Jul 30, 2012

Transient, Transparent,

Ekachai Pattamasattayasonthi
and dL Studio

Ever since I read about Desert de Rez created by Francois Racine de Monville in 18th century, I've been fascinated by the idea of the garden folly.  Read is the key word here.  I have been reading about the Jardins Metis for several years.  This year's festival winner, GARDEN FOLLY, a work by dL Studio and Ekachai Pattamasattayasonthi turned the idea of folly on its head.

PO: Why Metis?

EP:  I have known about the international garden festival at the Metis Garden in Canada for quite some time, mostly through some well known international design websites I follow.  I have found the gardens by various designers from the previous years, very inspiring and when the opportunity came as the Redford garden was calling for design proposals for its 13th Edition of the International Garden Festival, I thought we should give it try.  I contacted my colleague, Tom Lee and Soren DeNiord, who have a joint atelier, dL Studio, in Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Portland, Maine, if they might be interested.

It was a great collaboration between three designers and the international garden design competition gave us a chance to explore, exercise and academically debate interesting design schemes through the concept making process.  

The given budget for installation is 10,000 CND, which is the constraint in this project. Tom Lee and I did some research and adjusted the design to fit the budget, without too much compromising of the form and concept of the design.  We worked closely with Francois LeBlanc, who is contractor at the garden festival, who guided us and brought the project to its completion this summer.

PO: What is the inspiration for your project?

EP:  We always find inspiration and concepts for our projects through research.  When we started looking for an inspiration for the Metis garden, we investigated historical and physical aspects of the Metis garden site.  After we studied numerous installations at Metis, which included garden history dating back to its first edition in the year 2000, we found that they were generally associated with the notion of garden design history, development and reinterpretation.

I was particularly interested in picturesque gardens, formal English and French gardens, and pattern garden design; so I started from gathering image precedents of those gardens and analyzed them.

During research, a garden folly emerged as a crucial element in picturesque landscape...it serves no particular function other than standing as a garden point of interest.  As we know, garden folly is one of the historical garden elements that has been developed, modernized and reinterpreted periodically.  Famous examples are the red folly structures in Parc De La Villette in Paris and Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Garden, London.  However, these follies and the relationship to their surroundings are still severely divorced from each other.  So we wanted to design a folly that was rather transient, transparent, and integrated... one with the garden.


In short, rather than a solemn object sitting in the landscape, our design re-conceives the "garden folly" as a field of relationships, in which garden and structure reunite.  A network of space grids that capture the garden of randomly scattered birch trees and pattern of ornamental grass.

PO: Can you tell me briefly about your firm and its work.
EP:  dL studio is a young landscape design firm based in Cape Cod and Portland, Maine founded by Tom Lee and Soren deNiord.  They are both great designers, who modern design draws inspiration from nature and modernist gardens.  Their residential and public projects have won many awards and recognitions.  For more information about dL studio, please visit their website. 

I just graduated from the master degree program at MIT and currently I am an architectural designer at a firm in specializing in architecture and urbanism.

Thanks to
Ekachai Pattamasattayasonthi for taking the time to answer my questions.

All photographs and visuals on this page courtesy of Ekachai Pattamasattaysonthi and dL Studio.

Jul 21, 2012

Program-less Archiecture

Jerome H. Haferd
Brandt Knapp
I couldn't wait for the opening and I had to make a trip to Costco, which is adjacent to the Socrates Sculpture Park, where "Curtain" is being constructed.  The Architectural League and Socrates Sculpture Park invited emerging artists and designers to speculate on contemporary interpretations of the folly.  Curtain is the winning entry by architects, Jerome H. Haferd and Brandt Knapp.
Constructed of 4" x 4" wood beams, steel joints that connect the frame and white plastic chain that is draped over the frame, Haferd and Knapp have played with the idea of folly.  I associate follies with garden structures on large estates... extravagant, useless, whimsical.  In an interview with Gregory Wessner, Knapp had this to say:  "We were really excited about the project prompt (for a folly).  That's what got us going.  We both have an interest in program-less architecture:  architecture that has little or no function or purpose. "
"I think that I'm interested in anything or anyone that poses questions that get me thinking on a level that art is supposed to, but I think that the difference between many artists and many architects is blurred.  It's really just that our disciplines set us apart."  Knapp
And I think everyone should venture out to this part of the world (Astoria) and take a look.  If you wondering about the differences between art and architecture, wander over to the  Noguchi Museum, it's across the street.

Jul 10, 2012

Extended Temporality

All photographs provided by atelier eem.  Copyright atelier eem

There are garden shows and there are garden shows.  The Metis Garden Festival is one of those I cannot overlook.  The winning entry for 2012, Histoire sans fin ou Le bois dans tous ses etats (Endless Story or The Woods In All Conditions)  by atelier eem is one of my favorites.  Marc Blume gratefully responded to some of my questions.
PO:  Why the Metis competition?
MB:  The Metis International Festival is a really well known competition, even in Europe.  We were really curious about this festival situated so far away from the next big city, and which has brought (in 13 years of existence) so many international landscapers and artists with such great projects to this place.

Now, after being there, we understand what brings visitors and participants to make thousands of kilometers to come.  For the encounter between the historical gardens and the contemporary art and landscape festival in the amazing landscape of Gaspesie is really unique.

PO:  What was the inspiration for your project?
MB:  We were inspired by conversations on our experiences of forests, which are related to our different origins.  From the well-organized Swiss and German forest exploitations to the Italian vegetal ruins or the burned down Portuguese trees, we noticed that we all have visions marked by the human presence in the woods.

We felt that the situation of facing a human trace in a woodland has the ability to gather people around thoughts about their own marks and existence in an extended temporality.
Like questionings about some tree lives that might have watched the rise and fall of civilizations for example..

By setting up steps of vegetal decompositions and taking part as "time speeders" in this delicate process, we want to propose a mediation on the apprehension of the garden temporality and furthermore on the relation between human beings, time and "nature."

PO:  Is the lack of specific client or program freeing?  Does it allow you to think "outside the box" or follow up on ideas that cannot be realized in a project for a clent?
MB:  There are somehow always restrictions in the constructing of a site, a landscape or a garden, even if it is not directed by a client's demands or a program.

At the same time, we always try to leave spaces for imagination in any kind of work, even if it responds to a program and ends up by being realized.  (Which obviously also happened to this garden... "You have seen us lifting the logs!!")

PO:  Please tell us something about your firm.
MB:  atelier eem was created in 2009 in Paris and was from the encounter of different backgrounds - from landscape to architecture and design - nourished by different European cultures.

It is composed of Marc Blume, Francesca Liggieri, Estelle Nicod and frequent co-workers like Heloise Blanzat who joins in for this competition.

Aware of the various aspects that motivate the desire to modify and inhabit environment, we aspire to link art, utopia and reality.  Our propositions always lay on the balance and the relation between a territory, its meaning at different scales (house, garden, neighborhood, landscape and so on...) and its inhabitants.  Respect and value of an environment is to our eyes the primary condition to any modification.

Jul 5, 2012

Letting Go

 When I first saw my peonies, they had gone by. I was relieved.   The dead wilted petals littering the garden floor suited my mood perfectly.  I wanted to post a sign on my front yard "NO Gardening Going On Here." 

Removing weeds, digging up volunteers and frowning over the state of things is my usual summertime MO in the garden.   The wrinkles on my forehead are not self-imposed. They are the result of doctor's orders:  no bending, no lifting, no twisting.  In the gardening world, that doesn't leave much to do.  I walked around quietly assessing the situation.  I saw tasks that needed to be done, but my hands were tied.

"Most of our troubles are due to our passionate desire for and attachment to things that we misapprehend as enduring entities."  Dalai Lama

When you've got plenty of OCD to contend with; letting go doesn't come easy.  I've hired a Dutchman to take care of my garden until my physical situation improves.  And his approach to gardening is particularly European.  It's more relaxed, more in sync with plants and their habits and is concentrated on the whole, not the minutiae.  This is a kind of therapy for me.   And therapy is work.  My greatest challenge will be changing the way I experience the garden:  bystander, critic and student of Zen.

 "letting go is letting happiness in." Lori Deschene