Hacking the Extinction of Experience

Landscape Architect Ram Eisenberg visited the University of Virginia in February to share his story with faculty and students alike. Eisenberg heads his own design group in Tel Aviv, Israel and is devoted to encouraging a considerate realization of place that complements the complexities of universal ecology. Conversations with Lunch Magazine at the School of Architecture and an Open Table Discussion at the Corner Studio allowed for introduction to and elaboration of the themes mentioned in his Tuesday night lecture, “Resensitize! Hacking the Extinction of Experience.”  The invitation was provided by the 2014 Page Barbour Foundation as the first installment of the Transduction Lecture Series.


Making the Ground

In Kiryat Sefer Park, the existing material condition was a crumbling parking lot. On the weekends when it was vacant, it became a place to picnic for members of the surrounding community, and it began to be called a park. After listening to the voices of its inhabitants, Ram built up the lot with good soil, water features, and added to the existing flora. He decided to keep some the asphalt as the bedrock of a joyful stream that trickles through the park once a day, considering the material as a valuable piece of the park’s character.  Some of the older trees were sculpted into living playgrounds for children. A piece of twisted rebar became branches for birds to crown the pond, a trellis of wire and vine shaded a place to sit, and many open paths invited people off the street. Productive gardens encourage community investment in the ongoing project. Ram was told after the construction, “the park was already here, but you were able to really see it.” His work created a framework to better accommodate the dynamic ecology of the space.

Eisenberg Fake Fossil_Children

In this transduction diagram, the child is the human interface, and the found fabricated fossil acts as a medium of a signal (another child’s treasure).

This is only one of many stories embedded in the ground. Eisenberg also sought to include the children of Kiryat Sefer in the construction of the park. The children created small blocks of concrete embedded with objects of their choice. These artifacts became fictional fossils that could be broken in half to reveal the treasures hidden inside. More than four thousand fossils and their histories were buried and paved into the park, making the memories of the neighborhood a literal foundation for the public space. Some have been found and kept by those who dig them up; others remain hidden below the ground. The ground has not only been made by the processes of geological time, but also by an intentional act of creation. The ground of the park is no longer simply matter, but a vibrant matter. It alters the consciousness of those who engage with it. The ground is layered with stories, and these stories (the ground itself) shift as a stream meanders through it; a daily joyful moment of the expected, unexpected, and depth of processes that make a place.

Eisenberg Fake Fossil_Shovel

This transduction diagram considers the same concept at a different scale. The interfaces are the people who physically construct the park, the media is the soil which holds the signals (fabricated fossils).

In Consideration

Ram described the term “consideration” to mean the continuous interactions between an object and its surroundings. It is an iterative process of the living and non-living that creates and alters form. With constant consideration, complexity arises and resonates with the pre-cognitive, felt sense of being. As a system, the landscape can be designed to embrace change, fostering resistance and submission as checks and balances for steady adaptation.

Ram Eisenberg often hears that people feel “cared for” by the park. During the discussion at OpenGrounds, the place for processes to occur within the park was related to the concept of the beauty found in unfinished places. Linking “consideration” to the idea of the unfinished, “consideration” begins to mean many things. By leaving a place unfinished, it is in “consideration” (kindness) to those who will be in the place. By allowing undefined processes to occur, there is still place for that person in the park. In a finished park, the park might be designed for the body of a person in terms of seat height, shade, and other design considerations (thought, cognition). But in terms of the person as a maker/process within the park, it is more considerate (kind) to leave space for the unfinished. In a finished designed place, the person is an other; they are separate from the place. In an unfinished park (or a place that allows for processes) the person is of the place, a part of the processes that make it.

This relates back to the idea of complexity. If people like complex spaces, it might make people feel more cared for in a place that is unfinished (allows for processes to alter it). It hints that there is space for each person’s own history within the park. The park is not a finished product, but something they are a part of.  In a non-conceptualized space, the person is considered as a participant in the changing complex networks. Instead of adopting the ‘Masterplan,’ Ram refers to his interventions as ‘Motherplans,’ that aim to nurture opportunities for later involvement and interaction.

To value the best qualities of nature is to recognize it as an intelligent organism rather than a cold determined machine. The right models can overturn conceptual anxieties, and reveal an unconditional sense of being below smothering external regulations. By considering both the individual and collective natures, form arises from a wide distribution of voices. To listen for and accommodate these forces is to make music of noise and towers of stone, tolerating discordance and remembering a place for impressive experience.

More Information

Mapping Connections: Preliminary Sketch


Report by Gwendolyn McGinn and McCutcheon Morecock.