DryStoneGarden

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Wurrungwuri Sculpture

The Making of Wurrungwuri – Short Documentary from Brain in Hand Productions on Vimeo.

Two posts ago, I said Andy Goldsworthy (to his credit) might be over-represented in the stonework videos I find on the web and sometimes re-post here on this blog. So here’s a video of another artist who works with stone, Chris Booth from New Zealand. A lot of his work involves stone supported by a steel armature. I sometimes struggle to fully appreciate stone that is used that way — I’m more inclined towards things like his dry-stacked homage to New Zealand’s sea stacks — but I always find it intriguing. I’d need to see this sculpture, Wurrungwuri, in person to really judge it, but a great deal of intent and technical skill obviously went into its creation. There’s info about the design and the construction at the website for the project.

Pergola Shadows

A little while back I took some photos of the cast shadows from a pair of pergolas we designed last year. The pergolas are made with rectangular aluminum tube, a little different from most of what I show on this blog, but it still follows the underlying aesthetic of my drystone work. The way the two pergolas overlap echoes the overlapping roof lines of the house, the house’s best feature, but it also overlaps the way stone in a drystone wall is supposed to overlap. Similarly, the rectangular concrete paving has the broken joints of a drystone construction. Even when I’m not designing with stone, I like to see things follow the drystone rules.

There is some stonework in this garden, but it’s not drystone and it’s built by another contractor, not by me. You can’t see it so well in the high-contrast mid-day lighting that was creating the shadows, but the courtyard has a limestone veneer, large thin slabs that are machine-cut and honed and installed with an adhesive instead of mortar and with a rubber crack-isolation layer (nicely explained in a patent application) between the stone and the underlying concrete slab. The stone has an interesting patterning and nice color variation; I’ll probably photograph it in softer light at some point after the planting has grown in.

For now, though, I’m happy with the way the cast shadows highlighted the young viburnum. The shadows on the door and on the courtyard steps were expected, but this raking line across the wall was a bonus.

A couple of before photos are below.

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Goldsworthy Arch in Grand Rapids

Arches- Andy Goldsworthy (Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park) from Dog & Pony Communications on Vimeo.

Almost fifteen years after Rivers and Tides, I wouldn’t mind seeing someone other than Andy Goldsworthy starring in a video about a dry-stone project. But it’s a tribute to his work and his uniquely charismatic persona that if you see footage of interesting stonework, there’s a good chance it will feature him.

This video has some good footage of the construction of a large dry-stone arch constructed for a sculpture park in Michigan. Dry-stone arches are always compelling and this one is the biggest I’ve ever seen.

There’s video of another of his arch projects, built for a sculpture farm in New Zealand, here.

Cycling Tahoe

I recently rode my bicycle around Lake Tahoe. I’ve been wanting to do that ride for years and figured I should do it now, while my legs are fit from my Portland-to-SF ride. It was great. You don’t see the lake quite as much as I thought, a fair bit goes through what I would characterize as alpine suburbia, and the best views are from the same vista points that I’ve known for years, but it’s a beautiful ride and a beautiful lake, one of California’s best. I made some quick sketches similar to my Portland-SF sketches.

Presidio Parklands Project Competition

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There’s a design competition for the Presidio. Five landscape architecture teams have presented concepts for what to do with the landscape after the tunnels replace Doyle Drive. You can check out the glossy renderings and give feedback on elements of the designs. SF Gate and Design Boom have write-ups on the competition. Worth checking out for anyone who visits the area with any regularity.

Update 12/10/14 — James Corner Field Operations has been selected as the designer for the project.

The Keller and Lovejoy Fountains

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‘Finally these places were for the first time designed to be used to be participatory – NOT just to look at – they say COME IN, not stay off.’ Lawrence Halprin

It’s probably become apparent over the years on this blog that I am a big fan of Lawrence Halprin’s work. So along with the Portland Japanese Garden, Halprin’s famous Portland fountains were at the top of my list of things to see in Portland.

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I loved the Keller Fountain, a tremendous space with the unmistakeable character of a Halprin landscape. My first impression was, ‘wow, how did they let this get built?’ It seems shockingly unsafe that the city lets people wade into the pools, wander along the top edge, and generally treat it like the world’s quirkiest public pool; at one point there were two dozen people scattered throughout the pools, including kids who had showed up with swimming suits and towels. I give Halprin credit: it’s hard to imagine this was ever approved by the city’s lawyers, but I’ve heard that it actually has a pretty good safety record. Like an adventure playground, it looks so obviously dangerous that people treat it with the proper respect and avoid hurting themselves. I saw one woman absolutely traumatized by the sight of her young daughter venturing close to the edge, but, after screaming at her kid to get back, she didn’t actually make the girl get out, just stay away from the danger zone. It’s too bad that things like this are so rare in our built landscapes.

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One of Halprin’s design sketches (the actual forms were designed by an architect on his staff, Angela Danadjieva, working with clay) shows a granite cliff, though the forms remind me much more of a city skyline, like a bunch of high rises pushed up against each other. But even though the forms feel human-built and urban, the overall effect is impressively evocative of a natural waterfall. Pumping 13,000 gallons of water per minute, with the resulting roar of water and spray of mist, will obviously go a long way towards creating the feel of a waterfall, but the effect was also created by the way people were scattered throughout the space, sitting at the edge of the water and wading around in the pools above the cascade.

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In the post for the Japanese Garden, I said I sometimes felt as if I were an actor hitting my marks, feeling that all of my movements had been designed or choreographed; the Keller Fountain has a few places that feel like that, such as the plinth in the photo above, clearly designed as a place for people to pose in photos (a lot like the row of statues designed for visitors at Halprin’s Roosevelt Memorial in Washington DC to pose as the next statue in line, a nice participatory element in that memorial). But most of the fountain felt like a ‘choose your own adventure’ kind of space, and if you look on google images, it’s amazing the way everyone is doing something different in every photo. There’s an impressive variety of poses and images for such a small urban space.

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I’ve heard this can look rather brutalist on an overcast winter day with the fountain turned off, but actually it looks pretty good in photos and the bare articulation of the masses really appeals to the stone guy in me.

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I also walked Halprin’s Open Space Sequence to the nearby Lovejoy Fountain and to Pettygrove Park. Both of them are nice enough, but I wasn’t as impressed as with the Keller. A couple of images for the Lovejoy are below. Read the rest of this entry »