Creative Infidelities. On the Landscape Architecture of Topotek 1. Edited by Barbara Steiner. 440 pages. Jovis Verlag. Berlin 2016
This book is about translations. And about landscape architecture. It marks the 20th anniversary of the Berlin based landscape architecture office Topotek 1. Martin Rein-Cano and Lorenz Dexler run the firm and Fracesca Venier joined them in 2014. It was Martin Rein-Cano who has been invited to the renowned Alvar Aalto Symposium in Jyväskylä as the first and so far the only landscape architect. He, like his partners, is primarily interested in architectural questions. This is ultimately what the name Topotek 1 signifies: „We find architecture fascinating, and this is expressed in our way of dealing with landscape. The aesthetics of doing always demands a tectonic approach.“ It is good to know that they do not refer to the geological definition of the term but to structure.
For Martin Rein Cano the Baroque style is more honest than the English garden style because the Add-ons, the extra layers are visible and add a new story to the existing landscape. Rein-Cano: “It is the narrative – supported by storytelling – that defines a place, turns a space into a place. A place is connected to stories and to history – the accumulated memory of a society.“ According to him, Landscape is narrated space. Talking and writing about it makes it real.
Spaces and places designed by Topotek 1 are heterogenous, due to many factors to be considered such as site, budget, soil, season, but mostly due to the context. Yet the landscape architects claim that this heterogeneity should not be mistaken as non-visible or non-readible. People should learn, that „nature“ is man-made, landscapes are manifestations of ideas. At this moment we are approaching the title of the book and its meaning. Rein-Cano is rooted in Argentina and he is deeply impressed by the work of the writer Jorge Luis Borges. Creative Infidelities refers to reflections on Borges by Sergio Gabriel Waisman: Borges and Translation: The Irreverence on the Periphery (2005). Martin Rein-Cano refers to the Borges quote: „The original is unfaithful to translation.“ Borges questioned the primacy of the original, which for him is no more faithful than their translations, adding new meaning, content, creating something new. For Topotek 1 the subject of translation is of fundamental importance. They prefer to have unfinished scripts in order to work on the translation. If they can’t find a site’s script, they look for one.
Readers of the book may trace the Topotek 1 philosophy down in essays and interviews or analysing ten key projects like Lorsch Abbey or Superkilen. I recommend to read the interviews with Barbara Steiner, Thies Schröder, HG Merz and others. They are printed in bold letters and allow a kind of insight in the not always very simple structured ideas and statements of Topotek 1 and its partners. There is a lot to read and to explore on 200 pages but you are allowed to relax on the following 200 pages just with photos from the selected projects.