Eva Castro and Jose Alfredo Ramirez, “The Grounds of a Radical Nature”

In the context of today’s generic urban developments and the eradication of public space by market forces and power structures, does landscape as a discipline have any capacity to challenge those mechanisms that produce contemporary urbanization as opposed to its conventional role in producing their aesthetic component? Eva Castro and Jose Alfredo Ramirez explore this question in their understanding of the landscape discipline and their radical utilization of infrastructure. These ideas represent a paradigm in the construction of our own political position not only in respect to questions of identity and public space but in the construction of our approach towards nature. Nature and ecology begin to serve as a mechanism of de-politicizing discourses linked to territorial planning and design as an effect of the mainstream ecological urbanism related practices. This professional shift towards pretended neutrality, in terms of both its social and political context, further reaches the domain of spatial design. As a counterargument, beyond the romanticist, a-politic, altruist, protectionist or mimetic conceptions of nature of the so-called ecologic or sustainable urbanism, Castro and Ramirez understand nature as an artifice, along the lines of an artificial construct, reinforcing rather than minimizing its political power. Castro and Ramirez argue that a spatial definition of the concept of ground can turn “nature” into a radical component of a morphologically driven urban discourse, signaling ways in which the discourse around the concept of ground and nature can be re-centered as a source of a radical approach to engineered landscapes.

Eva Castro is the co-founder and Director of Groundlab and Plasma studio. She has been teaching at the Architectural Association (AA) in London since 2003 and at the School of Landscape Architecture at Tsinghua University as a guest professor since 2011, where she directs a Landscape Urbanism Unit. She studied architecture and urbanism at the Universidad Central de Venezuela and the AA Graduate Design program with Jeff Kipnis. She has won a number of awards, including the Next Generation Architects Award and the Young Architect of the Year Award, and has published and exhibited worldwide.

Jose Alfredo Ramírez is an architect co-founder and director of Groundlab and currently co-director of the Landscape urbanism MA at the Architectural Association. He studied Architecture in Mexico City and graduate from the AA Landscape Urbanism graduate program in London 2005. Alfredo has worked and developed projects at the junction of architecture, landscape and urbanism in a variety of contexts such as China, Mexico, Spain, among others. He concentrates mainly in large scale developments like the Olympic Master Plan for London 2012 or the International Horticultural Exhibition in Xian China 2011. He has lectured on the topic of Landscape Urbanism and the work of Groundlab worldwide.

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