Doing Almost Nothing: The Landscapes of Georges Descombes
by Marc Treib
Until now, writings about the architect/landscape architect Georges Descombes have been relatively limited, appearing primarily in publications in Switzerland and abroad as conversations, interviews, and conference proceedings; most of them have appeared only in French. However, during his forty years of practice, Descombes has developed and applied a method unique to landscape architecture, one in which an extremely broad vision, both scientifically and culturally, shapes his thinking and projects. Descombes enters each project by attempting to understand the existing conditions on site and how, using minimal means and interventions, those conditions can be modified to meet the requirements of the program and those appropriate to the natural or urban environment. To some critics it would appear that Descombes has always done too little on and to the site, and in some instances have condemned him for “doing almost nothing.” Although simplicity usually demands greater concentration and study, it often yields greater rewards that result from just that restraint. Perhaps how we approach the world is more important that how we shape the world. Descombes’s landscapes are instructive in this regard.
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