Reconstructing the Dent du Requin

excerpt from LA+ Journal, no.12 (2020):

“The question of society’s relation to nature has been continually posed since its introduction in antiquity; however, it has become increasingly urgent over the last decade in the face of mounting pressure from intensifying global environmental change. In Western culture, the relationship has historically been presented through a dualistic framework that sets apart nature as something other than society. From biblical narratives to Romantic and Modernist thought, the Nature/Society dualism is heavily engrained in our perception of landscape.1 Yet, we are presently being forced to reconsider this inherited dualism at a moment when, as environmental historian Jason Moore writes, “the flood of instability and change manifest in the allegedly separate domains of ‘Nature’ and ‘Society’ has become impossible to ignore.”2 While most design responses to today’s instability are aimed at ameliorating or remedying identified crises—an ongoing and necessary effort—an alternative proposition suggests a more fundamental reframing of our perception of nature in order to enable radically new future engagements.3 The work presented here proposes the reconstruction of past views of nature as a critical investigation of our present engagement with landscape in the context of climate change. Representations like Viollet-le-Duc’s drawing of the Dent du Requin—“meaning-machines” in the words of scholar Donna Haraway—preserve and convey such historical constructions and the complex interactions that they represent.4 The reconstruction of these past views helps to reveal the inherited, epistemic, and historical origins of our perception of nature and its limitations, and enables an expanded consideration of our present engagement.”


  1. “Landscape” in the inclusive sense of the geographical and the worked ground as well as the pictorial and cultural interpretations.
  2. Jason W. Moore, Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital (Verso, 2015) 13.
  3. For an analogous approach addressing the question of climate, see in particular, James Graham, Caitlin Blanchfield, Alissa Anderson, Jordan H. Carver, and Jacob Moore, “Climatic Imaginaries,” in James Graham et al. (eds), Climates: Architecture and the Planetary Imaginary (Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, Lars Müller Publisher, 2016), 9–14.
  4. Donna Haraway, “Teddy Bear Patriarchy: Taxidermy in the Garden of Eden, New York City, 1908–1936,” Social Text 11 (Winter, 1984–1985): 52.