for a Planet in Crisis
responsive to contexts,
therefore perpetually unique
1. Site-specific phenomena exist in a certain place only.
2. In Art: Refering to a work of art designed specifically for a particular location and that has an interrelationship with the location.
site-determined, site-oriented, site-referenced, site-conscious, site-responsive, site-sensitive, site-conditioned, site-related, site-dependent, site-interdependent
contextual, hypercontextual , in-situ
vernacular, honest, of origin, original
one-of-a-kind, unique, idiosyncractic,
1. characteristic of or relating to a class or group of things; not specific
2. lacking imagination or individuality; predictable and unoriginal
3. relating to a genus (in biology)
site-non-specific, site-general, site-ambivalent, site-ignorant, copy&paste
ubiquitous, global, universal, same-as-everywhere, repeated
how can a space be understood phenomenologically?
Non-Places: An Introduction to Supermodernity
This book expresses the excess information and space within the context of “supermodernity”, where an ever-increasing proportion of everyday life is spent in the “non-spaces” of supermarkets, airports, hotels, on motorways or in front of TVs, computers and cash machines.
“Alone, but one of many, the user of a non-place is in contractual relations with it (or with the powers that govern it). He is reminded, when necessary, that the contract exists. One element in this is the way the non-place is to be used; the ticket he has bought, the card he will have to show at the tollbooth, even the trolley he trundles round the supermarket, are all more or less clear signs of it.”
- Marc Augé
Place and Placelessness
This book focuses on the human experience of space. Relph observes modifications of place due to various influences and points out the importance of rethinking and re-evaluation of such changes.
“Places are fusions of human and natural order and are the significant centres of our immediate experiences of the world. They are defined less by unique locations, landscape and communities than by the focusing of experiences and intentions onto particular settings. Places are not abstractions or concepts, but are directly experienced phenomena of the lived-world and hence are full with meanings, with real objects, and with ongoing activities. They are important sources of individual and communal identity, and are often profound centres of human existence to which people have deep emotional and psychological ties. Indeed our relationships with places are just as necessary, varied, and sometimes perhaps just as unpleasant, as our relationships with other people.”
- Edward Relph
As Found: The Discovery of the Ordinary
Claude Lichtenstein and Thomas Schregenberger
This book encounters the transdisciplinary relationship between the constructed environment as it is visually perceived and verbally expressed, taking British art and architecture of the 1950s as case studies to distill the essence of the everyday.
“As Found is the tendency to engage with what is there, to recognize the existing, to follow its traces with interest. The justification for this interest lies in the experience that this path is precisely the one that leads to new insights and 'forms'.”
- Claude Lichtenstein
Serpentine Pavilion • Herzog de Meuron + Ai Weiwei • London, UK • 2012
This project is based on serpentine gallery's concept of annually replacing a former pavilion with a new one. This pavilion design has been developed as a crossover of different spatial and constructive elements/fragments, creating a spatial reinterpretation of historical layers from pre-existing pavilions.
…by revealing the hidden aspects of the site through a physical trace
Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture
This book investigates the relation between humans and their habitat with phenomenological approaches. Physical and non-physical elements in space are recognised, which create a specific environmental character of a certain place.
“There are not different “kinds” of architecture, but only different situations which require different solutions in order to satisfy man‘s physical and psychic needs.”
- Christian Norberg-Schulz
how can the unique aspects of a site be cataloged?
Home at Arsenale • Dekleva Gregoric Architects • Slovenian Pavilion • Venice Architecture Biennale, Italy • 2016
The project operates as a platform for exploring perceptions of home and dwelling, and proposes the concept of home as a publicly curated library. The installation performed as an abstract compact home, encouraging visitors to inhabit and experience it.
…by reacting to the existing physical conditions which are specific to the site
big issue / topic #5
BUS:STOP • multiple artists • Krumbach, Austria • 2010
This project was created in collaboration with AzW and vai, to remodel the bus stops of Krumbach, a small town with natural viewpoints and enhance them with super site-specific bus stops. Seven architecture studios were involved, and each was assigned a stop.
…by offering a de-centralised experience of interventions, each responding to the existing conditions on its micro-location
Valley Curtain • Christo & Jeanne Claude • Rifle, Colorado, USA • 1970-72
This project was installed between two mountains slopes and was made from 18,600m² of woven nylon orange fabric. This installation focused on the process and the memory, while aiming to make an aesthetic impact, for those who experienced the temporary artwork.
…by juxtaposing a decontextualized element within the context of a specific valley
which site-specific aspects shape a project formally and conceptually?
Notes on the Synthesis of Form
Harvard University Press
This book presents a new theory of the process of design through defining the process as “inventing things which display new physical order, organization, form, in response to function.” With an analytic approach to linguistics and a strong foundation in mathematics, Alexander adapts his concept of form to the context of human needs and demands.
“To solve a problem by selection, two things are necessary. 1. It must be possible to generate a wide enough range of possible alternative solutions symbolically. 2. It must be possible to express all the criteria for solution in terms of the same symbolism.”
- Christopher Alexander
Genotypes vs phenotypes
This diagram differentiates and connects genotypes with phenotypes. Phenotypes are characteristics that are affected by inner predispositioned genotypes as well as by the outer variable circumstances.
…as an expression, conditioned and influences by its environments
The Idea of a Tree • Mischer & Traxler • Vienna, Austria • Since 2008
“The Idea of a Tree” is a solar powered machine that combines the natural input of the intensity of the sun throughout one day with a mechanical process. A thread is pulled through a coloring device and a glue container and then is wound around a mold.
…by translating specific temporal-environmental inputs into a hyper-specific material manifestation
how can the site-specificity of a place avoid commodification?
One Place after Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity
This book presents a critical history of site-specific art, a field which emerged in the late 1960s against late capitalism and the growing commodification of art. Site-specific art intersects with land art, process art, performance art, conceptual art, installation art, institutional critique, community-based art and public art to further blur the boundaries between art and context.
“Certainly, site-specific art can lead to the unearthing of repressed histories, provide support for greater visibility of marginalized groups and issues, and initiate the re(dis)covery of "minor" places so far ignored by the dominant culture. But inasmuch as the current socioeconomic order thrives on the (artificial) production and (mass) consumption of difference (for difference's sake), the siting of art in "real" places can also be a means to extract the social and historical dimensions out of places to variously serve the thematic drive of an artist, satisfy institutional demographic profiles, or fulfill the fiscal needs of a city.”
- Miwon Kwon
Another Place • Anthony Gormley • Crosby Beach Liverpool, UK • 1998
This project consists of 100 cast iron sculptures facing the sea, buried at different levels in the sand depending on the distance they have from the water. The body of the artist himself was the original shape used for the cast replicas.
…by continuously altering the perception of the work through shifting social and environmental conditions
MIRAGE • Doug Aitken • Desert X, Palm springs, California • 2017
This project is a site specific installation in the California Desert. It reproduces the shape and lines of the traditional Ranch house, but minimizes it into mirrored surfaces that make it disappear in the landscape.
…by physically reflecting its immediate environment, offering continuously new perspectives of the user’s experience through movement
Art as Experience
This book, based on the Harvard lectures of John Dewey, is a work on the formal structure and characteristic efforts of esthetics and the arts: architecture, sculpture, painting, music and literature.
“When artistic objects are separated from both conditions of origin and operation in experience, a wall is built around them that renders almost opaque their general significance, with which esthetic theory deals. Art is remitted to a separate realm, where it is cut off from that association with the materials and aims of every other form of human effort, undergoing, and achievement. A primary task is thus imposed upon one who undertakes to write upon the philosophy of the fine arts. This task is to restore continuity between the refined and intensified forms of experience that are works of art and the everyday events, doings, and sufferings that are universally recognized to constitute experience.”
- John Dewey
Faust • Anne Imhof • German Pavilion, Venice Art Biennale, Italy • 2017
This project combines several layers from visual installations to music to artwork, working with performers that move between self caressing and punishing. This installation depicts the physical, political, economical and technological limitations, establishing a real communication with the visitors.
…by blurring the boundaries between performer and audience through addressing specific circumstantial, thematic, physical and historical contexts
UUmwelt • Pierre Huyghe • Serpentine Galleries, London • 2018
This project is an exhibition with still-image videos playing at a very quick rhythm, often created by a technological process analyzing the human thought depicting images. Included in the exhibition there are also a community of flies living and proliferating within the space as well as different smells.
…by exposing visitors to multi-media, multi-sensorial and multi-species experiences within different spatio-temporal conditions of each visitor
where are site-specificity and authenticity linked?
Lines Light • Pekka Nittyvirtka, Timo Aho • Lochmaddy, Scotland, UK • 2018
This project is an installation that deals with climate change, in particular it aims to show the impact the rising sea levels can have on coastal communities. Thanks to sensors that interact with tide levels, beams of led light show the not-too-distant future that awaits the community of Lochmaddy.
…by physically superimposing the projected effects of rising sea levels onto the existing spatial conditions of a coastal town
The Inevitable Specificity of Cities
Christian Diener, Jacques Herzog, Marcel Meili, Pierre de Meuron, Manuel Herz, Christian Schmid and Milica Topalovic
Lars Müller Publishers
This book traces the non-linear evolution of the contemporary city through the categories of territory, power and difference, looking to urban case studies to unfold the distinctiveness of their physical and social existences.
“In many cases, informal areas undergo a limited and often labile process in which architectural patterns emerge as identifiable local informal typologies...For the transformation of the city, this moment is of extraordinary significance, since it marks the point at which the precarious, ephemeral, individual and illegal aspects of the genesis of [informal] housing overlap with the archaic features visible in the early stages of any city's organic growth as the enduring patterns of a future city begin to emerge, as if seen through frosted glass.”
- Marcel Meili
Church of Purple Striped Vegetarians
This diagram depicts the problems of consumption. It shows the more specific an idea, the easier it is to identify with it, what makes it more appealing.
…as a holistic design approach of embracing and responding to peculiarities and idiosyncrasies found within a given context
Rjukan Sun Mirrors • Martin Anderson • Rjukan, Norway • Since 2013
This project takes in consideration the problems of a small Norwegian Town, known as one of the darkest in the world: three rotating mirrors were erected on the northern mountain that reflect the sunlight onto the town square, as there is no direct sunlight in the surrounded valley for six months of the year.
…by responding to the social and health needs of the town’s inhabitants in relation to the specificities of the local climate and terrain
how can we respond to the loss of site-specificity in the face of globalisation?
This graphic provides an ‘improved’ version of ordinary maps on which areas usually not associated with each other, are linked together based on specific characteristics .
…as a form of experimental travel, influenced by situational nuances of a specific context
The Cultural Iceberg
The diagram presents an idea that is seemingly simple at first sight, but once we understand the full scope of the topic, we see its full complexity.
…as the revealing of invisible, often the only truly authentic aspects of a place
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
This book explores the urban imaginable through short dialogues between the elderly Kublai Khan and the young Marco Polo, describing 55 fictitious cities which can be read as parables or meditations on culture, language, time, memory, death, or the general nature of human experience.
“With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed, but even the most unexpected dream is a rebus that conceals a desire or, its reverse, a fear. Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.”
- Italo Calvino
Wine – distillation of a terroir
This diagram points out the complexity and interdependence of the final product of wine with specific outside influences which impress in the flavour.
…as the distillation of territorial specificities of a context
case studies of nanotourism:
further aspects of site-specific characteristics identified in the above case study:
Tasting wine at the KSEVT
Consuming the outcome of the local grown grapes and wine-production at an uncommon place for it.
Wearing the suit
The suit becomes a medium of transaction and transforms the process of wine tasting into a nanotourist experience by the addition of an unusual component.
Taste wine by choreography
The suit as a medium and the process of tasting the local wine is being merged together into a choreographic nanotourist experience. The nanotourist, the medium and the site melt together into one
further aspects of site-specific characteristics identified in the above case study:
Walking through the town of Ault
The experience of the french town Ault by visiting several sights, different places and interfering with the local environment raise awareness of the site.
Wearing the screen and helmet
The wearable screen is a media to become an “Aultian body” and to experience the town in a different and new way.
Transforming into a site-specific creature
The act of walking around with the wearable screen in the town of Ault and experiencing the place in this double reality can be seen as choreography.
further aspects of site-specific characteristics identified in the above case study:
Watching the movie unfold the site
The whole performance was recorded on video and photographed. Moving in slow motion, Transfix figures silently moved around and between the remains of what used to be a hospital, a flourishing mine, a jail, and other traces of once lived in spaces.
Incorporating the sounds of the desert
They attached sensitive sound recording devices to the ruined buildings to essentially “play” the ghost town by tapping on the structures. The natural soundscape of insects, birds, wind, grass, and crickets mixed with the gnarled metallic, rusted barbed wire, broken glass, and abandoned mine shafts were recorded and played at the museum exhibition.
Following-up on the performance
The live remix of ambient soundscapes was linked to the live video remixed with old Arizona maps projected onto two performers (Logan Phillips and Rachel Bowditch) moving at a glacial pace for three hours dressed up like they were in the desert.
Awareness of the site:
The site specifier:
Continuation of the site specific experience:
The specificities of the context are revealed through the acknowledgement of the site and its agents
The site specifier emerges as a direct response to the specific circumstances and enables the participant to experience its authenticity.
Interaction with and evolution of the site over time contributes to new layers of its existence.