"Landscape is invisible", says Lucius Burckhart, and "we should not search the Landscape in nature, but in our minds". This is why we can perceive many different sorts of landscapes composed off trees and hills, of buildings and roads or even miniature landscapes, such as when we look through a microscope. To be able to construct a mental landscape, the subject has to be out of reach, it must be arranged into our visual background.
This distance from the subject under observation, and the sensation of oneself not being part anymore of this landscape, has increased by each new technological invention. The social historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch describes the impact of 19th century train travel on our perception of landscape: the train traveller gets shot through space "like a bullet" and the foreground blurs away, leaving only the distant background visible. Today’s technologies have pushed our landscapes even further away from us; the ubiquitous use of satellite images means we are now increasingly looking at our landscapes from far away, like maps, from above rather than across. In direct contrast to our real experience of moving through the city, deprived of the natural horizon, the manmade skyline obstructs our view of the city as a whole and "one can't see the forest because of the trees", as the old adage goes.
The image of the landscape, increasingly distant, is a mental abstraction, a partial image of a reality. This process of constructing landscape is similar to cartography: we acquire spatial data, that is out of our reach, information that is exceeding our horizon, the "limiting circle", and we make it into a map. When designers work on maps, they have to create a topological language that successfully negotiates a tolerable level of deformation in their representation of reality, so that the viewer is able to decode real space with the information written into the map. The work of the cartographic designer defines the ratio of reality in the representation (the map) to its subject (the landscape). But, in some sublime cases the map and the landscape become one, as they fold back into reality.
One such example would be Buckminster Fullers Dymaxion map. True to the real geography of the earth it is also an object that embodies the earth. Another example is the beautiful thermoformed relief maps popular in the 70s, a representation and an actual landscape in itself. In taking and reinterpreting the readings of the air pollution monitoring stations of Airparif we fold back the spatial data into reality, into the air we see above the visual horizon from the 6th floor of the Centre Pompidou, so that the spatial data, the map, is returned to the landscape.