Unfamiliar terrain: From the paradox of intervention to paradoxical intervention

Thumbnail Image
Other Title
Coombes, Daniel Reginald
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Master of Landscape Architecture
Unitec Institute of Technology
Griffiths, Pete
Irving, Daniel
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
landscape process
research by design
positive noninterventionism
ANZSRC Field of Research Code (2020)
Coombes, D. R. (2011). Unfamiliar terrain: From the paradox of intervention to paradoxical intervention. (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Landscape Architecture). Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10652/1848
Landscape architects are attempting to become complicit or knowingly involved with the nonhuman and human processes which determine the formation of landscape. Because these processes are understood as being indeterminate, variable and more generally out of control the process-oriented landscape architect recognises the need to negotiate notions of control associated with design intervention. This negotiation has manifested itself primarily as a shift from designers privileging what they think the landscape should look like to privileging its physical operation. In contrast to this shift this area of landscape architecture has been discussed as a continuation from the ‘death of the author’ discourse as it appeared in fine art and architecture following on from its literary origins. In both accounts, for the process-oriented landscape architect unmediated conditions arise from his/her physical mediation of the landscape. Interconnectedness or complicity between the landscape architect and landscape process is therefore observed through the paradox of intervention. This project investigates the agenda of the landscape architect becoming complicit with landscape process through a ‘research by design’ procedure. The investigation involves a series of installations conducted within the campus of Unitec in Auckland, New Zealand, and the briefs of two international design competitions situated in Hamburg, Germany and Chicago, US. As a result of carrying out the installations it is proposed that the landscape architect becomes complicit with landscape process when they do not intervene. This proposition is paralleled with the economic practice of ‘positive noninterventionism’ and then contextualised through the two competition briefs and the work of other researchers. This procedure reveals that theorising or conceptualising landscape is an inescapable form of control. The paradox of intervention is therefore understood be to an image or conceptualisation of landscape process. Accepting that a nonintervention is a form of mediation it is then employed to guide an investigation through the Hamburg competition brief that includes a physical intervention. This procedure demonstrates that counter-intuitively a contradictory connection to landscape process is more complicit than attempting to directly privilege its indeterminate and variable conditions. This project therefore claims that we become complicit or interconnected with landscape process when we acknowledge that our connection with landscape is conceptual or theoretical. It is consequently recognised that inadvertently design approaches which privilege what the landscape looks like or evoke notions of the ‘death of the author’ exhibit a contradictory relation to landscape process. Such approaches are therefore positioned through this investigation as being more complicit with landscape process than approaches which privilege the landscape’s physical operation.
Link to ePress publication
Copyright holder
Copyright notice
All rights reserved
Copyright license
Available online at