Olivia Marra – The Garden as Political Form: From Archetype to Project

First Supervisor: Pier Vittorio Aureli
Second Supervisor: Mark Campbell

Olivia Marra earned her diploma in 2009 from the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and graduated in 2013 from The Berlage Institute (Rotterdam/Delft) with the thesis Housing Contemporary Forms of Life: A Project for Tehran. She has collaborated with few offices, such as recently L’AUC (Paris), before starting her search Garden as Political Form: from archetype to Project, at the AA.

The thesis puts forward the project of the garden as an articulation of the political through space. Upon such understanding, the thesis aims to produce a set of design strategies that rethink the relation between public open spaces and private interiors. The thesis is concerned with the loss of intelligibility of the garden as a legible form especially within the successful imagery of ‘green space’.
Within the recent discussions on landscape and urban design, garden is constantly used to name any generically greened space; in fact more than ever before, lay media has been pushing the term as an all-purpose flagship to support environmentalist agenda. Since the 18th century, most architectural projects and their historiographies have laid the base for gardens to be beheld as sublime depictions of nature. The literature on this particular architecture has been delimited and very often edited out from the political aspects of its form, techniques and economy. Therefore it is also urgent to question how and to which extent architectural practices and theories have been aware of such partial (or at least incomplete) take on garden form and its emplacement in the city.
The thesis proposes a critical reassessment of present and past examples of garden, toward a genealogy of the spatial and power relations enacted with emblematic transformations of this archetype. Although it scopes widely – from 6000 BC until the present day – the research focuses on a limited recollection of cases found in a few cities. If read in one thread, these inquiries may trace back how gardens have gone from being exemplary types of radical enclosures to elusive compositions of ungraspable limits, and to be eventually used as formal tools for urbanisation.
The subtitle From Archetype to Project suggests two possible readings of the main theme Garden as political form. Firstly, the thesis can be taken as an historical analysis throughout its transformations into spatial dispositive for different modes of governing the city. Secondly, the work puts forward a series of design proposals that draw from the example of garden as an archetype for a broader architectural project. Therefore the design component, and drawing as a key instrument, is conceived as one with the written text, as a twofold method of tracing case studies and developing design proposals for New York, London, Rome and Tehran.

Posts by Olivia Marra