Monthly Archives: November 2008

Southern Cross Station in Melbourne

Can an image capture an experience? Every so often one is fortunate to have a truly unique, new and revelatory experience of architecture and space.  Southern Cross Station in Melbourne by Grimshaw’s offers such an experience.  But I have not seen  an image it would seemwhich adequately conveys the experience.
It is  interesting for architecture, landscape and urban design . Because the boundaries between built space, enclosed space and open space, inside and out are not clear, the inside bleeds into the outside and vice versa. So thankyou to Grimshaw.  Southern Cross Station is a delight to experience!

(image courtesy Ian)

Mirei Shigemori and modern Japanese garden design

Christian Tschumi has written a very useful book on Mirei Shigemori – Rebel in the Garden – Modern Landscape Architecture (Birkhauser 2007) though it puzzles me why he does not see it as a book on garden design.

Mirei Shigemori (1896–1975) wanted Japanese gardens to be modern but he did not want them to be western, despite the fact that in admiration of the west he had named his children after Immanuel Kant, Victor Hugo, Johann Goethe, Herman Cohen,  and Lord Byron – an astonishing group.  I have often admired photographs of the Moss garden at Tofuku-ji (1939), as illustrated in the Wiki article on his work. But the designs illustrated by most of the photographs in Tschumi’s book do not reach this standard and another photograph of the same garden (image, right, courtesy I-Ta Tsai) makes this point: the design is too experimental; the scale is not well judged; the geometry is unsophisticated.

Shigemori  identified three possible approaches to Japanese garden design (1) pursuit of the classical style (2) using the best of classical and modern ideas (3) creating something completely new (modernism). These policies are discussed elsewhere on this website as Similarity, Identity and Difference (SID). I support them all!

Shigemori  was an artist and a scholar whose own approach, ‘(2)’ in the above list, was certainly context-sensitive. So what went wrong? I have not seen his work except in photographs but will hazard two guesses:

  • his adoption of a western design method (design-by-drawing) detached him from the intimate craftsmanship and immaculate judgment of scale which is crucial in Japanese gardens
  • his introduction of concrete to Japan was a complete mistake – the material is inherently at odds with the wabi-sabi aesthetic and ill-suited to the interpretation of nature on which the Japanese garden depends.

Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens

“The bronze of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens is one of the most popular statues in London. He stands in a leafy glade about half way along the west bank of the Long Water. This site has a special importance for Peter Pan and was chosen for the statue by J M Barrie, the author who created him.” The statue is by Sir George Frampton, R.A., P.R.B.S. (1860-1928) and the painting is by Margaret W.Tarrant (1888—1959).  She was the only child of Percy Tarrant, a landscape painter.

All three artists understood the site and the audience.

The unwelcome legacy of Abstract Art is its abstraction from clients, places and the public.

What is sculpture?

Sound Sculpture

Sound Sculpture


There is considerable ambiguity around the idea of just what sculpture really is. There is not a clear distinction between Physical sculpture ( embedded with debates about function and form/simple and complex relationships and Sound sculpture ( which is based on the ephemeral partitioning of otherwise boundless space (and time) sometimes made visible through its partnership with water in Water sculpture. What a wondrous medium artists have been given to explore and audiences to delight in….is interpretation really essential, when what can be revealed in so much richer than a few words can begin to express?


Bougainvilleas taking over the Stupas

I came across this attractive photo and wise caption on Flickr. The Archaeological Survey of India (AIS) was set up by the British in 1871 and it looks as though their gardening staff still do apprenticeships in Britain’s parks departments. Great Indian works of art are treated with lawns, rose beds (Hybrid Teas preferred) and Bougainvillea – a native of South America. One could argue that Sanchi, as the best-oldest Buddhist site has had a massive influence on garden design, and therefore deserves this treatment. But I would rather use the photo to argue that there is an enormous need for garden designers and landscape architects to become involved with appropriate design for archaeological sites. It is far too serious a matter to be left to the whims of archaeologists, garden managers or tourism ‘experts’.

Branding the landscape

my first post for gardenvisit, so i thought i’d pose a question thats been on my mind for a while. also it ties in neatly with Toms post below.

Is there too much public art in the landscape? reports say that there has been a massive boom in public art commisions in the UK over recent years, and I’ve applied for a few of them myself! so I’m playing devils advocate here, or being a hypocrite, whatever way you want to look at it.

all the same, it seems you can’t go anywhere now without there being some sanctioned artwork there to explain the place to you – telling you what you should be thinking and explaining how you should be feeling. isnt there room any more for ambiguity, or an individual respone. can’t a place just be a place?

the adlesburgh scallop (pictured) makes a good case study. a source of recent controversy, its detractors say there is nothing wrong with the artwork itself, but its location was beautiful..more beautiful without it. it is an unnecessary detraction.

the artist says that they dont understand the work – that it was created especially for that location. the insinuation is that as an artist, her response is more valid than everyone elses. more valid than the place itself which should serve as a setting for her work.

the council say it works because it has attracted more visitors to the site. nature on its own is boring, and hard to sell. who wants to be left with only their surroundings and their own thoughts? best to give them the ‘proper interpretation’ so they can get their thoughts in order. and this i think now is the real role of public art – an exercise in branding and marketing, a logo for the landscape