Cascading plantings of fragrant herbs echo the architectural form of the water element pictured below.
Photos: Alice Joyce except where noted.
Suggesting sanctuary, an array of small-scale buildings line up along a walkway. A bold rectangular opening entices me to enter, where I find an interior that capitalizes on a play of light and shadow created by a slat roof, while the floor wears a carpet of Scotch moss.
Entering one such space, you see water flowing gently over an inclined wall, while directly across the way, its counterpart achieves drama with a decidedly vigorous deluge over a stepped surface.
On a recent journey, I set off on a pilgrimage to
Parc André Citröen, an inspiring representation of a
contemporary landscape design by Alain Provost and
Gilles Clement. The park rose up in the southwest corner of Paris in the Javel neighborhood, a site appropriated as part of the city's urban renewal efforts, after the closure of the Citröen car factory.
Away from the well-trod tourist paths, the park has won praise (and criticism, alike) for the forward-looking aspects of its design: A complex geometric layout full of surprising juxtapositions and horticultural interest.
Elements of cool postmodern style appear as architectural devices, defining the character of discrete spaces. At the same time, sequestered areas are given over to lush planting schemes and shaded allées, fostering a sense of intimacy.
PHOTO © ALICE JOYCE
The parkland extends over 30 acres, and futuristic bent aside, its plan encourages visitors to linger amid open areas of lawn, a bamboo grove, and a rock garden.
Large-scale water features call to mind
the aesthetic fountains and pools of
classical landscapes, while inducing
young and old to relax and refresh.
Arranged on an axis perpendicular to the Seine, the totality of the park is oriented to echo the order of historic Parisian parks farther upriver.
The overall design concept puts into play a sense of contrast, advancing from obviously man-made configurations to areas meant to reveal the spirit of untouched, natural places.
At the heart of the park is a sprawling grassy expanse set off by a wall of clipped hedges and promenade evocative of formal French gardens. Opposite this central greensward, a sloping plaza of gleaming stone looks out onto two vast glasshouses flanking a fountain programmed with leaping water jets.
Moving on, a series of small theme gardens emerges, revealing a richness of shrubs, specimen trees and perennials. Unusual plant material is noteworthy in creating atmospheric garden spaces, such as the Jardin Blanc & Jardin Noir. A tunnel passage signals the transition to another color-themed space, accented with blue salvias, fragrant mints, California lilacs, a wisteria-draped arbor, and a pergola cloaked in my favorite variegated porcelainberry vine melded with clematis.
At another juncture, towering mirrored-glass buildings are partnered with a long reflecting canal. The crisp outlines of the adjacent hedges restate the angular facades.
A sunken outdoor room of ample proportions exhibits careful planning. The five walls reveal a subtle pattern of divided stone segments with scores of diamond-shaped water spouts, arranged at a mid-point as embellishment. On the ground, vegetation takes the place of stone cutouts, and grass creates a zigzag effect where it abuts the hard surface.
Controversy about the park and its design continues, so look for more to follow on BayAreaTendrils.
When in Paris... the park is located in the 15th arrondisement: Metro stop Balard or Javel.