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Wandering through Lost Landscapes

When it comes down to books about landscape architecture offices, these are often established offices with the books filled with pictures of executed work. How different does Lost Landscapes feel compared to those publications.

LOLA is a young office in the Netherlands. Based in Rotterdam they want to address the way we use our environment. They centre on the experience humans have with the environment. Since the creation of the office in 2006 they have published a lot about their ideas and experiences. In 2013 they were awarded the Rotterdam-Maaskant Prize for Young Architects. With the prize comes a subsidy for a publication, which resulted in this publication.

The book is an overview of the ideas and work of LOLA. It is divided in three chapters with each having their own theme. The themes are based on reoccurring elements in their designs. Each chapter consists of a description of a design from LOLA, followed by an essay from themselves and ended with an essay from somebody else. This clear structure is something that disappears when reading the book. The different elements flow in each other and each chapter feels like a coherent piece. This allows for the reader to sometimes lose track what specific elements one is reading, yet also allows the reader to grasp a certain feeling a chapter wants to evoke.

In the book a lot of references are being made to classic and contemporary sources. Quotes are used from a diverse group of people including Irish writer Oscar Wilde to adventurer Bear Grylls. This diversity shows that the inspiration of LOLA is to be found everywhere. From classics as The Emerald Necklace by Olmsted to contemporary popular sources, as an analysis of the transformation of the appearance of Dutch television presenter Arie Boomsma over the course of time. Besides their own text Eric Frijters, Olv Klijn, Paul Roncken and René van der Velde join LOLA with their essays. It shows that for landscape architecture inspiration can be found in many places.

The book visually offers a lot to the reader. It offers a varied mix of texts, pictures, maps and collages. The book is partially printed in full-colour and partially in mono-colour, which in its turn is divided in different colours. This can be quite confusing to the reader as the colour-scheme can change within a piece of text. The high amount of pictures in the book enhance the readability of the book yet it is on the edge of becoming distracting. The large font with the little amount of white space could cause a cramped feeling when reading. This also has partially to do with the size of the book. It measures roughly 11,5 cm by 17 cm, which is not that large. Albeit its small size, its thickness makes it feel like a robust book. Something some larger yet thinner books lack.

To conclude, this book might come across as a slightly chaotic collage of what goes on in the mind of the people from LOLA. This makes it somewhat difficult to read, yet also ends up as a very stimulating book. It might be the best way for such a young and energetic office to represent their ideas and work. And as such it can be of great inspiration to us students.

Lost Landscapes LOLA Landscape Architects Eric-Jan Pleijster, Cees van der Veeken & Peter Veenstra NAi 010 uitgevers, Rotterdam (2013) ISBN 978-94-6208-106-2 English €24,50 240 p.

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