Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Garden Without Plants - A Dialogue - the Art of Gardens


Photo: lostlandscape

I have a stacks of research material, photos, et. al, for upcoming posts, along with the demands of the garden at this time of year, and attempting to stay on top of myraid details life seems to be throwing my way this week.

Still, I'm compelled to mention a dialogue that I find mesmerizing. It's taking place on a blog I follow for its keen photographic vision, insightful aesthetic viewpoint, and appreciation for bold, beautiful plants:  Lost in the Landscape.

The April 24, '09 post,  landscaping without plants features the central plaza of the Salk Institute, designed by Louis Kahn.

To my eye, the photos by lostlandscape impart a distinctive connection with Islamic garden design. Yet in the lead photo - a singular view of Kahn's plaza - no greenery appears. 

Despite the starkness, I agree with James Golden's comment,  "I'd call it a garden even with no plants."

For Country Mouse, it's more "... like a place where nuclear fuel might be produced. By robots."
(That produced a hearty chuckle, but I'm uncertain if the spirit of fun was intentional.)

Read the entire post.  
Click on the panoramic view.  
Perhaps you'll feel compelled to join in the dialogue. 

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  1. Alice are you every at home? Always traveling to beautiful gardens....(sigh)...someone has to do it? Do you need someone to carry your camera bag?

  2. I've been to Granada, Spain, and seen that garden. The second "garden" though, looks more like something from the second Planet of the Apes movie - brutalist, concrete structures devoid of life.

  3. Actually it looks like a feed trough in a newly built feed lot to me. Way too stark - even after seeing the 'whole picture' on the other post. The orange trees soften it a bit but it's too sterile.

  4. Personally I love it! I wouldn't call it a garden though, more like a plaza. I should read the post before commenting though - maybe I'm missing a key piece of information...

    But what else is new? I mouth off...then I read...

  5. Thanks, for the link, Alice! I'm glad you included the garden at El Generalife for comparison. The space at the Salk clearly celebrates the same sort of symmetry. At the same time, the removal of the enclosing wall takes the space from an enclosed paradise to something else quite different--and to my eyes--quite wonderful. The site of the Salk is a rare one, however. Removing the wall in other locations could give you a view of a a hay barn--or a hamburger stand.

  6. I do believe, as I think lostlandscape comments on his blog, that it may be difficult if not impossible to convey great architecture, or the impact of space in a perfectly realized architectural setting without experiencing it.
    I can remember a time when I might have found the Kahn design to have a brutal aspect. But I've grown to enjoy such a wide range of aesthetic approaches to garden and landscape design, and certainly architecture.
    Recently my brother visited, and I took him to see the new de Young Museum, a Herzog/de Meuron building in Golden Gate Park. I was showing off this great building, and so was taken aback when we approached and he said, "well, that's just about the ugliest building I've seen."

  7. I'm in love with plants. Can't imagine how a garden could work without them - the second photo certainly feels like something other than a garden. I wouldn't want to spend much time there!

  8. Stark, minimal, forbidding, cold -- all words that come to mind when I look at that photo of the Salk Institute, but I can see the connection with Islamic gardens. The dead-straight runnel of water coming into the centre of the picture seems to imply the bringing of water from the desert to a garden-oasis. Only things missing are the plants to cool the air! One other thought -- it seems as if the water would evaporate from the runnel before it did much good, because it must be blistering on that plaza in summer.

  9. My landscape architect partner and I are always critting the landscaping aspect of famous buildings. In our opinion, architects need to start hiring or budgetting for some decent landscape architects or else eliminate the plantings. I guess that sounds harsh or arrogant, but so often them make fundamental mistakes or do things like plant a lawn and then put up a 'don't walk on the lawn' sign. This seems like a case where they eliminated the afterthought plantings, with great benefits.
    Not sure I'd call it a garden, but it looks great.