Céline Baumann is kicking off a visiting studio of landscape architecture with “studio rhizomes” at the ETH in Zürich.

During the autumn semester 2023, we are investigating how rhizomatic structures may allow us to act upon broad territories in order to shape ecological and climatic corridors for humans and non-humans alike.

A structure of specific interest

Most plants have roots, but not all of them have rhizomes. The rhizome is the underground part of a plant’s root system. It grows horizontally underneath the earth and has the ability to shoot upwards, giving life to individuals having a similar genetic material. Some common examples of rhizomatic species include bamboo, ginger, asparagus or potato. Many weeds successfully expand via their rhizomatic system, like the stinging nettle or the infamously invasive Japanese knotweed. The French post-modern philosopher Deleuze and psychoanalyst Guattari consider the rhizome as a structure of specific interest with many benefits.

Rhizomes …

… cannot break, not because of their strength but rather due to their remarkable resilience.
… can be connected to others by multiple entry point and thus do not have a fixed centre.
… are heterogenous and do not comply with stiff hierarchy.
… have a desirable lack of unity, tending to a heterogenous spatial development.
… relate to cartography. They give shape to a map always likely to be remodelled or amended.
… produce clones and therefore are neither alienated to sexual reproduction nor burdened by genealogy.
… may be formed between different species. Wasp and an orchid constitute for instance an exemplary rhizomatic connection.

A planning methodology

Rhizomes extend through space, covering a large surface without invading everything. They curiously engage with some points of interest but simultaneously neglect others. As such, they hold many similarities to the landscape architecture project, which requires to measure its intervention, reject what is superfluous and select the minimum action needed to have the greatest impact possible. This crucially allows to create bridges between otherwise disconnected ecologies and territories, a vital feature to act upon an era of mass extinction, global heating, and ecological collapse.

Teaching team: Cristina Fusco, Myriam Treiber

Read the studio presentation