The Landscapes of Georges Descombes

Doing Almost Nothing


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SpecificationsSKU: 90735ISBN: 978-1-940743-84-4 Binding: Hard Bound Pages: 240pp Publication Date: Fall 2018 Size: 8 x 10″ Portrait World Rights: Available

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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.

In our current era, the concern for the planet as a whole, its dwindling resources, the despoiling of its air, water, and land, and an exploding population have skewed the profession’s focus toward sustainability, ecology, resilience, and other related concerns. In the process, the social role played by landscape architecture has been lessened, if not forgotten, and the role of form, space, composition, and materials—that is to say the aesthetic dimension of landscape design—has become a distant concern. Descombes’s practice strikes that vital balance between effective environmental performance and the ethical creation of beauty. Instead of favoring one pursuit over the other, or relying on a delimiting specialization, he works in a way that may be justifiably regarded as both/and rather than either/or – a comprehensive vision that weds nature and culture, landscape and architecture, people and milieu.

Marc Trieb, is Professor of Architecture Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley, and a historian and critic of landscape and architecture who has published widely on modern and historical subjects in the United States, Japan, and Scandinavia. Recent works include Austere Gardens: Thoughts on Landscape, Restraint, and Attending (ORO, 2016), Pietro Porcinai and the Landscape of Modern Italy (co-editor, Routledge, 2016), John Yeon: Modern Architecture and Conservation in the Pacific Northwest (ORO, 2016), and Landscapes of Modern Architecture: Wright, Mies, Neutra, Aalto, Barragán (Yale, 2017).

JOLA Review of Doing Almost Nothing, The Landscapes of Georges Descombes


Landscapes of Georges Descomes, Doing Almost Nothing Podcast

Ethics =/= Aesthetics, Taylor & Francis Online


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Landscapes of Georges Descombes, Doing Almost Nothing Featured in Savoir-Vert




Hard Bound



Publication date

Fall 2018


8 x 10" Portrait

World rights