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Jan Birksted

The Maeght Foundation: Mobility, Change, and Process as Foundation
Jan Birksted

To understand and to describe landscape, we need to develop a dynamic notion of experience, based on movement and including vision, that avoids reduction to a succession of static views, such as a collection of prospects and panoramas. But this seems to go against the very grain of everyday language: the concept of place, for example, implies stillness, immobility, and placidity. In order to explore this duality, this paper proposes a return to one source of the concepts of place and of movement: the ancient Greek myths of Hestia and Hermes. Associated with these mythical representations of the unity of place and of movement are two specific types of landscapes: the labyrinth and the chora. Labyrinth and chora, as paradigmatic landscapes that combine place and movement, would thus be privileged typologies to study in order to make empirical observations that resolve the duality of place and of movement. The proposed paper will describe and analyze a twentieth-century labyrinth, designed by Miró, and a twentieth-century chora, designed by Giacometti. These two are both found at La Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul-de-Vence.

Jan Birksted was educated in France and the United Kingdom, initially studying philosophy and social anthropology before training as an architect. He is the UK corresponding member of the Réseau Architecture-Philosophie and the chair of the International Scientific Committee on Urbanism and Landscape of DoCoMoMo (Documentation and Conservation of the Modern Movement). His interest in landscape studies stems from the fact that a consideration of aspects of landscape (material, spatial, phenomenological) casts architectural history and theory in a new light: landscape studies can thus be viewed as a theoretical perspective, not only as a body of subject matter. Relating Architecture to Landscape (1999), which he edited, investigates those issues. He now leads the postgraduate history and theory program at the Canterbury School of Architecture in England, with study areas in architecture and landscape, architecture and film, architecture and the body and healthcare. This program also explores interactions between practice and theory, from the points of view of both areas. He is finishing a book on the Maeght Foundation.

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