Beauty in everyday landscapes: film as a method of investigation of sensual perception, human action, movement and landscape performance in cities
Soares Souza de Souza, Aline Regina
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'I believe that works of landscape architecture are more than designed ecosystems, more than strategies for open-ended processes. They are cultural products with distinct forms and experiences that evoke attitudes and feelings through space, sequence and form.' 'Elizabeth Meyer The challenge that beauty is a superficial concern in landscape design has been examined by Elizabeth Meyer in her manifesto 'Sustaining beauty. The performance of appearance'. It is a hopeful manifesto that aims to persuade people about the idea that beauty is an important element in sustainable design. For Meyer, beauty is a secret mechanism which alters consciousness, that involves a social and cultural awareness. The main implication of this mechanism is a transformation that happens to people as they experience beauty: they shift from an ego-centric to a bio-centric perspective, as Meyer explains: 'A beautiful landscape works on our psyche, affording the chance to ponder on a world outside ourselves. Through this experience, we are decentered, restored, renewed and reconnected to the biophysical world. The haptic, somatic experience of beauty can inculcate environmental values.' Combining Meyer's assertions with philosopher Arthur Danto's idea of finding beauty in unexpected places, to look anew at the urban landscape, can beauty be found in urban agriculture? The type of beauty Meyer describes is not that of appearance. It's the beauty of experience. Authors that Meyer cites are helpful to understand this definition of beauty. Wendy Steiner explains that 'Beauty is an unstable property because it is not a property at all. It is the name of a particular interaction between two beings, a 'self' and an 'Other': 'I find an Other beautiful'. This act of discovery has profound implications. [']' It is also a dynamic experience. In that sense, Steiner goes on to explain that there is a decentering that occurs when one experiences beauty: the person is taken out of an ego-centric perspective into a more bio-centric one. This thesis presents a four part examination. Part one consists of presenting the question 'Can beauty be found in urban agriculture?', by explaining how this question was motivated by the literature review of Meyer and other authors relevant to the understanding of beauty. It introduces the site of the farmers market as a place of discovery of beauty in everyday landscapes. There will also be a presentation of research in definitions of beauty and a literature review in everyday landscapes and urban agriculture. Part two explains the methodology used for this study, including the use of film as an important means of investigation, revealing aspects of landscape including narrations, movement, time, action, and storytelling, that contribute to an experience of beauty. Part three contains case studies of films. Part four revisits the site and the concept of beauty, explaining what was learned from the studies with film. The selected site for the investigation is the farmers market in downtown Blacksburg, VA. Farmers markets, community gardens and other urban everyday spaces that involved urban agriculture had been subjects of interest throughout my research. The farmers market is an ideal setting because it gathers many elements together, such as: the various types of local produce that the farmers are selling or sharing, local arts and crafts, food produced with local ingredients, music and performance presentations, the people, their families, pets and kids who are visiting the market, various possible interactions by being at the market. So many elements are gathered in the Farmers Market because of the relationship of the rural supporting the urban, and the urban supporting the rural. The town benefits from having access to produce from local farmers, while they benefit from the support of the community for their business. However, the landscape of the farmers market supports more than the rural-urban relationship: it is a community space, a place for many forms of exchange and encounters, one can find connections with animals and people, it has aspects of a park, and it also supports local artists and performers. Film became a central tool for this investigation to capture and document inherent aspects of the landscape of the farmer's market, interactions between people and those aspects, how the space performs and most importantly to reveal beauty. Beauty in the landscape involves action, narratives, attitude, feelings, images, sensory experiences, movement and time, all dynamic elements. At the farmer's market, all these combine in complex ways to constitute an experience of beauty.
- Masters Theses