Category Archives: public art

Mass protest against Greenwich Park equestrian event

Protesters shout SAVE GREENWICH PARK on 11 October 2009

Protesters shout SAVE GREENWICH PARK on 11 October 2009

We like to be first with the news. This photo was taken half an hour ago and we estimate there were over a thousand people in Greenwich Park on a wet afternoon, most of them horrified at the prospect of the damage the Olympic Equestrian Event would do to the Park. Those pounding hoofs and crowds of people would damage the Le Notre Parterre and endanger those wonderful old chestnut trees which do so much to feed Chinese chestnut pickers each autumn. See also: Restoration after 2012 Greenwich Olympic Equestrian Event and Olympic Village 2012.

First entries for Tiananmen Square Landscape Architecture Competition

Witney Hedges entry for the Tiananmen Square competition would be invisible by day and spectacular after dark

Witney Hedges entry for the Tiananmen Square competition would be invisible by day and spectacular as dusk turns to dark

The landscape architecture compeition for Tiananmen Square was announced in March 2009 and, seven months later, we are pleased to see the first entries coming in. There are still eight months to go (till June 2010) and we hope for many more. All the competition entries can be seen on Flickr, because it is a Web 2.0 design competition.  A Chinese commentator has said, in effect, ‘leave Tiananmen Square as it is: it is a ‘holy place’ belonging to the PRC and foreigners should leave it alone’. I can understand this attitude! – but the conclusion that ‘nothing should ever change’ does not follow and two of the early entries. from Witney Hedges and Henrychung, go for a ‘sensitive intervention’ approach which leaves the use and spatial character of the Square very much as they are today. Other entries, perhaps inspired by the famous Chinese architect Ma Yansong, go for a radical greening of the space. My own view is that all options should be considered and that they should be discussed both within China and outside China. Civilization, to which China has made an inestimable contribution, belongs to the whole world, not to a group of people who occupy a small geographical zone for a short period in time: they have the right and the power to decide but they can and should welcome debate.

Greening the garden sculpture

jeff-koons-bilbao-garden-sculptureHow about combining your garden and your sculpture investment and commissioning a piece of art (topiary) from Jeff Koons? The artist is responsible for this imaginative 43 foot high ‘vertical garden’ at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao in the mid-1990s.

For fire, water, air and earth see also the environmental sculpture of Elena Columbo.

Pioneering spirit

landscape-and-dance1It is said that the landscape architect Lawerence Halprin “worked closely with his wife, whose experiments with movement – in conjunction with a circle of avant-garde composers – informed his user-friendly designs.”

Halprin was keen to design participatory spaces rather than spaces that were merely aesthetic.

It is surprising, given his background was in plant sciences and horticulture before studying landscape architecture at Harvard, that he is best known for his work on public spaces. Although it is possible to surmise that his formative architectural interests and Bauhaus teachers influenced his sense of formal spatial design. and and

New ways of seeing

colourpensils1Environmental art is incredible for its ability to enable us to perceive the everyday in new ways. Art is also often a useful design tool because it assists us to describe an aspect of seeing which is otherwise difficult to illustrate.

Garden design, while sometimes surprising, usually aims at a form of contemplative delight in which our senses come to a point of rest. In Japanese garden design the concept of Ma (space) is important.

Boye de Mente in Elements of Japanese Design: Key Terms for Understanding and Using Japan’s Wabi-Sabi-Shubui  Concepts (p43) describes the concept of Ma;

Ma uses space as well as time and refers to the space time between events. It is space that is sensually as well as intellectually perceived. In the Japanese concept of things, ma gets your attention and directs your mind or thoughts along specific paths that lead to some kind of conclusion or pleasant feeling. “

Environmental art plays with the unexpected juxtaposition of the familiar and the unfamiliar to challenge our usual point of view. While illustrating, I believe, the Japanese concept of Ma this Finnish composition entitled coloured pencils has us consider our perceptions of our place and role in the world;

“finnish environmental landscape art challenges us to ponder

who we are, where we belong & what our place is

in the great universal cycle”


The sky's the limit


Vauxhall Sky gardens:

As garden-in-architecture skygardens are new to the urban design agenda. I suppose what we are talking about here when considering the introduction of skygardens into the garden and architecture typology is a form of greenhouse or biodome in the sky. Vauxhaull it would appear is a semi-private garden akin to the penthouse suite or the executive boardroom. While Fenchurch Street seems to promote public thoroughfare and viewing…even though it is not a podium space but rather akin to  garden- as- observation- deck.

Other projects are shown on  and but it will be even more interesting as the type gains popularity and skygardens become a more developed typology….

20 Fenchurch street:


Vegetated architecture


Somis Hay Barn by Studio Pali Fekete Architects in California is a great example of low tech vegetated architecture of unsurpassed elegance and poetic beauty;

The peeling away of the hale bales creates temporal change and constant evolution: “At the end of the fall when it is stacked, the hay is freshly cut and green in color. Over the following months and after the hay has dried and adopted a yellowish color, it is removed and used to feed the cattle.”

According to Architecture Week the architects drew on the philosophy of wabi-sabi – “the Japanese concept of beauty in imperfection.”

The barn’s steel structure is unchanging and modern while the cladding is traditional and constantly changing according to the seasons and use.

Source: also and

Seeing double in Dubai



New York continues to inspire with reports that an investment company in Abu Dhabi is looking for a 75% stake in one of the cities most iconic buildings the Chrysler Building. While in Dubai the impression is of seeing double…..

When Japan finally opened up to foreigners in 1854 after being “impenetrable to the western world” the fascination with Japanese gardens immediately made itself felt within English high culture and by the beginning of the twentieth century Japanese garden styles were still setting trends for popular gardens as well as inspiring a reconsideration of the early Japanoiserie gardens as cultural heritage in Britian.

Cars and garden design

How to make Britain's best loved car even better loved: say it with flowers

How to make Britain's best loved car even better loved: say it with flowers

Birmingham invented the Mini and it is appropriate that this city should teach us two important lessons about cars and garden design (1) small cars are better than large cars (2) small flowery cars are better than small flowerless cars.

Note: Bloom1 was on display in Birmingham in 2009

GF Watts Physical Energy in Kensington Gardens

George Frederick Watts Physical Energy in Kensington Gardens

George Frederick Watts Physical Energy in Kensington Gardens

I like the way GF Watts’ rampant Physical Energy seems to wave at the gilded statue of Prince Albert. Wikipedia reports that ” the 1902 large bronze statue Physical Energy, depicts a naked man on horseback shielding his eyes from the sun as he looks ahead of him. It was originally intended to be dedicated to Muhammad, Attila, Tamerlane and Genghis Khan, thought by Watts to epitomise the raw energetic will to power.” Prince Albert was an active spirit but, luckily, not on this scale.

Sissinghurst Garden Design and Management

Photogaph Philippe Leroyer

Photogaph Philippe Leroyer

BBC4 is showing a series of programmes about Sissinghurst Castle Garden. Here is a link to the first episode on the iPlayer – the link will not be active for long and there is a link to a BBC Sissinghurst webpage.  Adam Nicholson and Sarah Raven live in the family house, because Adam is Vita’s grandson, but Adam’s father (Nigel Nicholson) gave the property to the National Trust. The programme presents Adam and Sarah as enlightened visionaries able to understand the past and present. But the National Trust staff are presented as obstinate blockheads able to say little more than ‘This is the way we do it because this is the way we have always done it and this it the way we will continue to do it’.  Since the series runs to 8 episodes one can’t help wondering it the editing has been done for dramatic effect. Unless the National Trust  Blockheads are going to be seduced by sweet reason, the series is going to end up portraying the Trust as a disorganised rabble which leaves decisions to junior staff.

Sissinghurst gives me the impression of being too commercial and of having too many visitors. It this is what the National Trust wants, they should avoid the cowpats Adam wants to bring back as an aspect of traditional farming. The BBC slipped in the titbit that Vita had over 50 lesbian lovers and the Independent (28.2.09) refers to ‘the site’s fascination for today’s educated lesbians’. Adam predicts that ‘By Easter, there will be rivers of lesbians coming through the gates’.  It would be useful to know whether the return of traditional farming practices (‘cowpats’) would attract or repel the lesbians, and where Adam stands on the lesbian issue.  I look forward to Sissinghurst holding its first Gay Pride day. As they say, ‘history repeats itself as farce’.

Desert experiences

The painterly imagination

The painterly imagination

Image source:

Most depictions of the desert are of a rather unhospitable place, yet this canvas by Robert Juniper entitled ‘Desert Landscape’, is rather enticing. Juniper is a West Australian artist of “poetic and spontaneous vision” best known for his evocative landscapes. His work is represented in the collections of most major Australian galleries as well as being collected privately.

What quality of landscape does his work capture? This is not the landscape of abstract contemplation – rather ‘people’ are intimately involved in their environment….as much a part of the scene, they are coextensive with the wildlife…

Graffiti in Berlin park design

Berlin has more of a graffiti ‘problem’ than London. So much of the city is so dull that local artists are taking the problem into their own hands. But look at this: Sudgelande Natur Park, along with many other intelligent uses of public art, has let local artists adorn the ugly hunks of concrete left by engineers and architects. [Images courtesy Olivier Six and Jens Uwe Liepelt]

We are grateful to Grün Berlin for the recently uploaded photographs of Sudgelande are also pleased to have a Head Gardener’s Comment. We look forward to having Visitor Comments and  Head Gardener’s comments throughout our Garden Finder Section. It had details of 2,440 gardens on 10th December and has 2,442 places on 11th December. New entries are always welcome and we worry that some countries (eg Israel) are seriously under-represented.

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?


Henry Moore's sculpture in landscape and garden.

Henry Moore said that “I would rather have a piece of sculpture put in a landscape, almost any landscape, than in or on the most beautiful building I know.” He made a good point and when traveling by train I often think of his remark that one should not waste one’s time reading – because it is such a wonderful opportunity to look out of the window and think and think. Railway lines make a cleaner cut than roads, producing a cross-section through the land.

I very much like Moore’s sculpture in the landscape but I’m not so sure about putting it in gardens – they are are too close to ‘the most beautiful building I know’. The sculpture in Kew Gardens is a case in point. It looks right because it has a ‘landscape setting’

Post-modern Garden of Eden

Post-modern Garden of Eden

Originally uploaded by allspice1

Christine writes that:

Claus Emmeche and Steven Sampson in ‘The Garden Machine’ describe the effect of Postmodernism on art and architecture (p59);

“Today’s postmodern art and architecture also transcend the modern idea of the creating artistic subject, who in a sovereign fashion generates originals by natural creativity (art as ‘poiesis’). Instead art becomes a simulation where copies enter into a combination of significations that are actually not new, but which respresent small games that can be transmitted onwards in a time infinity of circulating signs….these metaphorical demands on the image are dissolved in a series of rituals that organises the continued simulation of art in the universal media of mass society.”

While there is an overriding sense that the ‘original’ has been lost in the overwhelming proliferation of the simulacrum: this is not necessarily true.

Australian architect Richard Francis Thorpe has an interesting analysis of the problems of Post Modernism in design in his article ‘The [im]possibility of slowness’ in UME Magazine.