A Sense of Anarchy in the Pantheon of Norm Breakers
The Radical Landscape Architecture of Straub Thurmayr
“I love their sense of anarchy – the off-kilter symmetries, the unstructured fun, everything defying physical order, being unresolved and dynamic and ambiguous, … On the surface, their work seems to defy all the rules, but underneath the seeming lack of structure is a very dear, carefully thought-through message. They force you to think in a new direction and say, well, why not?” (Judy Lord, former editor of Landscapes/Paysages).1
Professors Dietmar Straub and Anna Thurmayr from the Faculty of Architecture feel very honored that their Landscape Architecture made in Manitoba, Canada enjoys a great deal of international attention and recognition on the other side of the Canadian border. The Landscape Architecture Magazine (LAM)2 published an article written by Brian Barth, the Toronto based journalist and writer came to Winnipeg for an interview last summer. Dietmar and Anna toured Winnipeg and Manitoba for two days to introduce Bryan to the people, places and projects. But nonetheless, the couple was very surprised to find their noses and that of their Blue Lady on the cover page of LAM’s March 2020 issue, to subscribe to the Landscape Architecture Magazine click here.
“As a designer, you always hold out the hope that you will shape spaces with a strong essence and powerful aura, places that exudes some degree of courage and audaciousness which you hope people will experience as a physical sensation” says Dietmar Straub.
Nadia Amoroso, a professor in landscape architecture in Guelph, places Dietmar and Anna in a pantheon of norm breakers: “It’s like when Martha Schwartz and Ken Smith started doing their more colorful, low-tech installations in the 1980s. Some saw Martha’s Bagel Garden and thought, that’s a bit strange. But at the same time, it’s iconic – something that’s been written about, something we study in school” (Nadia Amoroso).1
Straub Thurmayr’s Research by Design facilitates a close relationship between scholarly and creative work, academia and local communities, teaching and outreach. It operates successfully and effectively at the University of Manitoba to generate critical inquiry through realized design work while also integrating outreach activities and community work. The practice of Research by Design also shapes a resilient intellectual culture with a critical view toward established tools, methods and processes.
All community work of Straub Thurmayr Landscape Architects is pro-bono and non-profit. They only accept work for community groups in impoverished areas or areas lacking sufficient funds. For this reason, everything from the preparation of images, to presentation, to communication through to execution is conceived and produced without employees.
The work of Dietmar Straub and Anna Thurmayr does not aim to make a spectacle of itself, but simply strives to give everyday spaces their own energy by injecting a sensual feel. These pro-bono projects have allowed them the luxury to radically ignore the conventional professional procedure. Low budgets are normally a challenge, but these projects offer exemplary value and demonstrate a pioneering character with regard to budget, participation, execution and outcome.
What Dietmar and Anna learned from these projects is that the role of a Landscape Architect is being challenged to transform. Garnering community support is necessary and imperative to turn a designer’s imaginative drawings into realized designs. It calls for well-versed professionals to use their resourcefulness and critical thinking skills in order to create tangible ideas not just for people, but with them as well.
1 Barth, B. (2020). Have Van, Will Garden. The Radical Landscape of Straub Thurmayr. Landscape Architecture Magazine, March/2020 Vol.110 No.3
2 About LAM
Founded in 1910, Landscape Architecture Magazine (LAM) is the monthly magazine of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). It is the magazine of record for the landscape architecture profession in North America, reaching more than 60,000 readers who plan and design projects valued at more than $140 billion each year.[Retrieved from: https://landscapearchitecturemagazine.org/about-us/]
Dietmar Straub is Professor and Anna Thurmayr Associate Professor and Department Head of Landscape Architecture, Faculty of Architecture at the University of Manitoba. They are co-founder of Straub Thurmayr Landscape Architects and Stadtplaner, a creative design practice which allows them to cultivate their Research by Design.