Tag Archives: architecture

Friday Finds – Lighting the way

15 Jun

Just a little something to lighten up your day.  Light is such an evocative medium.  It transforms space and creates mood.  I love playing with lighting in the landscape, but I’m not a touch on this guy.

Bruce Munro is a light artist.  He designs and creates spectacular lighting art installations.  I am in awe. I even love the words on his website!

Lighting sets the mood and stirs emotions, and can transform the subconscious feeling of a space entirely.

Creating a balance between functional and decorative is all in the details.

OK, the last two aren’t technically light, but I love how the light plays off the CDs, a perfect art re-use project.

Sam.

All photos are from Bruce Munro’s website.  You can check out all the other inspiring work he does there too.

Friday Finds – Heavy lace

8 Jun

Sometimes I find things in my research on the net that make me go wow.  Sometimes they are so simple, so unique or so insanely beautiful it is ridiculous.  Today’s Friday Finds falls into all 3 of those categories.  Dutch company, LACE FENCE has created a uniquely beautiful yet infinitely functional product that redefines the humble fence.  In their own words:-

LACE FENCE is a Dutch based company that designs & produces unique architectural fabric delivered globally. LACE FENCE has grown into a product which lives up to the highest standards for a variety of applications.
From safety fence to artpiece. Our only limitation is our own imagination.
The combination of the handmade delicate lace patterns with the industrial look and feel of the metal fencing is unique, and proves that functional can also be beautiful.  Lace Fence works in close collaboration with each client to ensure that each fence is unique solution.  The applications are endless within an architectural and landscape format.  I’ll let the photographs speak for themselves.  I would like to Thank Lace Fence for allowing me to use their photographs, and photographer Joost van Brug.
For more detail and information head over to their website at LACE FENCE.
So many places I would love to use this!
Sam.

Banksy rat destroyed

16 May

A news article on ABC radio caught my attention today.  A piece of street art by Banksy, one of the parachuting rats, was destroyed by a tradie who was drilling through a wall for a cafe in Prahran, Melbourne.  Whoops!  The tradie didn’t know who Banksy was, or the significance of the work, which was valued to be in the vicinity of $50,000.  Apparently the wall was covered in tags and other indiscriminate art and graffiti and he wasn’t able to discriminate between this and Banksy’s work.

I love street art, and Banksy is up there with the best.  I admire people who have the strength to take on their environment and make a comment about where and how they live through art.  But I have struggled to work out the line between graffiti and art.  Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s a little bit harder.  The tradesman had no interest or knowledge of street art and  I can see how he could easily have made the mistake.  After years of working for local government, I have experienced the joys of commissioning public art that will enhance the cultural environment, and the lows of having landscapes and work damaged or destroyed by graffiti and vandalism.  I have also endured the complaints and arguments that surround street art – the desire to create it versus the desire to destroy it or “clean it up”.

There are now calls for the City of Melbourne, where many of Banksy’s remaining Australian pieces are located, to create a register of street art.  Melbourne’s lane ways are packed with street art.  It is interesting and inspiring.  I love wandering the lane ways when I visit Melbourne, the transient nature of the street art is dynamic and fascinating.  The very nature of street art  is that it will change over time.  It is a commentary of the current culture, and as that culture changes so will the art that represents it.  Is a register that defines what can and can not be altered or destroyed counter to the essential nature of street art?

Whilst it is disappointing that the Banksy rat is no more, is this completely against the nature of his work?  I think it there needs to be a clear delineation between what is public art and what is street art and how they are managed.  Both have an equally important role within our cultural landscape, but serve different functions.  The guerrilla nature of uncommissioned street art will generally mean it has a sharper statement on society, more bite to it’s commentary than work that has been commissioned. To suddenly take a snapshot of the current art and say “no more” will deny the natural transition, growth and evolution of the street art culture, and lose the richness in social commentary that it provides.

Well, that’s my rant for the day!

Sam

Friday Finds – Yellow Treehouse

11 May redwood treehouse by night

Is this the most spectacular treehouse you have ever seen?  The Redwoods Treehouse was built for an advertising campaign for Yellow – the New Zealand Yellow Pages, and is now used for functions. The Treehouse is located near Warkworth, north of Aukland on New Zealand’s north island, and was designed by Pacific Environments.  I think it looks like a delicate cocoon clinging to the majestic Redwood tree, it is stunning!

What a creative dream this would have been to design!

Sam

All photos from www.yellowtreehouse.co.nz and www.pacificenvironments.co.nz

Words and pictures – Roberto Burle Marx

7 May

I found this quote by Brazilian landscape architect and artist, Roberto Burle Marx,  and it reminded me of how much he inspired and shaped my design philosophy and opened my eyes to the creative potential of landscape architecture.

A garden is a complex of aesthetic and plastic intentions; and the plant is, to a landscape artist, not only a plant – rare, unusual, ordinary or doomed to disappearance – but it is also a color, a shape, a volume or an arabesque in itself.

With landscape plans like this

Landscape Design for Saenz Pena Square

And constructed landscapes that look like this

Vargem Grande – photograph http://www.mraggett.co.uk

Cavanellas Residence – photograph http://www.mraggett.co.uk

His words take on a new meaning and a reassuringly creative way for landscape architects to look at their horticultural palette.

Sam

A Park of Stories

24 Apr

I have been meaning to visit Ballast Point Park – Walama for a while now, since it opened to the public in 2009, so it has taken me too long to get there.  Design Mom’s love the place you live theme gave me the perfect opportunity to pack the family up and have a look.  I’ve watched the park transform from the ferry as we travelled past, and looked at it from afar as the munchkins have played on a favourite playground, but never quite managed to physically get there.  But once again for love the place you live, we gravitated back to Sydney’s picturesque harbour, and explored Ballast Point.

Let me start by saying this is my kind of park, but initially it wasn’t the Drama Queens.  There is no structured playground, and this was a bitter disappointment to a four year old. I firmly hold the belief that the world is a playground and you shouldn’t need a set of swings to ensure endless fun.  The richer the landscape, the more fun that can be made, and Ballast Point Park is a landscape of quite divine treasures.

The Drama Queen needed a bit of convincing to come around to my way of thinking.  I explained to her that this was a park full of stories instead of a park full of playground equipment.  This sparked her interest as she loves a good story – especially when she makes them up herself.  I started to tell her and show her the stories weaved through the landscape, and as she started to see them for herself the park took on a whole new set of adventures.  There was no such convincing needed for her brother, this park is a Daredevil’s wonderland, so much to climb and explore, and he didn’t care that it wasn’t primary coloured and structured.

Ballast Point is a rich and diverse landscape of layers and stories.  The current parkland weaves an interesting and engaging tapestry of landscape design, artwork and historic interpretation to provide a valuable recreational resource for the community of Sydney.  Located in Birchgrove, Ballast Point Park is part of the expanding network of foreshore parks that the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority is developing and managing in order to return previously alienated land back to the public.  Designed by McGregor + Coxall, a Sydney based landscape architectural firm, the current format recognises a long and interesting history while addressing the functionality and significance of the site as public open space.

The site has a rich Indigenous, colonial and industrial heritage, and there are features through the park that tell these stories.  Some are literal, like the retention of industrial site features and signage, others interpretive like the display of relics suspected to have come from the excavated Menevia foundations, the original home built on the site, and some more ephemeral like the poetry and artworks that punctuate the site and recognise the site  and it’s significance to the harbour and its history.  Significantly, the park has the dual names of Ballast Point Park and Walama recognising both  the European and Indigenous history and importance of the site.

One of the most interesting layers of the park is its eco-cred.  The site is full of recycled and re-used materials, the most obvious being the imposing gabion walls made out of recycled building rubble.  The surprising flashes of mosaic tiles, electrical cover plates and marble make these walls a significant feature on their own.  The electricity for the site is produced from wind turbines located on the imposing Tank 101 artwork, and the storm water from the site is filtered through a network of wetlands on the site before it enters the harbour.  Plantings throughout the site enhance local biodiversity through the utilisation of local provenance seed stock.

Through all the design and history, my favourite part of this park is the layer that the current use has provided.  While we were there, we saw dogs being walked, people picnicking and families exploring.  The most interesting part was one I hadn’t expected.  People have begun to place padlocks on the gab ion walls overlooking the harbour.  Families, lovers, friends, travellers all seem to be locking their “love” on the site.  Reminiscent of Pont des Arts in Paris, these locks are commemorating people’s own personal life journeys of birth, love and death.

I am seriously considering adding a lock to the wall!

Sam

Analysing the landscape

18 Apr

The landscape design process has a pretty logical path to follow. When you’ve prepared your base plan, see how we did here at How do we measure up?, You need to take stock and assess what you have. You need to get out your coloured pencils and undertake a landscape analysis.

I know this post has been a bit of a while coming, but to be honest it’s pretty dry subject matter, so I’ll do my best to make it a little more interesting and fun.

Before you can start the fun of designing, you need to be really clear about what you have already. There’s no point in designing the hanging gardens oaf Babylon if you only have a postage stamp sized area, and a tropical garden is never going to work in an alpine climate. Your existing space and its current features are your building blocks and foundation for your future dream garden, so having a good long look at them, working out what they are and how you can or can’t use them is super important.

Once you have your base plan prepared, what do you need to look at and why?

Aspect and light – what way does your garden face? Grab a compass and work it out if you don’t know already. Solar access is really important in terms of how you plan your garden. If you have a north facing garden full of sunshine, or a south facing shady space you are going to treat them differently (if you’re in the northern hemisphere than swap north and south). Sun light is important both for your plants and for you. It impacts how spaces can be used, and how well what you plant will grow.

Soils and geology – the building blocks of your garden – I have written about the dirty stuff here in Mud pies , so if you missed it , have a read and sort out your soils. What are they and how happy are they? This is important because different plants will grow in different soils, and if you intend on doing any structural works or earthmoving, different soils react differently and require slightly different treatment depending on what you are planning to do.

Topography and drainage – How steep is your yard?  Do you have a great flat palette to play with or do you have something a bit more challenging and hilly?  I personally like the sites with a bit of contour to them.  It’s fun to play with landforms and create different spaces, but it is hard work, and generally means that you have to think bit more about the drainage on the site.  In terms of drainage, how much water is there, where does it collect, where does it go??  Water in the landscape can be a very powerful force. If it’s not managed and directed properly, it can scour or pond and has the potential to damage landscape features or garden beds.  Get your drainage right and you will save yourself a whole lot of grief.

Existing vegetation – What do you already have?  Take a good look, identify what you can, and then decide what needs to stay and what should go.  This is an assessment of what still looks OK, and still has good potential.  What is healthy and happy, and you still like.  Try and be a little bit ruthless if you’re going for a complete overhaul.  It’s useless trying to work with plants that are past their use by date or are struggling.  Equally as difficult is keeping plants that are doing so well that they could also be classified as weeds, the plants that have taken over and smothered everything else are going to be hard to control.

Make a list of what you have, work out whether you like it, whether it’s healthy and then mark on your site plan where it is and whether you’re going to keep it.  You will need to look at everything, from your turf right through to your trees.  If you can’t identify everything, don’t worry, it’s not really that important, but have a go.  Don’t feel overwhelmed, you don’t need to be a horticulturalist to know what you like and what is or isn’t working in your garden right now.

Other features – Paths, walls, furniture, rocks, gardens, fences, anything else really.  Do you have any service pits or pipes? Is everything functional and in good repair or does it need a bit of work to make it safe and usable?  And again, what is worth keeping and what really needs to hit the Council clean up or garbage tip.

You should also consider the views into and out of the site.  What do you need to screen? Do you need to open up some views? And do you need to create some privacy?

Use and access – This one is up to you.  How is the site used at the moment and does it work?  Are you using your garden to it’s best potential?  Are there access points that need to be formalised?  Should you define or pave an area?  Where is your clothes line and utility area?  Has your compost heap become your garden’s focal point?  Where should things be and how are people moving through your garden.  Take into account all of the gardens users.  If you have pets, how do they use the space?  Do your little people use your garden differently to you?

Climate – This one is not really site specific but will have an impact on what will grow in your garden.  There are different ways of assessing this in different global regions.  Australia has broad zones ranging from Tropical to Alpine (check out this link to the National Botanical Gardens), while the US has a much more detailed map that clearly define gardening zones (this links to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map).  Work out where you are and what sort of climate you’re living in, so you know if you need to be frost or drought tolerant in your plant choice.

Now that you’ve collected all of this information, what do you do with it? I find the easiest way to collect and consider it is to draw up a quick plan.  Use your base plan and note your site features and information on it.  This will then help with an overlay of design options.  Here’s a very simple one I prepared when I designed our front garden.  It is a very small and simple site, but all the information I need is in the one place now and made the next design stage straight forward.

It doesn’t have to be pretty – mine isn’t, but it just needs to hold all the information that will take you through to the next design step.  And remember, you can keep coming back to your landscape analysis and change it and amend it as you learn more about your garden.

What are you waiting for, get out pencils and give it a go!

Sam

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