The urban landscape is scattered with ambiguous sites; places in which architecture and landscape don’t mesh, where the space is in some way odd, leftover, unresolved, indefinable. The architect Ignasi de Solà-Morales coined the term terrain vague to describe such places: obsolete or dysfunctional sites that punctuate the otherwise cohesive, definable organization of the cityscape.
These elusive spaces, such as abandoned lots, degrading post-industrial sites, or areas under bridges, stand in contrast to the meticulously planned, readily definable spaces that make up the majority of the city. They seem almost like mistakes that were never erased from the landscape, left to remain unseen, incoherent. Only describable by what they are not; only defined by what is beside them. They are the form of absence.
These leftover spaces are hard to discern, since we have few paradigms for them; they possess multiple and shifting meanings rather than clear functions. They resist definition because they do not fit into the expected logic of the urban landscape. We are not really meant to see them - they float in ambiguity and disconnection. Yet the value of these sites is in their vagueness; they serve as reminders that the urban landscape is never essentially coherent.