situation in order to

understand the nature of landscape.

The most crucial means of the landscape architect are the three natural elements, such as

land form, water and vegetation.

Land form is sensed not only by vision , but also by our kinaesthetic senses for expressing

meanings of strength, stability and solidity.

Water is represented in many ways: it can be seen,heard and felt. Examining it more closely

and specifically it s used as an architectural element of reflection between the earth and sky

meeting as it is portrayed in the well-known example of the monument of Taj Mahal.

Vegetation defines the the state of being vital expressing melancholy and wisdom.

The location of the buildings characterises the condition of exclusion or welcome

In order to mark the significances of the territory, geometry, hierarchy and enclosure

such as the Parthenon at the acropolis of Athens.

Concretely, the aim of the proposal is to emphasize the semiotic action of the landscape

architect to interpret the value, the sequence of visual vocabulary-elements and design

language through walking experience in the sacred landscape around Acropolis monument

in Athens.

Main Part

Thomas Barrie claims that paths in sacred architecture are a sequence of gateways and

spaces and leading to a central destination. The

entrance , the path, the sanctuary symbolize the spiritual path and its goal where symbolic t

hemes are expressed three-dimensionally.[1]

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Similarly Vincent Sculli believes that along the sacred path numerous small treasuries

shrine characterized by their smaller, sculptural

scale and engage each other, revealing important natural formations linked to the

cosmology of the site.[2]

Furthermore, Genius Loci points out that the sacred path in landscape has a structure and

embodies meanings. These structures have given

rise to mythologies (cosmogonies and cosmologies) which have formed the basis of

dwelling. The Greek landscape offers a distinct example of

place formation through the intersection of architecture and nature. Consisting of varied, distinct places with unique topographic and

dimensionally charged climatic qualities, each place projects a distinct character linked to the personification of the gods who inhabited

them.In other words, the mythologies are a fundamental aspect of what we understand as

dwellings.[3]

Norberg-Schulz describes the sanctuary of Delphi as a cosmic centre and location of the

omphalos or the ‘’navel’’ of the world. Through its

natural and human characteristics as a place, Delphi illustrates the reconciliation of man and

nature. It comes about though the

disposition of the site elements, in which the drama of movement, reveals the character of

the site.[4]

Vincent Scully, further develops this notion as he explains the human movement along the

sacred paths of Delphi.

‘’Whether coming by sea or by land , therefore , the traveller was impressed at every point by architecture as well as natural

formations with the power of nature and the smallness of man’’[5]

The author, emphasized the meaning of sacred path mentioning the methodology of ‘’lines

of sight’’ from Kostantinos Doxiadis.

Similarly, Dimitris Pikionis followed this methodology implementing it around the l

andscape of the Acropolis. These presumed lines of

sight within the sanctuary are sometimes blocked by subsidiary monuments such as at the acropolis of Athens, where the reference points are

obscured by rises of ground.[6]

Especially, the most important experiences come from the act of walking around the

Acropolis area , that we can experience Doxiadis

methodology first hand with immediacy. Finally , we distinguish Pikionis purpose to

approach the ‘’sacred face of the land’’

identifying the relationship of the God with the nature. So that, we realise his attempt to

reconcile the relationship of people-walkers

with the nature-God around the landscape of acropolis.

We will start with describing the general structure of Pikionis’s paths through landscape and then analyse my experiences through the

phenomenological walk around Pikionis’s path.

The paved roads of Pikionis is a complex of paths, which connect the west side of

Philoppappos Hill with the high-lying area of the

entrance to Propilaia before entering the sacred space of acropolis. Pikionis aimed at giving

a modest expression to his

architectural work adapting it to the landscape of the Acropolis and its history. His main

objective was to order the access

of pedestrians to the monuments of acropolis approaching the landscape naturally and

spiritually.

In order to achieve his goal, he designed a pedestrian zone and paths system, which were

laid out into the topography of the area in order to

achieve

a)an appropriate variety and formation of viewpoints for better visual access to the

Acropolis monuments

b)an integration of topographic elements with his architectural synthesis c)an appearance

of ancient elements in the tiling arrangements of

the paved path.[7]

Pikionis’s paved path consists of two parts, which coil onto Acropolis and Philoppapos Hills.

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These parts resemble two ropes which form

nooses at the edges of Pikionis’s paths in landscape.

The main routes are shaped from massive limestones that alternate with thick marble slabs

of various shapes and sizes

and concrete patches in a few places. Each part has different and unique function.

-The first part of Philoppapou hill(length 500meters)is designed with pedestrian and

especially walking access in mind.

Viewpoints are incorporated into this section. Two important constructions dominate the side of this section, the kiosk-pavillion

and ‘Andiro’ place as it is called in Greek ‘’ΑνδηρÏŒ’’. The place enables the visitors to admire the Acropolis sacred beauty.

. -The second section of the Acropolis path (length 300meters) includes a rest-area in the

entrance, which is presented as a gateway for

ascending the sacred rock and leaving reality behind.

Pikionis emphasizes this space by planting olive trees in a few areas underlining the

symbolic value of the area as a gateway for the visitors.

These two parts indicate the intersection of Pikionis paths ,as it is called in greek

‘’komvos of pikionis’’, ‘’κÏŒμβος ΠικιÏŽνη’’. This intersection

Is located at a junction between the central roads of Dionisiou aeropagitou street, Rovertou

Galli and Apostolou Pavlou street,

which were very busy roads at that time. That is to say, Pikionis moved the seating

arrangements (benches) and the

resting areas away from the streets in order to protect them from the traffic noise and

pollution.[8]

[9]. Walking both parts of the path we witness alternation of visual impressions.

Moreover, the perspective of viewpoints is taken into consideration and we recognise surprise as an effect that plays a very important role in

the walk.

As the visitor ascends, the paved road becomes steeper and the references to antiquity are more frequent.

-Unlike the experiences of walking from the 1st part, our impressions are different when we follow Koilis street passing by the post-Byzantine

church of St Loumpardiaris and going up throughout the woods between Pnika and Philoppapou Hills. To the right of this structural point of

Pikionis synthesis we are abled to observe a concrete road in the semicircular square of the Pnikas hill. Here we can admire the

panoramic view of the Hifaistos’s temple and excavations, as well as the ancient Agora until we arrive at the sacred space of the Acropolis.

It’s worthwhile to emphasize that Pikionis does not add anything of his own here, as he respects the authenticity of ancient spaces.

Benches and natural elements

-To the left , Pikionis architectural work is apparent. Specifically, the formation of the surface seems more deliberate. The use

of concrete is more visible here,this forms an impression of a stronger relationship with the modern city of Athens.

The road follows a gentle uphill curve upwards and ends at half height of the hill next to an ancient wall. At this point , at a height which is not

accidental we can gaze at the panoramic view to sacred landscape of acropolis. Pikionis designed Andiro plateau here,

which is surrounded by stone grandstands, ordered at various heights. Along the main routes and the big plateaus, we descend a

complex of paths with stairs, smaller seats and benches with a variety of stones used around them. We can observe that the scale of the

elements , the texture of the building material change dramatically along this part. The paths become narrower as the slope of the hill is

marked with small stairs. Rest points with seating areas allowing visitors to rest are placed at intervals which correspond to the rise of the hill.

Tiling character of paved path

Pikionis claimed that when people walk in hilly terrains they mostly glance at the ground, rather than up, and he

used this knowledge in an attempt to entertain the visitors.[10] Here we can look at the paving design of the paths, which become

frequent and diverse in order to assist us on our way.

We need to devote special attention to the most important architectural issues we discover on the way.

The first part of Pikionis’s paths includes the most elongated segment of his architectural synthesis in Philopappou Hill( length 150meters)l.

Both arms of this path develop two smaller gradual patterns of movement, where small benches are located among the trees. The seating

arrangements of this space demonstrate the integration of stones with shrubs, benches with tree trunks, as well as a different types of trees

with different variety of marble.

Integration of stones with shrubs- benches-seating areas

The harmony is achieved by cutting a hole in a stone , which allows a tree trunk or a tree root to grow underneath.

Here, Pikionis was motivated and inspired by the ancient linear synthesis , in which semicircular benches and marble seating play an important

role.

Vincent Scully, apltly notices that,

‘’moving towards to Apollonon temple and Delphi oracle we notice a similar synthesis in which the small thrones and marble seats prevail’’.[11]

It becomes apparent that, Pikionis aspired to embed the hierarchical, symbolic and natural constitution of the ancient space in the

landscape.

Continuing our ramble, ahead we see the church of St Dimitris Loumpardiaris which is at prominent architectural work. We can

notice the Byzantine and folk elements which prevail in its architecture..

Pikionis wanted to create a space of focus on the body posture. He chose this area specifically, as a space for relaxation and an observation

point offering a panoramic view of the parthenon. This space includes a covered walkway and a coffee kiosk, with a small girlded courtyard.

The position of the coffee kiosk is chosen deliberately to give the visitor the opportunity to admire the frontal view of the west

elevation of the Parthenon. Pikionis, at the site of church of St Dimitris Loumpardiaris, has attempted to apply Doxiadis theory of structuring

space. Along the route up to Philopappou hill, he marked out critical points where extended views are possible[12].

The view of Acropolis is framed by a cypress tree which gives a specific character to that section of the path. At the points of intersection, we

distinguish various objects, such as pieces of marble, rocks and plants[13].

In these example sketches, the entire route is derived from a series of overlaid grids offering various possibilities and combinations

eventually selected on site by Pikionis himself.[14]

Loumpardiaris church is positioned on a foundation made of a specific kind of limestone, which is called ‘’piraikospololithos’’[15]. The church

raises from the paved road at a height of 1.5meters. If we look at the west side of the church we will notice a spacious nave, which is

taller than the original building .These results in the church aquire a cross-shaped basilica style in terms of architectural rhythms.

There, we can admire the stone benches which are placed in front of the inlaid-decorated walls of the church. The wooden benches prevail

on the external side of the church. They imitate the wooden seats that can be found in the Greek monasteries. In regards to Pikionis’s

synthesis here, the monastic theme of ordering of this sacred space, is successfully able to fill us with a sense of religious confinement.

Alexandra Papageorgiou,one of the architects , who studied the sacred relationship of Pikionis with the landscape, claims that:

‘’The underlying sense of mysticism in Pikionis work stems from his deep religious faith, apparent in his drawings of’ Hagiographies’ where

there is an insight towards a ‘spirit’ and a ‘God’; in the iconographic images that form the paths up to the Acropolis and Philopappou hill; and

in the monastic theme for the synthesis of the church of St Dimitris Loumpardiaris and the adjoining pavilion. The assemblage of these

structures creates a sense of enclosure similar to that of monastery. The pavillion protects the central space from its northern face. It was

intended to be a place of rest and meditation way from the distracting bustle of the city. The long narrow benches at the south end of the

church are similar to those found in monasteries’’.[16]

Lewis Mumford, describes Pikionis’s Pavillion in Loumpardiaris area and argues that ‘’it has a sixth-century touch , simple and primitive but

finely proportioned, which reveals a contemporary mind steeped in the ancient culture, but free from temptation to imitate the inimitable.

This group mingles the sacred and the secular’’.[17]

Here, Pikionis synthesizes the Japanese sensibility for construction with the presence of the Acropolis. Specifically, the small pavilion structure

is constructed according to techniques developed for bamboo. Here though, the simple trabeated structure is made from unprocessed local

pine, carved on-site into rough columns. Like a Japanese temple, it is removed from the ground and rests on heavy stone blocks, so that the

transition from the rock of the ground to the lightness of the timber structure above is emphasized. Pikionis’s approach here draws directly

from the Parthenon.


[1] Pg 107, chapter 7, The sacred in between, the Mediating roles of Architectyre, Thomas Barrie, Routledge

[2] Pg 3, Topography, human movement and site: experiencing architecture, nature and place, The architecture of the Larger environment pdf

[3] Pg 3, Topography, human movement and site: experiencing architecture, nature and place, The architecture of the Larger environment pdf

[4] Pg 3, Topography, human movement and site: experiencing architecture, nature and place, The architecture of the Larger environment pdf/ Pg 35-36,Genius Loci, Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture,Christian Norberg Schulz

[5] Pg 3, Topography, human movement and site: experiencing architecture, nature and place, The architecture of the Larger environment pdf

[6] Pg 5,The earth , the temple and the Gods, Greek sacred architecture, VINCENT SCULLY, REVISED EDITION

[7]Pg 40, ‘’ Erga Akropoleos, Dimitri Pikioni’’, Indiktos, Greek Book

[8] Pg24, ‘’Erga Akropoleos, Dimitri Pikioni’’, Greek Book

[9] Pg 28, ‘’Erga Akropoleos, Dimitri Pikioni’’, Greek Book

[10] Pg 153, The landscape architecture, Pikionis work lies underfoot on Athens Hills, Anthony Antoniadis

[11] Pg 117, chapter Apollo, The earth, the temple and the Gods, Greek sacred architecture, Vincent Scully, Revised edition

[12] Pg 90, Dimitris Pikionis 1887-1968, A SENTIMENTAL TOPOGRAPHY, ARCHITECTURAL ASSOSIATION

[13] Pg 90 Dimitris Pikionis 1887-1968, A SENTIMENTAL TOPOGRAPHY, ARCHITECTURAL ASSOSIATION

[14] Pg 90 Dimitris Pikionis 1887-1968, A SENTIMENTAL TOPOGRAPHY, ARCHITECTURAL ASSOSIATION

[15] Pg 43,’’ Erga Akropoleos, Dimitri Pikioni’’, Greek Book

[16] Pg 57 Dimitris Pikionis 1887-1968, A SENTIMENTAL TOPOGRAPHY, ARCHITECTURAL ASSOSIATION

[17] Pg 76 Dimitris Pikionis 1887-1968, A SENTIMENTAL TOPOGRAPHY, ARCHITECTURAL ASSOSIATION