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BY BRIAN BARTH

Claude Cormier cracks a smile.

 

FROM THE APRIL 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

When Claude Cormier, ASLA, and I pull up to Dorchester Square in Montreal, a man is leaning against the grand fountain, with its three Victorian bowls, all painted a very Victorian shade of green, smoking a cigarette. When we get out of the car, I realize it’s not a cigarette, but a joint. “If you want to buy pot in Montreal, this is where you do it,” says Cormier, in heavily accented English—and he begins to tell me the story of how his firm transformed this historic park into a place that winks at the past, while winking in a few other directions as well.

First developed in the 1860s, Dorchester Square is an oasis of ornate statuary (Queen Victoria; a military horse; and Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s first Francophone prime minister, are all commemorated) and manicured flower beds set amid regal edifices that testify to the city’s railroad-era wealth. Claude Cormier + Associés has been working on improvements to the park (as well as an adjacent green space, Place du Canada) since 2000. In 2015, the firm was selected to restore the northern end of Dorchester Square, a section of which had been lopped off long ago and repurposed for parking. There had not been a fountain in the park previously, but Cormier thought it would make a fitting focal point. Dorchester Square sits on top of an underground garage, and there was a load-bearing column positioned in just the right place to support a 30-foot-high steel fountain at the end of the park’s long axis. There was only one problem: The city said it needed a few extra feet to accommodate the tourist buses that embark from the adjacent block. Those few feet nixed the alignment with the supporting column.

“The city said, get rid of your fountain and design something else,” Cormier tells me, patting the fountain. “And I thought, no, I’m not taking out the fountain.” (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Image courtesy NCMA.

Art parks and public gardens decide whether they can give people safe respite when people need to isolate.

 

With the COVID-19 crisis, millions of Americans have been jolted from their daily routines, their social lives, and their public spaces. Social distancing is pushing people into virtual realms and individual experiences. Landscapes have become a final refuge.

Museums are closed, so across the country, sculpture parks and public gardens are figuring out how they can safely meet the needs of social distancing. When they can, they’re offering one of the few bits of unfettered culture still available. The ones that place nature first have some advantages others don’t.

The Clark Art Institute’s grounds in Williamstown, Massachusetts, are open; more than 100 acres of nature trails are dotted with a handful of sculptures by Giuseppe Penone, William Crovello, and Jenny Holzer, set in a recently expanded campus designed by Reed Hilderbrand. “We have a 140-acre campus and several miles of walking trails that go through the woods on campus,” says Vicki Saltzman, the Clark’s director of communications. “It has always been our policy that the campus is open to the public to use 24 hours a day, and there’s certainly plenty of room in the 140 acres for lots of social distancing. It’s always been a very central part of the Clark’s ethos to think about art in nature, and we make that connection on a daily basis no matter what’s happening in the world around us.” (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Ronnie Siegel’s Carry the EARTH environmental art project has sent 39 palm-sized globes traveling across the world, visiting 15 nations and counting. Image courtesy Ronnie Siegel, ASLA, Carry the EARTH.

The handheld globes the landscape architect and environmental artist Ronnie Siegel, ASLA, has crafted and sent around the world carry a lot of weight. Carry the EARTH, the project Siegel designed and launched in 2018, focuses attention on different aspects of the world’s ecology, with both hopeful and dire points of view. Some are cheerily expository, like her Rivers globe, where exaggerated river basins carve deep canyons across the continents. Many foretell calamity, like the Time Bomb globe, with a fiery lit fuse trailing out of the North Pole. But others are tentatively optimistic, like the Seeds for Change globe, where the Earth’s continents are transparent and the globe is filled with seeds of different shapes, sizes, and textures. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Birdlink, at Sara Roosevelt Park in Lower Manhattan. Photo by Stephen A. Scheer.

BIRDLINK IS ONE PART ECOLOGICAL PUBLIC ART, ONE PART BIRD MIGRATION SCIENCE.

 

More than 300 species of birds migrate through New York City along the Atlantic Flyway each year. The goal of the art installation and avian habitat Birdlink, by Anina Gerchick, Associate ASLA, is to get a fraction of them to linger in the city for a bit.

Birdlink is an assemblage of stair-step bamboo and gabion planters stacked almost a dozen feet high, and intended to offer food and habitats for birds and other pollinators in urban areas outside major wildlife hubs such as Central Park or Jamaica Bay on Long Island. If you look closely, you’ll see bird varieties that shift with the seasons, as tides of migratory birds arrive and depart in New York City. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The Promenade at the Metropolitan is a 40,000-square-foot park space serving a mixed-use multifamily building. Photo by Design Collective/Jennifer Hughes.

The developer James Rouse planned Columbia, Maryland, as a tabula rasa New Town in the 1960s, including ample green space woven throughout, a robust public realm, racially integrated housing, and the ability to make a tidy profit. In many ways, this ambition was realized, but with one important exception: the lack of a lively downtown. An inward-facing mall sits at Columbia’s center, looped by a small ring road, but the city has struggled to bring activity back to its center in recent years.

Just across from the mall’s ring road is the Metropolitan, downtown Columbia’s first mixed-use multifamily residential complex. Its signature amenity is a 40,000-square-foot open space called the Promenade, a hybrid playscape and rain garden intended to be a didactic showcase for stormwater retention and native plantings. (The project won a Merit Award from ASLA Maryland last year). The Promenade encourages kids to have some rambunctious fun while learning a thing or two about how these landscapes can shepherd rainwater from the sky to the ground. (more…)

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BY JARED BREY

A landscape design course for Ohio middle schoolers could open new doors to the profession.

FROM THE JUNE 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE. 

 

Scott Mental is a sculptor and middle school teacher from Chagrin Falls, Ohio, a southeast suburb of Cleveland. Mental now lives and works about 65 miles due north of Columbus in a place called Bucyrus, which the mayor likes to call “the small city in the middle of everywhere.”

Between Chagrin Falls and Bucyrus, Mental made a few pit stops. In 2007, he earned a bachelor of fine arts in sculpture from Northern Michigan University. He stayed there until 2009 to work on a master’s in public administration, which he finished in 2010. Then he got an MFA in sculpture from the University of South Carolina in 2012 and, finally, a master’s in art education from Case Western Reserve University in 2015. At Bucyrus Middle School, where he has worked since 2015, his range of activities has not narrowed: He teaches art, coaches football and baseball, and advises both the art club and the yearbook committee.

In 2017, after the Bucyrus City Schools administration invited its staff to propose their own curricula for elective courses, Mental began leading a course in landscape design for seventh and eighth graders. (more…)

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BY JENNIFER REUT / PHOTOGRAPHY FROM THE PLANTHUNTER BY DANIEL SHIPP

The Planthunter finds an audience searching for connections between people and plants.

FROM THE MAY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE. 

 

The Planthunter, despite its adventuresome name, is not about seeking bromeliads in the wilds, except that it kind of is. A web publication and now a book just out from Timber Press, The Planthunter is a platform for a community of designers and artists who have congregated around the landscape designer and writer Georgina Reid, and her aspiration to create a space where the many shades of our relationship with gardening could be unpacked. The Planthunter is for those who seek not specimen plants but a place to question the culture of people and plants.

Reid is based in New South Wales, Australia. She began looking for ways to upend her thinking after she had been designing gardens for about a decade and found herself frustrated with the publications she was reading. “I just got to a point where I was asking a lot of questions about gardens and design,” Reid says. “If you had a gardening magazine, you were being very practical and very horticultural, and there didn’t seem to be room to explore the wider context of plants and gardens in relation to culture and in relation to art design.”

“But there were no real conversations happening around why we garden.” (more…)

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