Western cities are full of echos Greek architecture, almost all inspired by surviving Greek temples which were built in sanctuaries and sacred groves as houses for gods. Greek temples were not buildings in which people congregated to pray, as Christians and Muslims congregate. As Vincent Scully argues, temples were located in landscapes which were sacred long before the temples were built. Often, these places also had sacred groves, comprising either wild or planted trees, before the temples were built. I therefore suggest that all those cities with echos of Greek architecture should also have sacred groves. They would be wonderful gestures to the origins of western landscape architecture. London’s Waterloo Quarter has commissioned a Christmas Forest for 2009, thankfully turning its back on all those centuries in which the Christians felled sacred groves. See Waterloo Forest designed by landscape architects naganJohnson.
Pierre Bonnechere writes that ‘At present the sacred grove of Nemea is the only one archaeology can claim to have discovered with certainty. Called an alsos from the first literary evidence, the site was landscaped [ie planted] in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C., and perhaps earlier: twenty-three planting pits, carved into the crushed rock at the south of Zeus’s temple, were uncovered and found to contain carbonized roots of cypress (or perhaps fir) trees. The excavators have now replanted the site, restoring its former appearance (Fig 1: they have followed Pausanias, who mentioned cypress trees in the second century AD)’ (Conan, M., Sacred gardens and landscapes: ritual and agency 2007 p.18). See also Sacred Groves: Sacrifice and the Order of Nature in Ancient Greek Landscapes 2007 Barnett R. Landscape Journal, 26:2. University of Wisconsin Press, 252-269 (kindly made available by Rod Barnett at http://www.rodbarnett.co.nz/texts/)
Image courtesy Miriam Mollerus