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Landscape Architecture
 
Symbolic landscape
I would like a feed back from interested members regarding this topic. The project has been published on University of Minnesota website as a thesis project for Master Degree in Landscape Architecture. Symbolic Landscape is a research effort investigating a political and cultural conflict in the Middle East between the Palestinian and Israeli nation. The project intends to reflect for the entire world that there still a room for reconciliation and mediation between both sides.

The project is located in the old town of Abraham-Hebron Old town, a place where a massacre took place in 1994 inside the tomb of Abraham. The journey has two parts: Theatre of the Future or the "Peaceful Mound". A new gateway and a new future for the city old fabric. A commemorative Place/Memorial. A place that commemorate the souls of those people who killed in the Abraham Massacre. The two sites being connected visually and physically through a commemorative trail that lead people from one side of town to the other -destination side "Abraham Tomb". The trail will be a major tool for the reconciliation idea which will happen through time.

Symbolic Landscape is an idea of action and contemplation where mediation will be strongly embodied through the project and at the same time will help preserve Palestinian identity and dignity.
Hesham Hatabeh
Responses
 
Symbolic landscape
Hesham- while the goals of the project are commendable, I would question the location and the mode of commemoration. Is a place that is so charged religiously, politically, and symbolically, conducive to reconciliation? For instance, a true place of mediation has to recognise the suffering of both sides not the massacre of one side by another.

I still think that you should explore the idea of "Symbolic Landscape" , but not tie it to any massacre. Look at it as an series of urban interventions in Hebron that can foster exchange and areas for interaction. Blood has been shed on both sides. Would a commemorative project at a blown up pizza parlor in Tel Aviv lead to reconciliation or just more recrimination?
Shiraz Allibhai
Symbolic landscape
Sheraz,
Thanks for this feedback. I totally agree with you regarding mediation/commemoration concepts. As I mentioned the project journey has tow parts. The first part is away from the old fabric-uphill looking the old town down and becomes a new gateway/introductory to embodied history, political, cultural, and religious.
As a starting point from uphill going down to the memorial massacre is flipping the norms. We human beings always go uphill a way from urban fabric to play and recreate. The Idea here is no . we starting from uphill/mediation/reconciliation place and visually looking to the past/the old heavy wall and the history embodied behind.
This important since it will reflect to the entire world that we Palestinian are people of strong faith and forgiveness. And reflect an important ideology for Palestinian while they medigate peace with the other side.
Here become the memorial/the commemorative site as important place within the old fabric, but at the same time will create a space for mediation. A place where people will be a ble to shop, live, work and socialized since it��s a long a commercial, residential, tourist corridor.
The idea of commerotion will never intend to be a hidden place in the wood where people gathered. It��s a reversed and a sequenced process get birth over time and to give life for this birth we should always overseen what pushed us for this stage.
Here becomes the place as an important urban fabric that reflect all of these memories, but we seen it from a new vision for a new future where people be looking for a present better that the past and a future better than the present
The project has a lot of complicated political, religious, and cultural issues, but the project perceived all of these issues in away make it simple for all people to understand the idea behind. Also the elements I played with in those tow sites are global especially, water-rain water harvesting, sun-shade and shadow language, native materials-stones and vegetations
Hesham Hatabeh
Symbolic landscape
Hesham,

It is of interest that you used the religio-historical figure of Abraham to broach the the subject of reconciliation - no doubt driven by the choice to commemorate those lost in the 1994 killings in Abraham Tomb. As you know, Abraham is a key figure in three of the world's major religions (Islam, Judaism, and Christiantity), and as such carries a powerfully symbolic meaning for the people who compose the major political powers currently embroiled in the Palistinian "question" - yet doesn't this religate those of different faiths (say the other 46% of the human population) to the status of mere eavedropping tourists?

But a more important question is not whether one commemorates death or life, or a single historical figure (or multiple souls), rather how does one construct a life altering memory. One could argue that the entire point of such a built project is to ensure (via the projected Will of the designer) that no such horrific event could ever happen again. This borders on sympathetic magic.

In your project you have posited a phenomological solution that begs the question, not of rememberance but, of forgetfullness. How one reclaims a "lost memory", or lost identity, has less to do with remembering (or recalling) a fixed and temporarily forgotten idea - but constructing a new "idea" after the complete erasure of a previous concept from the collective memory. All one can know, is the sense of emptiness created by this stolen prior concept - an idea explored by Liebskind in his Berlin Jewish History Museum.

Your use of the phrase "Shock and Beauty", perhaps as a pun of the Bush Administration's use of the term Shock & Awe, illustrates that you're playing with the 19th Century facination with the Sublime. Your hope that a visitor's exposure to a kinesthetic, auditory, and visual experience will fabricate a new cultural identity - though completely consistant with the colonial idea of a captured or enframed vista - seems to deny a deeper spiritual experience. Where do visitors wash their feet, or cross themselves, or burn incense, or (quite frankly) recognise themselves reflected in the face of their former enemy?

Your use of the term "hero" to describe those lost in 1994 is also troublesome. What are you commemorating - the death of those killed in 1994, and at what cost? A hero is not one who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, nor does such an unfortunate circumstance qualify one as a martyr. True heroes confront their terrible fate and yet still chose to act - and it is this personal choice (not that they were killed, or wished to kill others) which should elevate their memory. The true heroes would be those who would attempt to resurrect a solidified Palistinian culture, not by commemorating a horrific event (or glorifiying death) but by recalling the piety of those who would travel to Abraham Tomb.

But after such a lengthy, and I'm sorry to say hard critique, I do want to congratulate you in your choice of the form for the amphitheater (the Peaceful Mound and Reconciliation Passage). For me, I sense an inverted Arc - evocative of the antideluvian figure of Noah (perhaps just as central to the previously mentioned faiths). In this Arc all visitors are carried towards a re-birth. This boat imagery also speaks directly to your revealatory concept of the "secret power of water and how its energy shapes spaces." The mythic quality of the story of the Deluge, the fear that wild water can induce, and the promise water holds in its induced fertility, floats along with it the cycle of re-birth.

The idea of the pathway can also be expanded upon. An annual pilgrimage from the Hebron Valley to the Peaceful Mound, and then on down to the Hebron New Center (without backtracking, via a new switchback footpath) could be a wonderful recreation of a Panethenaic Way. Just as the Athenians ritualized their citizenship, Palestinians could participate in a similar trek to celebrate their new-found status and newly-created identity. The end-point of the Way is not the Peaceful Mound, yet the Mound and the Reconciliation Passage are the necessary mid-point
of a re-birth.
Dean Gunderson
Symbolic landscape
Dean,
I realy a preciate your critique and good feedback. In my review for the MLA degree was hard critique too at the same time was one of 3 project which awarded the honor award.
regarding the peaceful mound. yes people will go into the earth and walk the passage. the pasage is a theatre where is the actors and the audience at the same stage and the same important. walking the passage people will view the old city down hill through A braham Arch which frames the view. from the other side, down in the old city the arch will be black and through the night the arch will be lighted reflected the eyes on the city, the new future and the new Identity.
Hesham Hatabeh
Symbolic landscape
Dean,
The peaceful Mound has tow levels: the ground level used as a surface harvesting rain water into a cistern where people pull up water for drinking and washing at the same time the surface design intends to reflect the hidden language and its power shaping the place. The underground level which is the passage/the theatre of future where people will discover the city and walked the reconciliation trail through the old fabric.
Hesham Hatabeh
Symbolic landscape
Dean,
Attached is a plan view of the passage inside the hill.
Hesham Hatabeh
Symbolic landscape
Dean,
"Shock and Beauty" walking the reconciliation passage/the commercial, residential, and tourism corridor is totally a different experience where the language of shade and shadow becomes the natural element that encourage people to walk. The existing fabric of this corridor is 8 ft in width. I imagine how you could walk this while all these functions are active. People have no personnel room around; they are in touch most of the time. Until they discover the memorial site. The memorial site in a setting within the old fabric that is totally open to the sky- the light is the element of beauty after they experience walking the reconciliation corridor. I articulate the memorial site with a fragmented dome. The dome an important engineering solution treating the roof of most buildings and becomes the skyline of the old fabric. The 3 glass arches with 12 ft height will shock people ( Fragmented Dome reveals the massacre which is a gainst the norms city-a gainst the 3 major religion norms and values). as the scale is huge, but there is still a transparency where people can vision through and walk in an around.
Water element will be dripping down from the top of these glass arches reflect the tears. People will hear the sound of water falling down stairs to reach interior cistern. Walking the stairs from the terrace garden up down to the cave. People will walk on sand inside the cave. The sand is a heavy movement and will be able to leave message on sheets of glass a against the cave walls that collect the steam water that running through a canal underneath the glass sheets. People will leave their notes and wipe it out. The names of the worshippers will be carved inside the cave walls just behind the glass sheets.
The cave level is all about sacredness and spirituality and the terrace garden with the huge fragmented dome is a bout "shock and beauty".
Hesham Hatabeh
Symbolic landscape
Hesham,

Thank you for your thoughtful and timely response. I would expect such a project to receive no less than the accolades bestowed upon it.

By their very nature Studio projects are overly demonstrative, and it is very difficult to offer a critique without a first person presentation. If I still lived in Minneapolis I would have enjoyed listening to your defense.

In Modern societies we tend to neglect the simple, distrust the plain, and avoid the calm. Yet it is within these still moments where we are unexpectedly overcome with profound experiences. More importantly for any designer, when one is granted such a rare experience in an awe-inspiring space - this space is rarely one "designed" by a single hand (and in many circumstances, the space is quite natural and untouched by man). More often these constructed spaces are grown organically over the centuries through the loving contributions of many voices. So as a student of design (believe me, this servient role does not end with the granting of a degree), how can one communicate, or attempt to design, such an experience?

I have no easy answer, only to offer that the experience you hope to generate does not happen as a byproduct of the building or the surrounding space. The formalist trap is to repeat the mantra, "Form follows Function" - yet in my experience it is truer that "Space follows Ritual". Ritual is the beginning and ending of all memory-making. It is within the heart of the person performing the ritual where the change happens.

As this relates to Palestine, I don't think you can simultaneously solve two unknowns - Cultural Identity and the Space that would encapsulate the Ritual that would reconstruct (or "construct" for the first time) that unique identity.

IF water is important to the memory-making, is it drinking from the well that imbues deep symbolism? Is it viewing the water running over the arches that carries with it this symbolism (or the hoped-for understanding that these rivulets are symbolic of tears)? Is it the stream that follows the pathway (or the pathway that follows the stream) that imparts identity? Is it suppose to be all these special effects combined that creates culture?

Ask yourself, will people "get" this space and its intent if there were no descriptive text telling a visitor what it is all suppose to mean? And if not, how is the phenomena of "text" (not the fact that there would be text somewhere in the park, but "text" as a cultural artifact) incorporated in the design?

These are all very tough questions, but they are at the core of our lives as designers. We are rarely provided the opportunity to work on such a large unifying commission, but some aspect of it falls into every project we do work on. Best of luck in your new carrier, and I hope to see more of your work in the future.

- Dean
Dean Gunderson
Symbolic landscape
Dear Dean,

You're a man after my own heart. You clearly are well read on matters of aesthetics etc...

Gongchime
www.contemplationgarden.bravehost.com
Greg Turner
Symbolic landscape
Dear Dean,
Thanks for this stream of information. I can't imagine that I will have all of this on my plate. Regards
Hesham Hatabeh
Symbolic landscape
Hello Hesham

On a professional note, I would like to comment that your ideas on symbolic landscapes and their expression is very deep and sensitive and also on a personal note I want to say that it is a topic close to my heart too... I am a landscape architecture student from India currently doing my thesis on "Commemorative Landscape in an Urban Setting". I have interpreted symbolism in this way:

Every design conceived in the human mind has a symbolism attached to it; or is a suggestive metaphor. However, when the whole idea of the design is to remind the visitor of a particular person, place or event, the metaphor becomes more than suggestive. From the role of being the underlying principle, it surfaces up to the very façade of the design, in common man's language; symbolism becomes the ornament enhancing the beauty, in a commemorative design.
Monika Pillai
Symbolic landscape
Hi Monika,
Glad you working on similar topic. It's essential having the depth of feelings and emotions toward a successful design project. It's our responsibility as designers to speak the language of symbols and translate the story in the form of a build design. Good Luck
Hesham Hatabeh
Symbolic landscape
Yes, I do agree with you that as a designer we have to be more sensitive towards the feeling of commemoration. But as of now there is this particular question in my mind. Commemoration has a certain degree of monumentality attached to it; when the memorial park is within an urban setting, apart from this monumentality and eternalisation there has to be a humanising element to the space. What, in your opinion, can bring that about? Would it be activity pattern, or the scale and treatment of the space as such or the use of landscape elements to create the space. The idea behind a Memorial Park is to induce contemplation in the minds of the visitor without appearing to do so. I would like to hear your opinion on this.
Monika Pillai
Symbolic landscape
Monika,

You are right. Contemplation has kind of monumentality or may be a better word to say evocation. You could achieve this evocation by a deep contemplation which is very important in a commemorative space. Also, you could add more on the evocation part including landscape element to create your space. Simplicity is a very important factor that plays the teacher role and educate people a bout the space or the message you intend to reflect. For example, in my memorial park/commemorative space the existing urban fabric gave me a huge opportunity to set my memorial within. Way finding concept through the old fabric is embodied through the old corridor and its just performed through the game of shade and shadow/light and dark that encourage people to walk until they discover the memorial under the sky within open plaza surrounded by a heavy stone walls.

Beside contemplation you could add the idea of action where people will be able to do something/move things/write /play... In my example you walk the old fabric (imagine you walking a (European Plaza) and once you inside the memorial at ground zero inside the cave you will walk the sand. The sand idea is slowing people movement down and trying to bring their minds into a spiritual, silence and religion stage. While walking the sand people will be hearing the water dripping down a deep cistern and will be able to leave and write their message on glass sheets and wipe it a way.

I don't see that the monumentality should be creating a high rise or a huge structure to a chieve the evocation of your space. Even though I create a 16 ft glass arches at the upper terrace garden in my memorial plaza that mainly harvest the rain water in winter and a great gathering and mediation space in summer. I intend to reflect the massacre ideology a against humanity and those arches help me a achieving a shocking factor I simply looked around and saw the dome forming the sky line of the entire city and its structural and ephemeral solution used long time a go and still has life until the massacre happens and break down all the norms of the villagers and all people. I represent that by the demolishing dome which becomes three glass arches. Three arches that reflect or belongs to three major religions in the city: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
I don't say that to push you using dominant element. But I would like to see in your space evocation both action and contemplation.

Good Luck
Hesham Hatabeh
Symbolic landscape
1. Will you post a URL to the site so that we can see the project itself, graphics, etc?

2. We face an increasingly divided world where identities with ethno-religious groups trumps more universal-open transcendent individual identities... Gone are the ideals of a secular democratic Palestine or Israel, shredded under the weight of conflict & us vs. them -- otherings. The burning George Bush syndrome, "you are either with us or againstg us"... no neutral ground.

3. So neutral ground ... nature ... Longer than Jews or Arabs, Christians or Muslims, is nature, the olive tree, olive branch of peace, the laurel wreath. Can not a landscape architect imagine a garden of native spacies, around a symbolic empty center? That would make a most spiritual and harmonious monument to the place and human adaptions over millennia of war and conflict.

4. But to add a religious reference, both the Jewish Ark & the Muslim Ka'aba, are empty boxes. Their very emptiness symbolizes the spirit, the unapproachable and immaterail presence of spirit within. This is perhaps the oldest symbol of sprit, the hollow, the cave, the rooms connected by tunnels under the pyramids, not places of burial, but of meditation, from zen to the missing 100th name of Allah, which only the camel knows.

5. Long a regional tradition, graveyards are places to visit, where all other trees in the long gone forests are cut for wood, the sacred grove is just that -- sacred, protected, a place of refuge, of connection to the departed, whom we will all soon follow -- no one leaves this place alive. But people have always come to the groves around the dead to reflect on life & death & to share life, memories, friends and family.

To conclude, imagine what such a grove/garden might encompass as landscape design elements. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a simple garden / grove may be worth a thousand monuments...
Jamil Brownson
Symbolic landscape
Dr Jamil,

It's not which group you are with. It's not who you encourage or love. It's about years of pain and unfortune on both side that you live and see every day until your mind and heart collaborate to speak a healing world.

I really a appreciate your response and below is a link for some boards of the project:

http://www.cala.umn.edu/
landscape_architecture/gal/hesham/hesham01.html

Hesham Hatabeh
Symbolic landscape
Hesham,

I can only imagine all the time and trouble you took in dealing with such a sensitive subject as this one.

I just hope you find a sense of peace in dealing with the Palestinian dilemma with your thesis.

As a landscape architecture student, your topic is one that is so overwhelming and cumbersome, that those who live outside of it can only wish you the best of luck at best, and hope to a just and equitable solution for everyone's sake.

Peace is the goal. Let it be.

Maria Ayub
Maria Ayub
Symbolic landscape
Hi Marya,
I really appreciate your response on my topic. I am trying to get this topic(Thesis) published in a local or international magazine. Any Advise.
Thanks
Hesham Hatabeh
Symbolic landscape
Hesham,
GO to www.asla.org. Search through the site, it is quite extensive because there are many ways your work can be showcased.

Try to become a member of the ASLA, you get a student rate if you have not graduated. They have a great deal of student work, we have student chapters at the more than 50 universities in the US with programs in Landscape Architecture.

Good luck, I think it is worth publishing.
Maria Ayub
Symbolic landscape
Maria,
Thanks for your input. I am already Associate ASLA, unfortunitly I rarely scan through the website as aresult of daily tasks and projects, but I agree with you I need to give the topic a bit attention especially after graduation.
Best Regards
Hesham
Hesham Hatabeh
Symbolic landscape
Hi, I am just asking unrelated Q to the topic. How can we see those attachments as larger images? Are they only thumbnail views?
Vikkram Gotluru
Symbolic landscape
I appreciate your question. If you scan through the resposes you will find at the bottom half a link where you can access a larger images.

Thanks,
Hesham Hatabeh
Symbolic landscape
Thanks, Hesham for the reply. But I still didn't find any links for the images in this discussion. Please help me.
Vikkram Gotluru
Symbolic landscape
The link is included in Hesham's response from May 10, just a few above yours:

http://www.cala.umn.edu/
landscape_architecture/gal/hesham/hesham01.html
Ozgur Basak Alkan
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