of moon gardens and men


Visualisation of the entrance courtyard (1)

should probably add some notes but its been a mad week and i’m tired. one thing springs to mind. following Christines notes about water fall, it could be important to work a drainage scheme into the design, in which case we’d need to find out what gradients (if any) are present. i suspect site conditions are going to place restrctions on our planting scheme, esp if we want to stick to the white theme, but thats something i’d like to work out once i’ve got the layout nailed. (besides, i suspect out of the three of us Tom is the most proficient plantsman!)

all comments/criticisms welcome, by the way!

27 thoughts on “of moon gardens and men

  1. Stefan Post author

    oh, and the park section of the design is around the corner, out of sight, apart from a hint of what is to come. i’ve tried to arrange the elements so that people are drawn off the street and then tempted to investigate further.

  2. Christine

    Hey Stefan I think two things are necessary:

    1. That we exchange sketches so that we both have some idea of the conceptual directions we are both taking….We need work in creative fustion.

    a) The underlying idea of the moon garden is that the layout is strictly geometric [see various Moon Garden articles]. This is so the water can reflect the movement of the moon across the night sky.
    b) I have been thinking about an overlay which is off grid [similar to what you have here] i) to deal with irregularities in the site; ii) to allow for flexibility in the design and iii) to do as you have above…to draw people off the street and to tempt them to investigate further.
    c) I have also been investigating the surrounding area and the idea of a green pathway from the Thames through various greenspaces to the site via the informal entry (see your site diagram) then onto the street & to the tube station. [It would also work in reverse.] As part of the pathway idea I would like to incorporate the historic bear steps (which were said to be near the Thames) and reference to the bear garden…if I could find out where in Southwark it was originally located.
    d) I have been investigating the pathway across the Thames on the new Blackfriar’s Station down Blackfriar’s Road. I have been trying to build up a picture of the streetscape and the buildings which line it. At the far end of Blackfriar’s Road there is street planting….we may be able to pick up on this in some way. Aslo Martha Schwartz’s study and comments on the Blackfriar’s area may be useful.

    2. I really need site measurements and some idea of what is occurring in the buildings bordering the site….DO YOU HAVE THESE?

    a) The wine bar may be able to be incorporated in some way with existing functions
    b) There may be other ways to connect to visually or enter or leave physically from the site
    c) We can be selective about what we screen and what we reveal of the surrounding areas.

    This is particularly so if all we have a visual reference for is the entrance to the site. The site itself seems to be quite a large area. From the placement of the ‘tag’ at the front left of the photograph…the lower perimetre wall seems to be around 1.8-2.4m tall. But I really can’t be sure about this.

    This is the reason why my concepts are so imprecise at this stage…..

    Oh, re the water….yes it might be worth thinking conceptually about a flooded site…

  3. stefan

    yes please, send me your sketches. perhaps you can email them to me through landartbasics? the drawing above is just an opening shot really, along with some rough plans, which i came up with to help me get a feel for the space.

    if the idea is for the water to trace the moon across the sky, then i agree, a flooded site could be the way to go. it would simplify the planting too. water lilies and irises with hostas for the shadier locations?

    as a rule, i don’t like total geometry in the landscape. i think its one of those architectural ideas that doesnt necessarily translate, unless youre using geometry to throw the natural elements into relief. the reason i never liked Dan Kileys work.

    “hey folks, this time lets do everything in the form of a grid, just for a change…”

    but, i’m willing to be proved wrong.

    measurements i,e estimated at the moments, figuring like you, the bottom building was somewhere above 1.8m. would plans be available from a local library, perhaps on a OS map?

    perhaps your green pathway could turn into a raised wooden walkway when it reaches the flooded square, something like a pier, with plants pushing up between the planks?

    ps. no intention to be sexist, its just ‘of moon gardens and people’ didn’t scan. i meant men in the sense of general humanity of course …

  4. stefan

    consideration. the more of the site is open water, the less of course is usable space. as a reflective surface, are metal and glass viable options? i believe you can get glass now textured enough to be non slip

  5. Christine


    Will have to scan sketches before I email them. May take me a few days or so to get to do this.

    In the interim have spotted some white terrazzo pots being used by a florist. Just the thing!!
    They could also be used as the base for the seating and vertical lighting/planting. And any other element you can imagine…

    I think Element 3 [lighting/planting] could be worked up into an amazing industrial designed element which could have pieces which ‘click’ on and off to fulfill different functions.

    ie. It could be a lighting/planting element on the perimetre and be used within the space as a setting light for the wine garden tables. On very hot days it could convert to an outdoor umbrella by the addition of a top extension & shade…..

    I think Element 4 [fountain] could be placed in the middle of the garden (or near to) to reflect the moon at rest at its zenith. (Shall we ask Tom to do some star gazing for us?) I was thinking of the design as a hollow out square of black granite. At night the fountain would be switched off so this element would be a reflecting pool only. At day in could be a fountain with a fine spouts of water densely arranged in a cube of water spray mirroring the base.

    In winter at sub-zero temperatures this surface would freeze over {with a little cooling assistance if required) and become the centre of an outdoor ice bar. If we decide to flood the site we might have an ice rink!!!

    In summer if the temperature heats up to be as warm as Portugal the fountain could be designed to have a seated rim inside (like a spa bath or plunge tub). It could then become a fabulous place to cool off rather than just melt (with a little cooling assistance try keeping people away)!!

    Re: the reflective surface….I think I read in the moon garden article of the necessity for a black surface…she spoke about the sea with its high salt content as being the most ideal. Maybe we need an inky black lined salt water pool….(but don’t know how salt water & fountains go together? I imagine not well.)

    Oh. And the white plants if possible will be selected to open and be visible in the moonlight! {This one is for Tom!)

  6. Christine

    ps. As to the grid. It actually comes from the traditional idea of the moon garden (in India). See the moon garden article! The idea of off-grid…is the now element. (But we don’t need to be strict either about the grid or the non-grid, as the ideas evolve I am sure all of this will fall into place.)

    Apart from the lilies I had also being thinking fish….but not snap frozen or baked!! [See Carlo Scarpa – http://phillipsgarden.wordpress.com/category/landscape-inspirations/%5D So maybe an aquarium under a glass floor in the glass cube wine bar? (In favourable weather they might have an outside pool aslo?) Depending on the weather/time of day/function etc: the wine bar could contract into the glass cube…or expand into and fill the garden space…..

  7. stefan

    ha. okay i will read the article and return more educated and prepared.

    i think its important that this garden is just as attracive during the day as it is at night, and we figure out just how much use it will get during the evening and small hours. will there be anyone there to see the moons reflection? (and if the moon reflects with no one to see it, does it really exist .. etc)

  8. Tom Turner

    I enjoy star-gazing, but what about a canopy to make the users more comfortable. There is an example in Bishop’s square http://www.gardenvisit.com/landscape_architecture/london_landscape_architecture/visitors_guide/bishops_square_spitalfields but it would be better glazed than canvas.
    As for bringing the moon into the garden, there is a lot of trouble with light pollution in London so what about using a video camera to put the image on a screen.
    Thinking of the Mahtab Bagh http://www.gardenvisit.com/garden/mahtab_bagh-moonlight_garden one of the big attractions was the scent. So why not have a night-time flower market, like Columbia Road Market? City workers could assuage their guilt by taking home flowers for their partners! http://www.gardenvisit.com/garden/columbia_road_flower_market

  9. Christine

    I would be disappointed if we didn’t manage to star gaze! Night sky chart for London….[http://www.astroviewer.com/current-night-sky.php?city=London&lat=51.52&lon=-0.1&tz=WET]

    “In central London going to a park will be your best bet, as there is just too much light around otherwise.

    “But with the naked eye, if you find a large open space to block out streetlights, you should be able to spot everything.

    “If you have a telescope, it’s also an amazing night to be out looking because as well as the five planets in an almost perfect straight line, there will be two comets visible. It should be pretty spectacular.”

    SO DESIGNING THE ILLUMINATION LEVELS FOR THE SITE, promoting ‘lights off nights’ and providing a telescope and projection onto the building beneath the water curtain [See Element One in a Landscape of Ambiguity]so as not to disappoint -might be the way to go?

    I have been thinking of protecting, people, plants, fish (other delicate things) by providing a glass cube to be used as a wine bar. Although it has a contemporary aesthetic [http://www.gimav.it/glassinstyle/aprile08_n2/tecnology.pdf]the glass cube structure and space is conceived of as being an evolution of the classical glasshouse.

    The idea of a flower market (in the early evening?)is a good one! So…do Londoner’s forget anniversaries too?

  10. Tom Turner

    Assuming the courtyard to be shady and rather windy, because of the high buildings, here are some suggestions for a ‘scented moonlight garden’
    Astelia chathamica ‘Silver Spear’
    Jasmine officinale affine – needs wires
    Hosta sieboldiana elegans
    Nicotiana affinis Fragrant Cloud (annual night scented)
    Sarcococca humilis
    Trachelospermum jasminoides – needs wires
    Dicentra spectabilis Alba
    Pachyphragma macrophyllum
    Aruncus aethusifolius underplanted with snowdrops – Galanthus atkinsii
    Aquilegia Nivea
    Hydrangea arborescens Annabel
    Google image searches will provide illustrations and information

  11. stefan

    is there so much light pollution that you can’t always see the moon? or is it just that the pollution would get in the way of the reflection?
    and wouldn’t this render a layout that traced the path of the moon across the sky redundant? (i hope not, i wanted to discuss the idea of fractured geometries!). it would be very disappointing to watch the moon on video, too much of a secondhand experience.

  12. Tom Turner

    You are right: it is the stars, not the moon, which are obscured by light pollution. Re the video, I agree. My first thought was of a camera obscura but then I wondered about putting a camera at the end of a telescope (eg in the Greenwich Observatory) and letting people have the benefit of magnification and a star view. I find stars much more interesting than the moon – and wish they would cancel the manned space programme in favour of more and bigger space telescopes. Mars does not seem half as interesting as the Sahara desert but distant stars are of fabulous interest and it is a pity we only see them in still and recorded photographs.

  13. Christine

    Jennifer Kay Zell in her MA Landscape thesis ‘The Art of Perception Robert Irwin’s Central Garden at the J P Getty Centre’ (2007) discusses the use of modernist and postmodernist philosophies in architecture and landscape.

    Zell says Peter Eisenman called Philip Johnson “the last architect of the Enlightenment.”

    In 1954 in a lecture to Harvard University architecture students Johnson listed what he considered to be the seven crutches of modern architecture:

    1) The crutch of history or historical precedence – abandoned already by 1954
    2) The crutch of the pretty drawing – the dominance of a clear plan and clear expression
    3) The crutch of utility – if a building works it is good architecture
    4) The crutch of comfort – relying on environmental controls to make architecture
    5) the crutch of cheapness – a low budget excuses bad architecture
    6) the crutch of serving the client – as opposed to the art of architecture
    7) the crutch of structure – pursuing structural form and missing human need

    These are the points where postmodernism is said to diverge from modernism.

    She says Marc Trieb in his essays ‘Axioms of for a Modern Landscape Architecture’ (a denial of historical style) embraces a functionalist approach to landscape design, taking as its premise the existing conditions of the site and program.

    “Modernisms culture of an everpresent now has created what the postmodern architect Jacques Derrida described as ‘a culture of glass’ where the traces of history and the human are erased. The notion of postmodernism recognised that history is fragmented and relative to the position of the viewer or historian.”

  14. stefan

    fractured geometry – my thought was to lay out a geometrical groundplan, then run some desire lines through it to see how they break it up, get an effect that appears haphazard but relates to how the site is used

  15. stefan

    ok. having just seen Toms photos of the site, agree that it is dismal. as shady as we feared.
    i think during the day it will be too cold to use as a park, and possibly unsafe at night, depending on the success of the wine bar (which could go out of business you never know). i know that seems negative, but i’d like to go back and look at the best use for the space (which could be a car park!)

    car park during the day, moon garden at night?

    or as suggested by both of you earlier, a raised garden, with the car park underneath? at least that way the garden would get some light.

  16. Tom Turner

    Several thoughts:
    1) I have a friend who says that ‘if developers prefer building on greenfield sites when we should green-up brownfield sites to give them the pleasure of removing the greenery’
    2) Olympia and York made a success of Battery Park City by installing the greenspace (ie the Park) as a way of making the site attractive to building developers
    3) UK developers are scared of ‘temporary gardens’ because people get to like them so much that they never get permission for the building development. This is pretty much what happened to http://www.gardenvisit.com/garden/phoenix_garden
    4) So it could become a feature of the urban redevelopment process that temporary gardens are made in the sure and certain hope of being resurrected as roof gardens. Site owners could develop ground gardens as a way of advertising the high quality of the roof garden which will be available when the development is completed.
    5) It is an obvious necessity that future buildings will have roof gardens. For the reasons, see http://www.gardenvisit.com/garden_products/structures_shed_building/roof_gardens
    6) However I also agree that ‘car park during the day, moon garden at night’ could work – a bit like the acid house parties of the unlamented 1960s! They used to take place in disused warehouses, I think.

  17. Christine

    The photos suggest the site is truly a challenge! [Not much going for it aesthetically] But there are some positives; a few trees, the hotel, a few of the surrounding buildings, as well as an interesting location in the city fabric….AND just think of the impact we will make by creating a garden in an otherwise fairly bleak area! Perhaps we may encourage green to creep into all the surrounding spaces/places?

    Why not have underground parking (if we assume we are to put back the car spaces we are replacing) and raise the new development (which will also cast shadows on the surroundings)on ‘pilotis’?

    Let the garden flow across the site…..true to Corb Modernist principles. Perhaps the pilotis (and they need not be assumed to be square, circular etc) can be enclosed with glazed walls which can open up in fine weather and provide a canopy to deflect winds off the surface of the new development from the pedestrian spaces below? Maybe we can locate the hub of the wine bar here?

    Then lets be Postmodern about it all and say we will have a roof garden as well. (either/or and both!)

    It is worth noting the following about the urban environment AT GROUND LEVEL we are creating;

    “While the addition of high buildings increases the density of the built up area, their impact can, in effect, be to increase substantially the overall urban wind speed. However, with specific arrangements, the high rise building can block the wind and reduce appreciably the wind speed in the urban area as a whole if this is desired.

    The flow pattern around a highrise building depends on several factors;
    a) the geometrical configuration of the building, expressed in a ratio of its height to its width (H/W)
    b) whether the upwind facade is flat, concave or convex
    c) the existence of lower buildings upwind from and on the sides of the highrise
    d) the wind direction with respect to the facades of the building
    e) specific design details of the highrise itself.”

    Baruch Givoni Climate Considerations in Building and Urban Design p294

    While AT ROOF LEVEL the wind experienced in this environment can depend, amongst other factors, on the elevation or height above ground of the roof garden, the design/shape of the building on which it is located as well as the surrounding buildings (whether they are low or highrise, their shape and the direction they face relative to the wind.)

    Tom do you want to make some assumptions about this for us?

  18. Christine

    Ironically while being postmodern about having the roof garden (as well) we are also being modern.

    From Corbusier’s 5 points of architecture exemplifed at Villa Savoye:

    Point 1
    The pilotis, or ground-level supporting columns, elevate the building from the damp earth allowing the garden to flow beneath. Photos @[http://www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/france/poissy/savoye/corbu.html]

    Point 2
    A flat roof terrace reclaims the area of the building site for URBAN purposes, including a garden area. Photos @ [http://www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/france/poissy/savoye/corbu7.html]

  19. stefan

    so the garden will for the most part, be under a new development? will it get any light at all?

    seems to me we have three proposals

    Tom – create a garden at ground level that can be rebuilt as a roof garden if development takes place

    Stefan – raise the garden above the existing car park on a series of terraces

    Christine – develop the site, raising the building so the garden flows underneath

    perhaps we can put it to some sort of public vote!

  20. Tom Turner

    I don’t want to argue against either of the alternatives but I am willing to say a little more in favour of my own proposal! I think it provides (1) a garden which can be made at once (2) a garden which can have a Corbusian future – in the sky! (3) a garden which can supply a new model for the urban development process, without plunging sites into the despondency and despair of ‘land awaiting development’ (4) I like the idea of a semi-demountable garden which can be packed up when the site is developed and re-used when it is complete. The demountable elements could include a filigree canopy and luxurious outdoor furniture.
    I see no need to retain the car parking in any form. It is just a temporary land use and with the site having excellent public transport the planners should refuse permission for any development which includes car parking.
    Re the microclimate, I think you need to assume (1) it is too cold and too dark at present (hence the need for a glazed and planted canopy) (2) it will be too bright and too windy when it is at roof level (hence the need for a glazed and planted canopy – this time with a brise soleil facility)
    With regard to the design, my suggestion is simple: rectilinear at ground level to allow for posts, tables etc (2) curvilinear at canopy level to bring down the swirling heavens. But of course: the moon has to be brought down, maybe with a moon pool a moon gate and a moon table linking earth and sky!

  21. Christine

    Re (1) could we attempt to bring light into the site by series of creative strategies?
    (2) how high up are we actually going (once the site is developed)?
    (3) a semi-demountable ‘Chelsea style’ garden perhaps?
    (4) design..for the building?…what is a moon table? [http://www.trucdesign.com/index.php/?Furnitures] Or a table outlining the phases of the moon?

  22. Christine

    Not really.

    The wine bar concept came out of the location of the site in an inner city area where the notion of having a drink after work is a realistic one. From the beginning the idea was to create an ambiguous space ie. is it landscape or architecture? (This is already embodied in the idea of a wine bar located [semi]out of doors. What needs to be achieved is a space that works equally well when activated with people or just as a contemplative garden for one person to look onto from above.

    The moon garden concept came from the idea of a 24hr useage of the site that gave equal and balanced priority to what needs to be achieved within a garden, rather than just a functional interior architecture space.

    All my favourite designs arise from highly constrained and challenging sites/design problems – that’s half the fun! (Perhaps our biggest challenge at present is loosing the integration of the concept. We will need to work hard on not losing that!)

  23. stefan

    perhaps, i tend to be over critical. afraid i’m the sort who sees all the problems before they see the solutions, which makes me sound negative.

    also, i’m used to hammering out a form, then figuring out what it ‘means’ – which most people think is backwards, but what can you do! probably good that we’re attacking the design from all sides.


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