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BY LAUREN MANDEL, ASLA

Artist Zaria Forman’s large-scale pastels describe a vanishing Antarctic.

FROM THE AUGUST 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

The Brooklyn-based artist Zaria Forman draws in fine detail to capture expansive corners of the Earth. Her large-scale, hyperrealistic pastel works feature, most recently, Antarctic landscapes affected by climate change. “I’m trying to offer people a time and a place to connect with these very far-flung places,” Forman says. “If they can fall in love with [these places] in a similar way that I have, then that will lead them to want to protect and preserve them.” Forman has been completing a drawing series and video installation for an upcoming solo exhibition, Antarctica, inspired by her first trip to the polar continent as an artist in residence aboard the National Geographic Explorer in winter 2015.

Whale Bay, Antarctica no. 4 captures the fragility of a remote harbor off the Antarctic Peninsula that is filled with melting icebergs that calved, drifted, and ran aground on the shallow seafloor. Forman says that as the icebergs melt, “it’s like the wind and the water are just hands, just making these most incredible shapes that you can’t even conceive of until you’re there.” Bays that enclose icebergs like these are called iceberg graveyards, a term that “captures the eerie solemnity of the site,” Forman says, “but (more…)

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BY MIMI ZEIGER

A new biography of James Rose explores his difficult brilliance.

FROM THE AUGUST 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

“Words! Can we ever untangle them?” reads James Rose’s opening salvo in Pencil Points. Appearing in the definitive journal of modernist design thought, the landscape designer’s 1939 essay rejects preconceived ideas of formal or informal design and makes the case for an organic and materials-based approach—an argument approaching revelation at a time when Beaux-Arts methodologies held sway.

Reading the text today, Rose’s words cut through the decades, carrying with them equal doses of wit, creativity, and frustration with the status quo. An uncompromising designer from his time in and out of Harvard (he was expelled in 1937, later returned but never graduated) to his death in 1991, Rose is the subject of the latest volume of the Masters of Modern Landscape Design series published in association with the Library of American Landscape History and the University of Georgia Press. It’s the first biography dedicated to the landscape architect, who although a prolific writer throughout his career and author of four of his own books, has yet to receive the kind of canonical recognition bestowed on his Harvard classmates Garrett Eckbo and Dan Kiley.

As director of the James Rose Center for Landscape Architectural Research and Design—a nonprofit located at Rose’s Ridgewood, New Jersey, home—the book’s author, Dean Cardasis, FASLA, is well-placed to untangle the competing forces of Rose’s career. Few of Rose’s works survive in their original form, and a spare eight are presented as illustrated case studies—a fraction of the more than 80 projects produced in his lifetime. Much of the book is devoted to advocating for Rose’s achievements while trying to (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Witness Walls is composed of two different types of concrete walls, one with soft, impressionistic imagery and the other with sharper image contrasts. Photo by Stacey Irvin.

Many cities where African Americans fought for equality in the 1950s and 1960s are associated with violence: Selma, Memphis, Birmingham. Nashville wasn’t such a place. Its civil rights story was nonviolent and “so successful we don’t know about it,” says the landscape architect Walter Hood, ASLA, who was asked to commemorate this history with a public art installation.

Nashville was a leader in civil rights. It desegregated its public schools relatively early, in 1957, and its activist community and local pastors offered the same suite of training and conditioning for student protestors that many southern cities did. After a historic protest, then-Mayor Ben West was forced to desegregate the city’s lunch counters.

The site of this protest is now home to a commemorative public art and landscape installation by Walter Hood: Witness Walls, for the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, completed in April. It’s the city’s first (more…)

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Martha Schwartz, FASLA, began her lecture last fall at the University of Southern California School of Architecture with a dire warning, and an invitation to play.

In “Beyond Practice” (her comments start at 13:08), she began by outlining the ecological imperative that climate change and carbon emissions place on landscape designers and the rest of the world: the exceptionally long tail of ocean warming, and methane bubbles released from melting permafrost that clog the atmosphere.

From there, it’s a quick exposition of Schwartz’s carefree straddling of the art and landscape architecture worlds. She recounts her 1979 Bagel Garden, when she designed the garden at her Boston home with only materials she could purchase on her block: bagels, purple flowers, and purple aquarium gravel. That act of strident whimsy prompted LAM editor Grady Clay to put this project on his magazine’s cover, bordered in neon pink and hand-drawn bagels. It was an early curation of “native” landscape materials combined with boundary-pushing art installations. “It’s a Dada piece. It’s Duchamp’s toilet,” she says. And it also made her name in landscape architecture.

A survey of Schwartz’s contemporary work (detailed further in this month’s cover story) demonstrates her continued emphasis on offering users quirky art objects to interact with, such as the train-cart seating at Manchester’s Exchange Square, and the gawking polygonal pavilions at Fengming Mountain Park in the Chinese city of Chongqing. This narrow slice of her work shows off a wild range of cultural conditions and aesthetic treatments. There are gritty, postindustral reuses, razor-sharp Libeskind-esque angles, and meditative contemplations of vernacular materials and forms.

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BY SARAH COWLES

In this installation by Terremoto, a carpet of pavers leads from the Rudolph M. Schindler Studio of the Schindler House into the courtyard, terminating in a circle of prickly pear cactus. Photo by Joshua White.

 A group exhibition of landscape architecture at the Schindler House, co-curated by Mia Lehrer and Priscilla Fraser.

Every May in Los Angeles, men in orange whack back the dry, gold grass, making a mandated measure of defensible space in a landscape of fires, earthquakes, and landslides. This year, though, brought relieving rains. The Hollywood Hills came in green after years of severe drought, yet the message remained fixed: We must continue to cut back, tear out this and put in that, and mulch it over with colored gravel.

In flush times, it is irresponsible to deny water to our gardens; in dry times, we are guilty if we indulge them. This austerity imperative severs our intimate connections to the land. Edicts are always prefixed with “low”: low-water, low-maintenance, low-impact, which is said to require merely an aesthetic attitude adjustment. Yet all this lowing denies us the everyday tending practices and attentions; our attention to growth, flowering, decay; our ability to watch a sweet-pea tendril spiral or to inhale the scent of wet soils.

The temptation is to flip the script: Be a lush. Resist the conservatism of conservation. Practice a radical (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

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The linear art installation SWA designed for Houston’s Highway 59/Interstate 69 bridges came with two important traffic safety stipulations: no words, and no faces (so as not to distract the drivers zipping by).

Natalia Beard, the lead designer, came up with a pixelated vision of bright colors splashing across several 300-foot sections of chain-link fence along the sidewalk of the elevated freeway. The linear imagery (called “Houston Bridges”) tracks the velocity and movement of the freeway. It gives you enough depth to ponder when stuck in traffic. The images came from photos by Houston schoolchildren, digitally turned into jubilant checkerboards of neon color.

This smoke-stained stretch of highway, which connects Houston’s downtown to its primary airport, is (more…)

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The artist and landscape designer Patricia Johanson sees her ecologically driven, site-specific artworks as a way to weave together two disciplines that seemed to have parted ways a long time ago: science and art. She imagines them to be “parallel explorations” that share the same goal (exploring and interpreting the world), gone about in different ways. “In a way, we’re like inchworms,” she says in an interview from 2010. “We’re out on a twig, feeling around, testing the air. Where do we go from here? What can we learn? And you begin to look at these things, and you begin to discover the world. I think that’s what scientists do, and I think that’s what artists do.”

Johanson grants herself the opportunity to try it both ways. Her Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility in Petaluma, California, clocks in to perform all the progressive landscape-as-infrastructure functions asked of it. It’s a sewage treatment plant, and a park with three miles of trails whose wetlands help filter and clean Petaluma’s water. It’s also a wetland wildlife habitat where visitors set up easels and sketch the landscape, part of which playfully resembles a mouse (with two beady little eyes that are islands in a pond) from above.

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