Between the Lines

On the Explicit and Implicit in Writing and Building


  • Robin Winogrond
  • Matthew Skjonsberg Swiss Federal Institute of Technology-Lausanne (EPFL)



Narrative, Landscape, Experience of place


Narratives employed when writing about a place and building a place have a central theme in common: both weave between the human, personal and emotional experience of place and the physical, spatial and atmospheric place – a dialogue between the inner and outer worlds. This article builds upon a lecture given at the University of Zurich’s Department of Literature’s conference Shifting Grounds: Culture, Literature and Spatial Phenomenologies (2016), addressing several explicit uses of literature to inform the design of contemporary urban place. These uses are drawn from practical experience at Studio Vulkan Landscape Architecture, where we use literature to access a deeper understanding of how people perceive and describe their experiences of place as well as descriptions of place. The examples of literature central to our work and the accompanying projects they have informed shed light upon four facets of our contemporary urban landscape and the experience of them: 1. bodily spatial experience, 2. nature, 3. the sensory experience of being in suburban woodland fragments and 4. traffic and sound.

Author Biographies

Robin Winogrond

Robin Winogrond landscape architect and urban designer, is one of the founding partners of Studio Vulkan Landscape Architecture, established in Zurich in 2014. The studio works on a wide variety of scales and themes, with a focus both on built works as well as large-scale open-space systems and urban schemes, seeking to gain a deeper understanding of the diverse demands, contradictions and countervailing expectations. The office uses this productive tension as a driver for developing design strategies that interpret the conditions of the site and its users. Winogrond’s design approach reflects her interdisciplinary education in landscape architecture, urban design and art, and with it the intention to understand our built environment through various scales and perspectives. In Switzerland as well as abroad she partakes regularly in professional juries, teaches at various schools of urban design, architecture and landscape, and lectures. In 2017 and 2018 she was a guest critic at Harvard's Graduate School of Design. Atmosphere, identity and social space are the main foci of her personal design approach.

Matthew Skjonsberg, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology-Lausanne (EPFL)

Matthew Skjonsberg, architect and urban designer, recently concluded his doctoral dissertation ‘A New Look at Civic Design: Park Systems in America’ at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology-Lausanne (EPFL), where he is a founding member of the Laboratory of Urbanism (LAB-U) – a new academic chair directed by Prof. Paola Viganò and Dr. Elena Cogato Lanza. He previously studied at Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, and at ETH-Zurich. He founded collab architecture in 2001, and from 2007 to 2012 was a project leader at West 8 in New York and Rotterdam. He was recently a guest curator at the Museum of Modern Art (New York) for the exhibition Frank Lloyd Wright: Unpacking the Archives (June-October 2017), and was a contributing researcher to Towards an Open City: The Quito Papers and the New Urban Agenda(Sassen, Sennett et. al. 2017) for the United Nations-Habitat III. He is currently curating the exhibition Park Systems: From Lausanne to Los Angeles at Archizoom (EPFL).


Bonnett, A. What is Geography? (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2008)

Fowles, J. The Tree (New York: Ecco, 2010)

Kahn, L. Light is the Theme (New Canaan, CT: Yale University Press, 1975)

Norberg-Schulz, C. Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture (London: Academy Editions, 1980)

Sebestik, M. Ecoute (film, interview with John Cage) (Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 1992)

Snyder, G. Practice of the Wild (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2010)

Wulf, A. The Invention of Nature (London: John Murray, 2015)