The German landscape architect Latz + Partner recently presented its masterplan for revitalising London’s Crystal Palace Park, but the kind of sites it is associated with are rather more extreme than a rundown municipal park. Peter Latz’s practice came to prominence in the 1990s with its Landschaftspark Duisburg- Nord at a former steelworks in the Ruhr, where the industrial structures weren’t isolated and aestheticised (as at Richard Haag’s Gas Works Park in Seattle), but completely integrated into the design. ‘Technology and nature not as a contrasting pair but in accord,’ said Latz (see picture).
Since then Latz has dealt with many problematic post-industrial sites, which an important new book on his practice, Udo Weilacher’s Syntax of Landscape (Birkhäuser, £54.90), reflects. Of special interest is a current scheme on 100ha of derelict land in Turin: the Parco Dora. The book also puts this work with ‘damaged landscapes’ into context by showing us Latz’s own garden – its clipped hedges influenced by Italian Mannerism – and his projects for hospitals and universities.
Not everything comes off: constructing ruins as well as retaining them (as at Saarbrücken Harbour Island) is questionable. But with a background in self-build as well as urban planning, a determination to reveal the layers of history in a landscape, and a distaste for ‘bucolic clichés’, Latz has much to offer. While it’s good that his practice is involved with Crystal Palace, many projects in the UK (not least in the Thames Gateway) could profit from his ideas. This book makes them easily accessible.