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Infrastructures – topos curated by West 8

Anja Koller

The first guest-curated issue of topos magazine has been published – with West 8.

Out now: Get topos - curated by West 8 in our online-store.

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The first guest-curated issue of topos magazine has been published. The office with whom topos dared to engage in this experiment is none other than West 8. The issue 117 deals with the topic of infrastructure, which will be of no surprise to those who are familiar with the renowned office.

The issue 117 marks the first time topos has been curated by an individual office. And by curated, we mean not just the content, but also the sometimes nerve-racking journalistic and editorial work involved in producing a magazine. The office with whom topos dared to engage in this experiment is none other than West 8 – where roughly 70 landscape architects, architects, urban designers and engineers are designing and shaping landscapes all over the world from their offices in Rotterdam, Belgium and North America. West 8 is multidisciplinary, thinks in complex, large-scale terms and develops concepts and visions for major planning projects that also address the big questions of our time, i.e. global warming, urbanization, infrastructure, identity. Dutch architect Florian Idenburg, founder of the New York-based office SO-IL and a contributor to this issue as well, said the following about his collaboration with West 8: “…one reason why I wanted to work with West 8 was their approach to landscape. The Dutch traditionally see land as something man-made, as constructed. … Together as a team, we did not want to create a narrative based on a romantic, a picturesque idea of landscape. We both had in mind that the land had been shaped by humans and power…” This is precisely one of the reasons topos wanted to work with West 8: Their preoccupation with landscape, their approach, which is always intellectual, but never too highbrow, yet always involves engineering. It feels as if poetry met engineering.

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Out now: Get your topos Curated by West 8 in our online-store.

The issue 117 deals with the topic of infrastructure, which will be of no surprise to those who are familiar with West 8. They state that “infrastructure in itself can be designed purely on the needs of the machine, the car, the energy grid or the train network, with details from the largest to the smallest. However, we need to change perspective to understand the larger picture. While keeping engineering necessities in the forefront, we can begin to change our discussion of the design process from the hypotheticals to the realities of human needs. Positioning ‘people’ at the foreground, while still being practical and focused on how infrastructure can help the user perceive, use, adapt, be flexible, resilient, and also be inhabited over time. Within this way of thinking about design, practicality and poetry can both be achieved.”  West 8 themselves have written some of the articles presented here but have also invited authors to comment on this big topic from within their respective fields. The result is a bit like a mixtape – not randomly compiled, but instead multi-coloured, profound, and interdisciplinary.

West 8 has taken on great things with this issue. “Within this edition of topos we wish to change the perspective, open things up by collecting a broad view of multidisciplinary thoughts about the beauty of infrastructure, to spaces where infrastructure is an invisible but necessary background layer, and moreover, where there would be no space to understand things at all without this additional layer. We are introducing a new manifesto for designing a 21st city: a cultivated, landscape-forward, open, vibrant, ecological, and responsive City – Clover21. These elements are the new trigger for designing and planning cities: This is infrastructure,” says Adriaan Geuze, co-founder and Director of West 8.

In the end, it’s always about people. So, a quote from urbanist Jane Jacobs might ultimately captures the quintessence of the issue with West 8: “There is no logic that can be superimposed on the city; people make it, and it is to them, not buildings, that we must fit our plans.” In the end, it’s always about people. And that is a good thing.

Get the topos Curated by West 8 here.

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