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BY TIM WATERMAN

The colonial past and the horticultural present take tea at London’s Garden Museum.

FROM THE OCTOBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Just upstream and across the River Thames from the long, neo-Gothic bulk of the Palace of Westminster, which contains the houses of Parliament and the tower that contains the bell Big Ben, are two venerable buildings that have been added to since the Middle Ages. One is Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The other is the old church of St Mary-at-Lambeth, now the home of the Garden Museum.

The Garden Museum’s main focus is British gardens and gardening, including not just the most elaborate and vaunted ones, but also a more intimate history of smaller gardens. Featured in particular are those of the middle classes, which have given Britain the sense of being a “nation of gardeners.” For landscape architects with an interest in either stately or domestic gardens in Britain, the museum, which has been recently redeveloped and now includes a building addition, two newly redesigned gardens, a superb café, and an expanded collection, will be a delight. Rather than serving, as a botanical garden might, to narrate garden history through garden spaces, the Garden Museum’s collection gives a more personal-scale view through tools and ephemera that (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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