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Archive for December, 2013

James Turrell Skyspace

Happy Solstice everyone. This seems somewhat solstice-appropriate. While I was working on my friend’s project in San Francisco, I went by the James Turrell skyspace at the De Young several times. Titled Three Gems, it’s a little dome with a hole in the roof for viewing the sky. The acoustics are very cool and, after you sit for a while, the blue sky showing through the aperture seems just as much a physical thing as the concrete roof.

The feeling of the space, staring up at the sky, reminds me of the giant Cor-ten double-moebius by Richard Serra that I posted about a couple of years ago. There’s a nice photo on the De Young site that shows the aperture, the circle of cast light, the doorway, and the stone circle in the center of the space all together in a single photo without too much lens distortion, but I also like the simple flattened image of the aperture when it is stripped of context. It feels quite abstract and flattened in person, too, after you stare up at it for a while.

A great long article about Turrell.

Healthy Joints

Sort of an interesting before and after on this patio. I did a design for the backyard of a rental property a friend of mine owns, one of those San Francisco backyards that you can only access by walking through the building. A general contractor — or rather the guys he delegates everything to — did the installation. I tried to keep everything really simple, designing the patio as a simple square made up of 24″ x 36″ Connecticut Blue rectangles, an easy material to install which is also quite cost effective because it is so easy to install.

The contractor’s crew butted the stones up against each other as if they were pavers. You can do that with some stones, but these are a little too irregular. I’m not sure how bad it looks in the photos, but in person it didn’t quite look right. It looked almost right, and my friend signed off on it, but it bothered me enough to spend a couple of hours fixing it, spreading the stones to give them the quarter=inch-wide joint that I’d spec’d. No doubt it’s partly just my personal preference, but it looks much better with the joint.

With the stones butted together, your eye is drawn to the places where the stones don’t match up perfectly. With the joint absorbing the irregularity, your eye lands on the stones themselves.

Giving the patio a DG joint also helped it match better with the stepping stone path leading to the patio.

A couple of before photos. The garden used to have a lot of roses and fruit trees before the owner passed away and everything fell into neglect. There were several grape vines, which confused me at first because there was little chance of them fruiting in that part of San Francisco, but I think they were grown to use the leaves for dolmas.

For now, we only installed the larger plants in the design and sheet mulched around them in an effort to suppress oxalis. The plants are nice but fairly common — a Fernleaf Japanese Maple, a Lemon tree, a Star Magnolia, a Variegated Buckthorn hedge, Spiraea, some groundcovers — but if a gardener moves in and embellishes the plantings it could be a sweet space.

5 Years Old

Happy birthday to DryStoneGarden. This blog is now five years old. I use the word ‘old’ because at this point keeping a blog does feel like an old-fashioned thing. This year especially, I’ve seen a lot of other garden blogs stop posting. Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Pinterest, and all those other platforms seem to have siphoned off a lot activity. Which is a shame. Those platforms all have their merits, and I’ve dabbled in some of them, but I’m actually really glad that I haven’t shifted to any of them, that I still host my own content on my own website. A blog is still a great way to collect thoughts, photos, drawings, info, links, and any other content that seems worth posting. Maintaining this site has directly increased my knowledge about those core subjects that interest me — stone, plants, native plants, gardens, and landscapes — and I regularly find myself using the links in my sidebar or going back into the archive for images or links to help with my design work. I’ve also learned a lot from other bloggers and just wish more of my favorite ones were still posting. I appreciate everyone who has commented or linked or just been a reader throughout the years. Keep reading, I’ll keep posting.

— Addendum 12/14/13 —

Perhaps because of the five year birthday, this map of the online world (full size here) at xkcd.com had me geeking out enough to spend time trying to decide where this blog and where the garden blog world in general would belong on the map. Probably a peninsula on the island of Photoblogs, though possibly in the Diary Blog or Miscellaneous Blog territories or even an unnamed island near (but not quite in) the Sea of Zero (0) Comments.

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