Contemplation has been defined as thoughtful or long consideration or observation. In the East, Christian contemplation has been associated with spiritual transformation. “The process of changing from the old man of sin into the new born child of God and into our true nature as good and divine is called theosis.” The process has often been described by the metaphor of a ladder, with the acquisition of the state of hesychia or peace of the soul being the summit where the person is said to reach ‘Heaven on Earth’.
Perhaps the purpose of a public contemplative space might be to give visitor glimpses of ‘Heaven on Earth’? What might such a space look and sound like?
Natural spaces are most often associated with a sense of restfulness and peace. Water can create a sense of calm, while beauty can promote a sense of wonder.
‘The Golden Age of American Gardens’ begins “In the 1880s America’s millionaires were looking for new ways to display their new wealth, and the acquisition of a grand house with an equally grand garden became their passion.”
It is said that the style of architecture and gardens, evidenced in Lila Vanderbilt Webb’s 1886 model agricultural farm Shelburne Farm (among others) “was a mix of eclecticism and the latest advances in artistic and cultural developments as promoted in popular English style books and periodicals of the time.” The tubbed bay trees on the terraces overlooking Lake Champlain, as a consequence, were said to have been climatically challenged!
The Golden Age ended with the Jazz Age in which a distinctly American sensibility in gardens and lifestyle emerged. European influences still dominated design ideas, but new approaches were gradually emerging as is shown in the Chartes Cathedral Window Garden (photograph by Saxon Holt shown above), one of three walled gardens on the estate.
Filoli, the home of shipping heiress Lurline Roth, whose daughter debuted to jazz strains in 1939 at the property, maintains a strong jazz tradition.
Perhaps she danced to the classic‘I wish I could shimmy like my sister Kate’, said to be a charleston/belly dance fusion, and which inspired The Beatles to release a song of the same name in 1962?
It would be unfortunate to lose the distinction between  garden design and   landscape architecture much as the trend towards  interior architecture is actually unfortunate for  interior designers. The differences of focus and attention to scale provide a variety of design insights which are not replicated.
Why? Because the rich tradition of garden design is the foundation and a source of inspiration to landscape architecture, to urban design and to city design. In the future we may say more as gardens move from the  ground plane to vertical surfaces and  roofs. Parc Eduardo VII in  the city of Lisbon is an example of the axis and hedges of gardens informing the structuring of city vistas.
There is much to be said for the process of abstraction. Landscape architects, arguably coming into being with the  English landscape tradition, have evolved a language and way of working of their own, which is continually evolving. Viva la difference!
Image courtesy Artifolio
The floods have done something amazing to the inland Australian landscape that is perhaps only rivalled by the fabulously unique underwater landscapes that are rarely glimpsed by the landbound. It is a rare event that mostly only occurs in La Nina weather patterns: the overflowing of Lake Eyre.
And where is all this additional water coming from? Tropical cyclones, with their destructive winds, which develop over the Pacific Ocean as far away as Fiji. So out of natural disaster (as we call it because of our cities and human settlement patterns) comes a natural wonder.
Is there a better way for us to accommodate the cycles of nature within our human environments?
It is not often that you see a proposal for a substantial indoor garden, still less one located on an ice tundra, however this is what Leeser Architecture, (who also imagined the engaging Helix Hotel in Abu Dhabi) have proposed in their design for the World Mammoth and Permafrost Museum in Yakutsk Siberia. Yakutsk is the world’s largest city built on permafrost with temperatures ranging from -45degF to 90degF.
The extensive and intensive indoor gardens have been designed to “promote a sense of year-round natural life even in the desolate winter months.”
Not much is said of the about the construction of the landscape elements and gardens. This is a competition afterall, so details will undoubtedly be required later.
The exterior gardens are described as “naturally patterned by the effects of shifting permafrost cycles.” Cells will be planted with native grasses. Mosses and trees will be reintroduced to the landscape to reflect the existing topography and improve site hydrology.
While the interior gardens cascade “at the perimeter of the building’s interior with lush thick mats of moss and lichen” grown between a latticework of pathways.” Moss and lichen are the natural insulators of permafrost ground. The gardens have a number of important functions including to 1) add color 2) insulation value 3) filter indoor air and 4) maintain air humidity.
In one of the gardens floats a cafe, while other gardens can only be viewed from above by visitors but are accessible to researchers.
Density is much more complex than its seems. U-Thant 7 Residences in Malaysia are described as luxury “low density condominiums.” In terms of their built form they would usually be considered a medium density form of living. The context, however, is more typical of low density or even rural or semi-rural settings with a formal park-like foreground setting and a natural background setting.
Undoubtably there are many more examples of this kind. The Cultural Centre design by Paul Eluard in Cugnaux, France attempts to address the contemporary needs of an historical low density city within the landscape.
Dublin is considered to be a low density city. The economic challenges it faces and the resulting contemporary waves of youth emigration suggests that Dublin may remain low density for some time into the future.
So, are we really viewing a population redistribution in global terms with some areas de-populating and others re-populating or increasing in population? What does this trend suggest for the future of our cities, for greenspaces and for wilderness?