Tropolism Books: Andrea Cochran Landscapes

Title: Andrea Cochran: Landscapes
Author: Mary Myers
Publication Date: April 13, 2009
Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press
ISBN: 9781568988122
Available at Amazon.

The work of Andrea Cochran can be seen, to those of us who have admired landscape design abroad, as finally completing the process of freeing American Landscape Architecture from the curse of postmodern landforms and wacky color cuteness. The work is powerful, but never unbalanced or trendy. Her outdoor spaces are clean, trimmed, and suitable for the modernist sensibility, yet they never feel like accessories to a building. Instead they reverse the relationship: the buildings are totally permeated, even subsumed by Landscape. That Landscape is the dominant piece here is not a judgment. In fact, seeing the concept so beautifully, seamlessly, effortlessly come to life leads one to believe that this particular resolution is the perfect conclusion of the idea that interior and exterior spaces are interconnected. There is more Landscape, more World than Building, so why not have Landscape's rules win? It is a conclusion that architects (and many landscape architects) fail to grasp. Andrea Cochran is way beyond grasping it: she's playing with it.

Yet her work is not simply concept, not airless, not minimal to its own death. They are spaces for living. There is air. There is messy stuff. The best example is the Curran House, an affordable housing building in San Francisco. The garden is a bamboo forest, a place to relax and congregate. Yet also included are galvanized agricultural troughs that provide urban garden space so residents may grow their own food and plants. It is a thoughtful touch that is beautifully executed with the simple, inexpensive, yet handsome troughs. Irony, cheekyness, and cuteness have been banished in favor of elegance, dignity, and reserve. Landsape is the background for fun, not a theme park.

The book Andrea Cochran: Landscapes continues this design sensibility. The photographs are flawless, rich, and will serve as references for decades. Like many landscape design books, this one has a superb plant reference guide that will help any architect successfully lift ideas (if not the overall concepts). Plan drawings of each project complete the documentation.

I am tempted to buy a second copy and write notes in the white space.

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