Tag Archives: Garden Design

Designing for animal magnetism

roof-top-avairy-390x260a1The next generation of green roofs will be designed to ensure the survival of specific species providing much needed ecological space in the urban environment. BAM believe the next ecological objective in green roof  design is the creation of biotropes – living habitats for species such as migratory birds.

While not a roof habitat exactly, Neil Oxley came up with the idea of a man made tree for the city of Leeds to support bats, birds, butterflies, insects and even the much maligned urban fox. Kadas’ research into the potential for green roofs to support rare invertebrates  suggests there is greater potential for green roofs to promote urban habitats.

Restoration ecologist and resource planner Paul Kepart of Rana Creek believes in the near future green roofs will be graded according to a biodiversity index. In keeping with these concerns plant ecologist Christine Thuring emphasises the need for green roofs to form a series of  linked habitats or archipelagos.

It still seems some way off before we start to think of ways of providing green habitats – even roof space – for our larger land based fauna currently being displaced and endangered by urban activity.

Green dreams for social space

greentainer-project


The greentainer project by Exposure architects demonstrates the innovative social potential of relatively simple green roof spaces. By importing a modern green house to function as a flexible space for art exhibitions, soirees etc the social use of a roof garden space can be enhanced without detracting from the vibrancy of its outdoor quality.

The Residences 900  in Chicago is a beatifully executed (but more conventional) social space on a green roof. However, the benefits of a mixed garden to ecology cannot be underestimated. The roof garden on the 17th floor of the Washington Mutual Bank  is a little more zen. It creates a contemplative social environment reminiscent of a wind swept plain – yet provides views across Elliot Bay.


When is a tree not a tree?

wrapped-trees

Sometimes the best way to see something – is to see it differently. Thanks to Christo and his project Wrapped Trees, Fondation Beyeler and Berower Park, Riehen, Switzerland 1997-98    the humble tree can be seen more clearly as part of the three dimensional compositon of space. The exaggerated sense of presence wrapping the tree affords gives a greater sense of volume, solid and void and perspective to the overall scene.

And this is an art work that the viewer inhabits, experiences first hand and interacts with as the hours of the day colour it slightly differently. Time to reflect on our place in the world … [ http://rainfromthesky.blogspot.com/2009/03/trees-were-sculpture-without-their.html ]

Light 2c by

textile-architecture-and-lightlight-sculptures

 http://sojamo.tumblr.com/post/74728983/synetic-textile-architecture-environmetally

The Made of Light project by Speirs Major and Associates Lighting Architects  http://www.madeoflight.com/mol/site_map.htm is a wonderful e-book that discusses the relationship between architecture and light in 12 simple themes.

1. Source – natural and artifical

2. Contrast – light and darkness

3. Surface – light and texture

4. Colour – spectral colour

5. Movement – where time meets space

6. Function – the ability to see

7. Form – visual shape of mass and volume

8. Space – the absence of mass

9. Boundary – to unify or separate

10. Scale – the comprehension of size

11. Image – creating identity and charater

12. Magic – phenomena which can inspire us

The photographs above pick up many of these themes in the use of light in the landscape.


Zen: garden as house

the-garden-house1

http://www.archtracker.com/the-garden-house-takeshi-hosaka-architects/2009/04/

Apart from what looks what looks unfortuneately like artifical turf on the roof – the Garden House by Takeshi Hosaka Architects with its tight triangular plan is a surprise and delight! Definitely a garden for my soul! The living spaces are designed around the edges of an enclosed garden courtyard, cleverly stacked and arranged to take advantage of every square mm of space, create privacy and capture views. In the photographs the garden is very young…it would be fantastic to revisit the house as the tree grows and the potted garden matures.

If you can’t resist viewing more  maybe a trip to Japan is in order…





Living with green and blue

What is the future of water architecture? [  http://wiki.provisionslibrary.org/blog/index.php/2008/02/06/water-architecture-a-floating-alternative-for-the-future/ ] Surely it is zen. http://www.whatsonyourplate.msstate.edu/architecture/water.html Or…. http://www.cmoa.org/exhibitions/popup/diller.html

Corbusier’s influence continues to inspire and to produce some of the most evocative architecture sensitive to its landscape setting. The building does not dominate the landscape, rather the landscape is both shield and platform. Garden is both formal and informal. http://www.archdaily.com/374/os-house-nolaster/

living-with-green-and-blue1cliffside

Garden graduates from the University of Greenwich

Sarah Eberle, garden designer, receives a Doctorate in Design from the University of Greenwich

We congratulate Toby Buckland on his new role as presenter of BBC Gardener’s World and Sarah Eberle on receiving a Doctorate in Design from the University of Greenwich. Sarah was the second University of Greenwich graduate, after Bunny Guinness, to receive a doctorate in garden design. They confirm our view that education in garden design and landscape architecture can lay the foundations for exciting, rewarding and glamorous careers.

The Garden Rant blog, which I like, questions whether the BBC should have appointed a woman instead of a man to the post. It is a very fair question but not one to be decided on the sex of the presenter. What matters is who will attract the most viewers. Gertrude Jekyll is popular because of the quality of her work: nothing else. I lay claim to the distinction of being a third generation feminist, because my grandfather was a keen supporter of the suffragette movement, but all he, my mother and I ever wanted was equality.

Plant combinations and planting design

Bad advice on the beauty of gardens

Having long believed that good plant combinations are a key to successful planting design, I was pleased to get a copy of The Encyclopedia of planting combinations by Tony Lord and Andrew Lawson (Mitchell Beazley, 2005). They are both expert photographers and Tony Lord, who wrote the text, is a former Gardens Advisor to the UK National Trust. Unsurprisingly, the photographs are excellent – if not quite as excellent as one might have expected. Disappointingly, most of the text is about the individual plants. Since there are many books on individual plants, this could have been omitted. The plant descriptions are followed by remarks on plant combinations and, as one might expect from a pair of photographers, they have a good eye for line, colour and texture.

The most surprising thing about the book is the appalling standard of the introductory section on ‘The art of combining plants’. It reveals the author to have no understanding of garden design as a fine art and somewhat reminded me of books written in the 1920s. Take the opening statement as an example: ‘A garden’s beauty invariably comes from the plants that it contains, the way they work together, and the overall effect they produce’. Does this apply to the Alhambra, to Versailles, to the Taj Mahal or to Rousham? Of course not. A garden is a composition of five elements: landform, vegetation, structures, water and paving. If one element is strong and the other four are weak you will not have a truly great garden.

After this blinkered introduction, the first sentence is ‘Making a successful garden is a question of balancing what is already there with what is required of the plot’. But what IS ‘required of the plot’. The author does not say. The second section (p.13) opens with the sentence ‘Once any hard landscaping is in place, selection of the plants can begin’. Goodness gracious me! You should not employ a gardener when you want your central heating fixed – and you should not employ a horticulturalist when you want a design for your garden. Similarly, the UK National Trust should employ horticulturalists for horticultural advice and garden designers as gardens advisors.

The Principles of Garden Design

The Principles of Garden Design, eBook by Tom TurnerI had an idea for a book on the principles of garden design about 20 years ago. The publishers I offered it to (Mitchel Beazley, Francis Lincoln and Conran Octopus) each invited to me meet them and said it was a ‘very interesting idea’. But they did not sign me up and the idea went on the back burner. Some of the content went into the final section of City as landscape (Spon 1998) and when the idea returned to the boil in 2008 I decided to do an eBook. It is now available under the Gardenvisit.com imprint: The Principles of Garden Design, Tom Turner (ISBN 978-0-9542306-2-3, 45 pages, 130 illustrations, 2008). Comments would be most welcome and journalists can request review copies.

The basis of the book is that Garden Design is much subject to the Vitruvian principles as any other field of design, though they need to be adapted. In short:

  • Gardens should be beautiful
  • Gardens should be useful
  • Gardens should be well made with good materials

These points are discussed with 130 illustrations and I am puzzled as to why they are not already embedded in the literature of garden design. Idle chat about ‘year round interest’, a ‘blaze of colour’, ‘focal points’, ‘specimen plants’, ‘water features’ etc is all very well – but it is no substitute for having a firm grasp of the principles of garden design. To draw an analogy with cooking, we can say that an over-reliance on recipes is no substitute for a grasp of the principles: use good materials, don’t overcook, take care with the sequence of dishes.