People and Plants Caption?

Caption?

Caption?

This is a bit of a change. But most of my posts are about real life, so I guess this fits in.

All I see in this photo is an attempt at ‘cross-cultural integration’. Is that sad or is that just a practical fact of life?

Do any of you have experience with signs like this?

If so, in public or in your home?

Do any of you wonder why this sign was put up?

Do any of you wonder what happens if this sign isn’t put up?

Caption?

Oh heck, forget it. I’ve been living in foreign countries too long. I’ve forgotten what is culturally right or culturally wrong.

Happy holidays to all. I’m going out for a walk, maybe an adventure.

…some blow…

An adventure in the making…going my way?

Finally, I escaped…

…escaped from that procrastination flu, you know the illness…

got too much to do today, I’ll take a walk tomorrow,

besides it’s only the first week of autumn.

I escaped yesterday…

…to the autumnal heights…

…to the autumnal heights…

Interlaken: design & tourism

…Interlaken Jungfrau…

The yellow dots with black outlines are previously busy successful hotels that are empty, or rarely occupied, or struggling for a four or five-star rating

At the heart of a tremendous landscape. Interlaken.

In the Bernese Oberland region of the Swiss Alps, Interlaken is a 365day/year resort destination on the Aare River connecting two lakes at the confluence of four valleys.

Interlaken alone has more than 900,000 overnight stays/year. Tourism drives the economy. Landscape drives the tourism.

This place is all about design, why? Because this landscape exudes inspiration, it enables captivation. A guest can see it, breathe it, feel it, taste it and touch it. Landscape feeds design.

But change is inevitable. New design is required.

…mountain cure comfort…

The last of the great Interlaken-Jungfrau five-star resort destinations from the Victorian era. Take the airs. Take the views. Take the walks. Take the cures.

…take your pick…

This view of the Jungfrau from Interlaken across the Hohematte today has become nearly a touristic cliche. It was the original tourist attraction. Now it is only 10% of the landscape attractions accessible from Interlaken.

What is the inspirational magic that fills the air in this landscape? For two hundred years the greatest authors, composers and all humans have been captivated by this ethereal landscape beauty which has propelled them to design, compose, write, paint.

Great American writers have built on their experience in this landscape: Mark Twain, James Fenimore Cooper. And a partial list overwhelms: Haller, RousseauGoethe,(as inspired by the Staubbach in Lauterbrunnental), Byron, Mendelssohn, Schiller, AC. Doyle, Tolkien, Bierstadt, Caspar Wolf, Hodler, Calame, and pop ‘artists’ like James Bond, Clint Eastwood.

In the last century the Art Nouveau movement spurred deluxe hotel and town growth here.

The most practical and interconnected transportation and communication systems were overlain for easy access. Best in class convenience from the international airports of Zurich, Geneva and Bern via network of trains, trams and busses seamlessly linked to networks of bikes and pedestrians to all winter and summer recreation options including every xxx-treme sport. These put visiting humans into direct touch with the landscape.

Interwoven in all the above is the art of living in these inspirational landscapes. People who live here have translated their inspiration to trychler, yodeler, alphorn, sagen and scherrenschnitt.

Visitors gain access via Interlaken to sites having the UNESCO ‘international seal of approval’:

UNESCO Biosphere Entlebuch: An area of 400 square kilometres to demonstrate a balanced relationship between people and nature unfolds as a mystical world with pre-Alpine moorland and karst landscapes.

UNESCO World Heritage Jungfrau Aletsch: An overwhelming display of the Alps’ natural beauty covering over 800 square kilometres. At its heart lies the mighty rock massif of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau and the glacial landscape around the Great Aletsch Glacier. The Aletsch Glacier is 23km long, the longest glacier in the Alps.

So what’s the problem? The hotel, resort destination cycle has been bottoming as the visitor profile has changed. Nobody has grasped what is the 21st century successful tourism paradigm. Four and five star hotels are out of business. Other hotels from the Art Noveau era can not easily meet the 21st century energy savings regulations. And the visitor who 30 years ago would visit one or two weeks, now visits two or three days.

Recent tourism numbers and trends intrigue.

Berner Oberland Region = 12,000 beds; net occupancy rate 50%

Interlaken Region = 4,000 beds; net occupancy rate 64%

International Arrivals = Europe 50%, Asia 25%, Americas 15%, Africa 5%, Middle East 5%

Interlaken Region Arrivals = Swiss 45%, International 55%

In conclusion, this Interlaken landscape region has undeniable attraction to Swiss and every geographical segment of  international visitor. The annual visits are steady. The communication and transportation infrastructure is up to date and best in class; but the types of accommodations are not leading the way. The tradition of four and five star has all but disappeared–it struggles.

But there are committed private sector players whose future is based upon visitors’ feet on the landscape, regional transportation and watch consolidator. Both of them rely on successful, comfortable and convenient overnights.

Where does this landscape tourism go in the first half of the 21st century?

Airbnb, local holiday apartments, dormitory accomodations?

Are the traditional comforts of four and five star hospitality culture a memory, not suited to today’s green regulations, today’s pace of life, today’s constrained economics?

Or is there a new paradigm still undiscovered that matches and challenges this timeless inspirational landscape?

That is a question for designers, entrepreneurs and lovers of landscape.

…mountain magic…

For centuries, humans from this region have used the alphorn to express how this landscape inspires them.

…sweetest music you never heard…

Berner Oberland landscape and plants work their way into the finest corners of human inspiration, design and crafts.

…enzian…

Gentian blue, four species…but the color of lapis lazuli…implies the cultural wealth of millennia.

…taste the mountains…

The local brewery, with 700 yrs of history, sells its brew in two litre refillables–collectible graphic design, no?

…fresh water air

Lake steamers connect Interlaken to all towns and villages on the Thunersee and Brienzersee–fresh air carried on fresh water from the Grimsel Pass glaciers.

…workmanship…crafts…

The arable land yields food for humans who respect that miracle in their crafts and architecture.

…music, always music…

Whether by jodeling, alphorns or tales…human connections with the landscape are easily accessible in this region.

…flying is too fast…

A visitor can access this landscape in every imaginable manner.

…take a gamble…

Human shelters for entertainment and education–the old and the new both sitting nicely in the landscape.

…up the valley…

Departing Interlaken from the Hohematte foreground in the direction of the Jungfrau begins an exceptional landscape design sequence of spaces experience working up through the valleys to Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen.

…hohematte…

This is a view across the Hohematte toward the Jungfrau. The Hohematte is a 14 hectare meadow in the center of town, first owned by the Augustinian Monastery, then by Bern and finally in the 1860s bought by a consortium of locals who have preserved it as a meadow in perpetuity.

…transcend…

Interlaken blends modern with tradition in many aspects of design, arts and crafts.

…edelweiss…

Ethnobotany–only the bravest of the climbers could find edelweiss–Leontopodium alpinum.

…two km straight up…

Network interfaces–urban quality interfaces at the foot of Eiger and Jungfrau. Convenient and awe inspiring.

…where…

For walkers the wayfinding is superb. Networks to networks–superb. Clear, crisp.

…water's edge…

In Interlaken, the Aare River connects the upstream Brienzersee to the Thunersee and continues as the largest tributary to the upper Rhine.

…and still the landscape inspires…

Churches tell the political and religious history–Catholic, Reformed–Austrians, French…via arts and crafts.

…idealized plants…

Art Nouveau craftsmanship inspired by the landscape.

Humans Need Not Apply

And then, what?

Easy, humans will have more time in the landscape, in gardens, with plants, exploring, asking… Older, forgotten knowledge, accessible via plants, will be re-learned.

And what have we forgotten? Perhaps you will share with me?

PS And maybe we will have enough time to have measured discussion on…say… the difference between a republic and democracy, or…how to balance individual freedom with personal, local and national security? 😉 But what does that have to do with plants?

Spring Sun Glory

…glories fill my soul…And I woke up to this glorious sunshine–these huge dancing displays of spring green foliage–an ebullient reality…freshly mown patches of domestic lawn in the air…freshly cut first hay of the season in the air…all those smells, fragrances, Syringa, Philadelphus, aromas…weaving in and out of each other…rubbing over each other…exuding…resonating…deeply…again and again…

Filled my lungs again and again until I became inside out dizzy with its sweetness…then I made a mistake.

I read a newspaper. In the article, I was warned that too many cow farts would doom life as I was enjoying it. Naw…ain’t gonna believe that am I? Spring is here. I’m going out for a walk before I miss it!

…too busy…I almost missed Spring…12 of 12…beginninglast

The Last Kilometer

…don't fight it…

Erik Chalmers, American born and bred professional landscape architect, used all his skills to manage these very large, complex iconic projects in the Arabian Peninsula. He knew that the multi-cultural and technical complexities required not simply a left side of the brain number crunching iron will; but they also required what he called…performance art.

What is the magic–what are the skills required to succeed on these huge complex projects being designed and built in such challenging and downright dangerous environments? Erik Chalmers’ post project notes give insight into his successes.

But Erik Chalmers, for the first time in decades on an assignment without his wife Madge, was about to learn if he had done one project too many and lost his one true emotional certainty, his one true root.

…it is…

Chalmers felt what he had missed over the past eight months–the fullness of the water, the plants, the soil, the wholeness–it was holistic, it was an existential comfort.

Following is a short narrative from Chapter 13: Pilgrimage, that imparts some of the landscape connections in The 23 Club.

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The 23 Club

Immersed in the contemporary culture of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, against the backdrop of the Empty Quarter, The 23 Club tells the inside story of how an iconic project gets built in the oil rich, Gulf region of the Arabian Peninsula.

Table of Contents

  • Desertification
  • It’s 2AM
  • Spike Lounge
  • The Walk
  • Rub Al Khali Coastal
  • Rub Al Khali Inland
  • Liwa Qsar
  • The Nursery
  • Finding Majlis
  • Library Majlis
  • Villa Majlis
  • Long and Short
  • Pilgrimage

               The Last Kilometer

Chalmers was returning after eight months on his own. Nobody in the UAE called him Erik. It had been eight months of Chalmers. Eight months of taking care of his own meals, his own shopping, his own laundry. It was the little stuff that informed his daily life culture. It was the little stuff that built up…big time.

As the train took Chalmers closer to his stop, his thoughts turned to Madge. He was returning to his shared spaces, his shared life. Chalmers was becoming Erik again. He missed Madge; but he was uncertain how this return would be. Long distance communications always filtered, always blurred emotions.

Chalmers recalled the worst of his time away…he had not been able to hide his week in the hospital from Madge. He was supposed to have gone to Singapore for silk; but her worst fear came true. He had been injured in an automobile accident and hospitalized. She suffered to hear about it from distance. Sorry just did not cover it…from either side.

He arrived at Lauterbrunnen and thought, it won’t be long now.

He transferred from the train to the funicular. It was late in the afternoon and the sky was overcast. This time of year there was little difference between the valley village and the small plateau up where he and Madge lived. Fall plants were already naked of leaves. The first big snow could come any day. The temperature 5ºC or below; frost threatened.

As the funicular rose, Chalmers recalled his excitement nearly nine months ago when he was asked to help fix the first five star resort destination deep in the Empty Quarter. It had been about the challenge. It had been about his joy in providing beautiful gardens for people.

Now the job was complete. The gardens were a success. The owner was satisfied, happy. That world was finished. Now he was home.

And he was worried. Had he traded off something of emotion and trust, something he had held closely with Madge, just to build a couple gardens?

  • Wanderweg
  • Appendix 1:  Berner Oberland Back Story
  • Author’s Notes
  • Plant List
  • Colophon

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(to be continued)

© 2015 Edward Flaherty

**Blatant Plug: If you find this writing about humans and landscape intriguing, please share it with your like-minded friends. Thank you.**

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Sustainable Rimal

The open forum of majlis functions from small groups of close friends, up to and including the largest groups of people speaking directly to the rulers of each Emirate where anyone can speak with the ruler at majlis. It is relaxed as is traditional at majlis--relaxed as the four Emiratis in the above image--note that three of them are wearing aqal headresses and one is wearing a hamdaneya headress.

The open forum of majlis functions from small groups of close friends, up to and including the largest groups of people speaking directly to the rulers of each Emirate where anyone can speak with the ruler at majlis. It is relaxed as is traditional at majlis–relaxed as the four Emiratis in the above image–note that three of them are wearing aqal headresses and one is wearing a hamdaneya headress.

Erik Chalmers, Jean-Claude Thibaut and Theuns van der Walt share a social night of conversation over dinner and televised football with a small group of Emiratis who have a special interest in the Liwa Qsar Project under construction in the Empty Quarter.

Following is a short part from Chapter 11: Villa Majlis to impart some of the landscape feeling of The 23 Club.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The 23 Club

Immersed in the contemporary culture of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, against the backdrop of the Empty Quarter, The 23 Club tells the inside story of how an iconic project gets built in the oil rich, Gulf region of the Arabian Peninsula.

Table of Contents

  • Desertification
  • It’s 2AM
  • Spike Lounge
  • The Walk
  • Rub Al Khali Coastal
  • Rub Al Khali Inland
  • Liwa Qsar
  • The Nursery
  • Finding Majlis
  • Library Majlis
  • Villa Majlis

               Sustainable Rimal

What happens when popular jargon meets a larger than life, a larger than time landscape? What is sustainable about something that is ‘always shifting’  Or, rather, is ‘always shifting’ the most fundamental component of sustainability? Is sustainable larger than time, is it larger than eternity? Ha!! The more attention paid to popular jargon, the more folly suffered!

Fairuz, an Emirati from Liwa Oasis taking personal interest in the Liwa Qsar project, Jean-Claude, the Belgian Ethnobotanist, and Erik Chalmers had much in common. They shared interest, yet with varied perspectives, on the sands (rimal) and on the Bedu life style.

They sat down together. Fairuz asked for dates and kaouwa, Arabic coffee, which was then roasted, ground and prepared on a side table next to him. Chalmers and Jean-Claude joined him. Traditionally taken in restrained amount, kaouwa and dates were a sweet, soft, tender, buttery, room temperature date washed down with a thimble full of the hottest, bitterest, freshly brewed, cardamom and clove flavored coffee.

Following the kaouwa, Chalmers took the opportunity to explore a topic which had been on his mind since hearing Kelvin Isley the other day describe his experience of an almost unearthly, powerful rhythm of the heat emanating from the sands. He drew on Thesiger’s recognition of the exceptionally strong power of the sands. Thesiger had observed in the Bedu, people intensely occupied with the sands, they never commented on the beauty of the sands, the sky, the night, or the sunset.

Chalmers asked, “In books from both before, and, since the coming of Islam, I have read that djinni, spirits, have resided as unusual forces in the sands. Fairuz, I’m curious, is there anything about the djinni in the sands that could be a good reference for landscape architects these days, sustainability, or otherwise?”

Jean-Claude listened carefully to the question and internally put it into a larger context. He could see the desire among certain social groups for sustainability as a desire for secular eternality, a contemporary replacement for the stability traditionally supplied by religions. As far as he was concerned it was short sighted, a passing fad, ignorant of powers greater than the human mind and intelligence, ignorant of the powers that moved the sands, that put the sands in place. But, at the same time Jean-Claude valued these social efforts, seeing them as an opportunity to get more people in touch with their ethnobotanical roots.

He re-focussed and interjected some facts, “If I may, on the sustainability part, for centuries, it can be concluded that without oil and electricity, this Abu Dhabi Emirate region sustains at most about 25,000 humans, but with very significant, serious hardships.”

“Interesting this concept of sustainability,” Fairuz started, “I agree with your numbers; but, the quality of their life, the tenuous nature of the supply of food and water made life here almost like a, a penal colony.”

Fairuz suggested, “Current environmentalists, mostly from the temperate Western world seem to romanticize a simpler life style–pre-oil–pre-industrial. Life here was hell, even fifty years ago, a day in-day out major struggle for existence.”

Jean-Claude added, “Along the same line, I recently read a novel written by an Emirati lady, born in the 1940s. SandFish was the title and the lady’s name was Maha Gargash. She described her life as a youth and their small herd of goats in the foot hills of the Hajar mountains. She went on, writing that after marriage, her move to the Dubai region, with its dependence on pearling–was nothing but impossible hardships, her whole life–absolutely impossible hardships!”

  • Long and Short
  • Pilgrimage
  • Wanderweg
  • Appendix 1:  Berner Oberland Back Story
  • Author’s Notes
  • Plant List
  • Colophon

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(to be continued)

© 2015 Edward Flaherty

**Blatant Plug: If you find this writing about humans and landscape intriguing, please share it with your like-minded friends. Thank you.**

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