The notion of sharawadgi – ‘artful irregularity’ – stems from European landscape art, in which it marked the end of the strict symmetry of Renaissance and Baroque gardens and was the prelude to the English landscape garden style. The term itself refers to the occidental version of a supposedly oriental concept, but its origin – and even whether that is Chinese or Japanese – are unclear. In the book In Search of Sharawadgi, world-famous Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf and the landscape designers of LOLA Landscape Architects set out to explore possible applications of sharawadgi in the landscape of the future. In the expert hands of Oudolf and LOLA, beauty and the human perspective enrich large-scale developments including a world forest against global warming. Sharawadgi is an inspiration and creative force for designers like Oudolf and LOLA. The concept can also be understood as a positive, productive exponent of the occidental misunderstanding that so often underlies Western perceptions of Asian cultures and philosophies. The book Japan: Nation Building Nature makes a serious attempt to fix this by mapping the ideas about nature that have shaped Japan’s universally acclaimed but often misunderstood modern architecture.
This spring catalogue thus presents two strategies to complement and enrich traditional Western notions about the foundations and development of spatial design. These notions themselves are critically examined in two issues of OASE Journal for Architecture. OASE 108 introduces the concept of the ‘productive misunderstanding’ to illustrate how shifting perceptions in the history of architecture can be used to ‘liberate thinking about architecture from every possible canon or from the straitjacket of presumed certainties’. OASE 109 examines how a different, cyclical frame of reference for European architecture can lead to a new understanding of modernity. Like research leads to better understanding, the notion of the ‘productive misunderstanding’, or perhaps the ‘creative misunderstanding’, can lead to better design and innovation.
The titles in this spring catalogue are full of curious examination, visionary imagination and creative misunderstanding. Perhaps we’re all looking for sharawadgi.