Jul 6, 2011

The Once Invisible:
Noli Tangere

Vladimir Sitta, Anita Madura and Richard Faber
Jardins de metis 2011 competition winner

I want to go to Jardins de metis.  I say that every year.  And with every new year of competition winners, I am more convinced than ever, that a trip is necessary.  I was particularly captivated by the Terragrams 2011 winning design:  Noli Tangere It's landscape design that turns our way of thinking inside out or makes the invisible visible. 
Anita Madura was kind of enough to answer a few questions about the project.
"Vladmir Sitta started his professional life in then communist Czechoslovakia.  Despite a number of competition successes and completed projects, he set himself adrift, landing in Australia via West Germany.  Terragram came about as a result of a series of coincidences - almost accidentally.  The impetus was a winning entry in a Battle of Vinegar Hill Competition in 1985. 

Terragram's portfolio is diverse from theme parks, environmental sculptures, furniture, stage design to parks and gardens.  Driven by an obsession to escape cliches, Terragram has gained an international reputation for innovation and technical experimentation.  Terragram's projects have been featured in more than 40 books and 2 monographs - 'Transforming Uncommon Ground' by T. Macgowan and 'Room 4.1.3 - Innovations in Landscape Architecture' by R. Weller.  Terragram's projects have also been televised by Arte Television and the BBC.

PO:  Why did you apply for Jardin des metis competition?
Upon Vladmir's return from a month in Europe, there was a lull in the studio.  The idea of creating a secret garden (the theme for Jardins de metis) intrigued us.  Jardins de metis competition reinvigorated us - it was a fast paced and impulsive competition entry, with the initial concept evolving mostly from exploratory doodles, as most of Vladmir's do.

PO:  Describe the Noli tangere.
Our project Noli tangere, approached this theme of secret gardens, by proposing an unusual experience of nature, typically invisible and 'secret' to the human eye.  It has become increasingly rare especially for urban visitors to experience the plant microcosmos - to look through a forest of plant stalks, smell the scents of damp earth and vegetation, observe the bugs, ants and grasshoppers at eye-level, perhaps even to eat fruit without using our hands.  In Noli tangere, the secret is in revealing the once invisible.

The exact shape of the garden was generated by imagining the steps of a blindfolded person circumnavigating the selected site, from which a 'secret' shape emerged.

Supports (posts) will be inserted at regular intervals, following this shape, creating a strong frame for the garden.  These supports will be interconnected with hessian ropes and criss-crossed like a spider-web, varying tautness to form valleys and hills.
Over this, a strong geo-textile mat will be a lid and clipped to ropes.  Under this mat, another layer of hessian will form the ceiling.  Holes will be cut into the mat to allow visitors to peek through, with magnifying glasses of varying degrees of enlargement attached at each opening.

We envision a strip of  meadow to be transplanted onto the matting/soil and supplemented by additional planting/seeding of wildflowers, for example dandelion and chrysanthemum.   The external entrance to the garden will be through a double layer of hessian reinforced with ropes, smeared with mud and hydro-seeded with grass.  At the end of the festival, this temporary garden could be simply dismantled and largely used as compost.
I've heard of putting your nose to the grindstone, but this takes it one step further. 
I asked Anita if she would elaborate on
some of Terragram's current projects:

"Currently, Terragram is involved in a number of different projects at varying stages, including two small parks in Woolloomooloo, Sydney (Walla Mulla Park, which recently opened this March and Bourke Street Park, only in the beginning phases of construction), the Master Architects garden for the International Horticulture Expo in Xi'an, China opening to visitors in late April, Jardins de metis garden opening in June, and several small private gardens across Sydney.

There are two ongoing pursuits by Vladimir Sitta, both concerned with time, going back almost 30 years.  The first, is concerned with the ecological activation of constructed surfaces like facades and roofs, bettering conditions for future human life. and the second how to commemorate the finite dimension of human life, the end, the death."