year end

December 31, 2014

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In San Remy de Provence (specifically Glanum) for the year end. Can’t think of a better place to be . . .

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san remy

 

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. . . much to admire and much to reflect on.

glanum arch detail

How like a winter hath my absence been

From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!

What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!

What old December’s bareness everywhere!

And yet this time remov’d was summer’s time,

The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,

Bearing the wanton burthen of the prime,

Like widow’d wombs after their lords’ decease:

Yet this abundant issue seem’d to me

But hope of orphans and unfather’d fruit;

For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,

And thou away, the very birds are mute;

Or if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer

That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near.

Sonnet 97 william shakespeare

the dutchman in town

October 23, 2014

alfred's meadow

The dutchman‘s work doesn’t figure in the North Park of our new city park  – the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park  – but I feel he might enjoy this area more than where his planting, in the South Park,  is squeezed into something resembling a shopping mall. The river Lea makes its way flowing down from Hackney Marsh, in the north, bordered by sustainable planting that should encourage wildlife to enjoy the wetland habitats. Us mortals are also given habitats in the form of thousands of homes being built around the park.

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School parties find space for active leisure on Alfred’s Meadow. Good idea to incorporate decent spaces flowing down to the heart of the park – the river – with seating on the higher level. A well proportioned mix of mown amenity grass to rougher wild flower areas and young woodland. There’s space here for cyclists going to + from the velodrome (Hopkins Architects) and casual visitors just strolling or those bent on getting to more physical activity in the Copper Box (Ken Shuttleworth). The bands of planting, especially the dark red Gladiolus papilio ‘Ruby’ looking very contrived. Good plant but wrong place. Something one might mark down on plan but then change . . . are they directional? The directional routes are clearly defined though. A mystery, but one that might resolve in due course . . .  someone having to keep the ground surfaces tidy  (blowing the loose white granite chippings off the bound gravel and tarmac strips) is poor design.

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north park

The soft informal areas are delightfully promising. Good work EDAW.

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carpenters lock

At Carpenters Lock, where the river splits into three channels, the levels are complex too. The reflecting bridge spanning the higher ground seems to be the belt that holds the two areas of the park together. An interesting feature. Some of my life at the moment is spent in a building designed by the same architects  –  not such pleasant experience. A brutal and rather clumsy building with the circulation issues of Tate Modern. The jury’s still out as the ‘snagging’ is ongoing. On the South Park, that surrounds the stadium, where the dutchman’s planting (jolly plan on left + 3D visuals of the Outdoor Rooms on right) has to work with all the clutter that developers think we need.  His planting needs wider borders and it would be good if the seating faced the borders so that visitors can enjoy and appreciate his prowess. I could go on but I won’t . . .

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outdoor rooms

. . . lights are strung across the main thoroughfare that links to the The World Gardens where plants collected from around the world now have a natural place within our UK planting palette.

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The Southern Hemisphere garden based on plants seen in the Drakensberg Range in South Africa in February and March – kniphofia and red or kangaroo grass, Themeda triandra alongside the small Cape grass, Chonodropetalum tectorum, from the restio family. More Gladiolus ( leftovers planted by the Velodrome then) and touches of blue Agapanthus inapertus intermedius with galtonias. All educational.

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To the south of the stadium, Nigel Dunett’s pictorial meadows are show stopping . . .

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stadium

bow quarter

. . . with a view to Bow Quarter and an old home. Great exuberance and a marvellous finale.

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The sort of girl I like to see
Smiles down from her great height at me.
She stands in strong, athletic pose
And wrinkles her retroussй nose.
Is it distaste that makes her frown,
So furious and freckled, down
On an unhealthy worm like me?
Or am I what she likes to see?
I do not know, though much I care,
xxxxxxxx…..would I were
(Forgive me, shade of Rupert Brooke)
An object fit to claim her look.
Oh! would I were her racket press’d
With hard excitement to her breast
And swished into the sunlit air
Arm-high above her tousled hair,
And banged against the bounding ball
“Oh! Plung!” my tauten’d strings would call,
“Oh! Plung! my darling, break my strings
For you I will do brilliant things.”
And when the match is over, I
Would flop beside you, hear you sigh;
And then with what supreme caress,
You’d tuck me up into my press.
Fair tigress of the tennis courts,
So short in sleeve and strong in shorts,
Little, alas, to you I mean,
For I am bald and old and green.  John Betjeman  The Olympic Girl

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At the de la warr, it’s difficult to ignore the views out and concentrate on the work within. For me, the world beyond the windows offers up good compositions especially if the views are uninhabited.

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The strong grid of the light diffusing blinds makes an interesting additional layer. I snapped away,  the gallery assistants looked doubtful but then pleased, when eventually I turned to absorb the compositions on the walls.

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The current exhibition ‘I Cheer a Dead Man’s Sweetheart’  – the last verse of Housman’s ‘Is My Team Ploughing’  – shows work of artists in Britain today who refer to the past combined with a conceptual and contemporary journey in their method and practice.  The poem is on the wall in the atrium and having read it, it seemed as though the building also enhanced the ethos of the exhibition.

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At 135, All Saints Street in Hastings Old Town, it’s possible, on the odd occasion, to view a house built in 1500’s. Alistair Hendy has restored this house, especially the exterior, to something like it might have been. Guttering and down pipes are a nod to gentrification but windows, beams and the ‘jetty’ overhang are now revealed having been masked by the Georgians in their love of the flat façade.

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A small group of us were welcomed into the parlour which could have been a shop in earlier times. There is electricity and other services all discreetly hidden but the house is lit with candles to give an ambience of the past. All the fires were working – wood smoke covered us in a pleasant manner – as we wandered around the ground floor being mindful of the low thresholds, changes in level and admiring the eclectic taste of the furnishings – things Alistair likes as and not necessarily truthful to ‘period’. It’s his home after all.

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Looking down to the new kitchen which leads on to what supposedly was the town mortuary but is now the dining room.

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Outside in the enclosed courtyard, giant hogweed, tree ferns and a huge gunnera fill the space . . .

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. . .  and on the first floor, a box bed with a view out to the street. May 5th is Jack-in-the-Green day and decorations are up. A post on this will follow as usual (last years is here).

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all saints

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The thunder box and the chair mounted on the wall took my eye as did windows with the original glass. Shutters, quite rustic, are a recent addition. The floor below the  zinc bath required extra support – discretely done to the conservation officer’s satisfaction. Not a good idea to ask too much about the local conservation officials in this house . . . folks here know the brain ache that accompanies this relationship.  . . .

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. . a touch of Vermeer above and quite exquisite other touches to conclude. Lots of wonderment and looking in.  It’s worth a visit.

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Caught in a fragment of forgiven light

The past’s refracted and the present lies

Waiting to be caught. Now feeling dies

 

At the year’s edge, the dark-to-be of night

And then the migrants homing and the spring

New as always, meaning everything.

 

Day has its attitude of sovereign height,

Birds discourse, the long hours spread, we are

In the best moment of the travelling year.

 

Now the dark is light and sound is sight,

Winter written off, summer is then,

Spring is the season for begetting man. Elizabeth Jennings  Caught.

 

out + about

March 2, 2014

Still in an urban frame of mind as against more rural or natural landscape environments – not because I wish to be but it’s what is thrust centre stage at the moment. Another storm is whistling up tonight. If the summer ahead is long and very hot, then looking back on stormy evenings might be a good leveller. Gardens, plants, growth, softness and explosions of seasonal interest are still ‘parked’ . . . unfortunately. In George Street, Old Town Hastings, a few compositions were put on record . . .  child’s carriage or maybe a dog’s carriage would be more applicable for this doggy town and details on an old screen reminded me of transfers and childhood stickers. . . .

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. . . .  George Street through the sea mist – colourful, a little shambolic in a charming manner, idiosyncratic and packed full of tea and coffee shops. Incurva Studios is in a side street connecting to West Street with an installation that changes seasonally. This quill may be a ‘Leigh Dyer’ . . .

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. . . in the window of one of the many second hand bookshops, a bound thesis or  dissertation by Jane  Gallup titled ‘Feminist Accused of Sexual Harassment’. I don’t know what to say.

And some vibrant wall art on the extinct Butlers Emporium with the continual change of use showing  in the Old Town Butchers now housing eastern trinkets.

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Great glossy seas this morning, churning and rolling and thundering in a wonderful fashion. Huge winds push some of us to find a little shelter in Norman Road. Windows offer excellent compositions with layers of depth and sub text . . .

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. . .  the Baker Mamonova Gallery and Lucy Bell’s show floral art . . .

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. .  Fleet Gallery and Wayward show large light fittings and haberdashery items.

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Plan B and Sideshow Interiors have exotic mannequins . . . some pushed right into the window frame.

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Some are busy on repairing their buildings and some like to express themselves in a scrabble format on  other peoples walls. It’s a funny old place. I may have said this before.

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At this particular time I have no one
Particular person to grieve for, though there must
Be many, many unknown ones going to dust
Slowly, not remembered for what they have done
Or left undone. For these, then, I will grieve
Being impartial, unable to deceive.

How they lived, or died, is quite unknown,
And, by that fact gives my grief purity–
An important person quite apart from me
Or one obscure who drifted down alone.
Both or all I remember, have a place.
For these I never encountered face to face.

Sentiment will creep in. I cast it out
Wishing to give these classical repose,
No epitaph, no poppy and no rose
From me, and certainly no wish to learn about
The way they lived or died. In earth or fire
They are gone. Simply because they were human, I admire.

Elizabeth Jennings In Memory of Someone Unknown to Me

dimanche après-midi

December 29, 2013

maison carre

Eyes up within the portico of the Maison Carrée  in Nimes – the stepped entrance, fluted columns and the compact nature of the portico – encourage the upward gesture. At this festive time however, action and noise compete to steer the glance across to the ice rink installed as a gay, colourful and interactive lower platform between the old and the new –  in an architectural sense. The new is the Carrée d’Art de Foster which becomes a fitting background to the leisure requirements of the Nimoise today .. . . . .

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carre d'art

. . wandering around to the Boulevard Victor Hugo, late afternoon sun arrives on the  facade and the light pushes the foreground elements – branches and street decorations  – into strong definition.

boulevard victor hugo

quai de la fontaine

Turning left to wander along the Quai de la Fontaine on the way to the Jardins, the beauty of the plane trees  arching discreetly to their opposite partner frames the sedate but apposite water feature .. .

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. .  the usual activities are happening on the ground. And the usual effects are happening on the vertical elements . . .

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. . . in the park, families engage in their own festive enjoyment and the permanent inhabitants oversee all.

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The Jardins de la Fontaine were the first public gardens constructed in France,  50 years after Versailles built by the King for himself. The town is justly proud of this great garden and it is well used by all generations. As so often the case in France, the scale remains superb – the pattern and the form still have an integrity – with proportions that many designers nowadays can only dream about.

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Wandering back by the Arènes, starlings provide the performance skywards. A murmuration  – exquisite formations    – float with exact organisation forwards and backwards across the sky gathering before coming home to roost . . . .

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. .  at the junction of Rue de l’Ecluse (home/roost) and Avenue Carnot stands a palm. Phillippe Starck has created an installation  – Abribus –  inspired by an ancient Roman symbol which is found on both the coin and on the shield of the city, and features the two symbols of the city, the crocodile and palm tree. The marble design is a small line of solid cubes that reach the tree and are the tail and neck, and a large bucket, supported by its four vertices showing the animal’s body. As the light falls and decorative lighting comes to the fore. A strange and succesful installation  that typifies ‘ the seen and the unseen’. That typifies The Little Prince.

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“People where you live,” the little prince said, “grow five thousand roses in one garden… yet they don’t find what they’re looking for…

They don’t find it,” I answered.

And yet what they’re looking for could be found in a single rose, or a little water…”

Of course,” I answered.

And the little prince added, “But eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart.”

Antoine de Saint Exupery  The Little Prince 

journey back

December 12, 2013

sevenoaks platform

The journey back to the coast from London is never as pleasant as the other way around and it’s nothing to do with expectation and the tantalising thought of the great city – it’s simply the fact that the countryside that this train line powers, sorry chugs,  through is photogenic from the one direction – south to north. This statement sounds ridiculous but after 10 years I feel the same. So the journey back – north to south – is best for reading, making notes and a little meditation. Or crying, which I have done before. Yesterday, the elderly couples left the train at Orpington as normal and then there was a little spatial period  – mind and ergonomics – before we stopped at Sevenoaks. . . . .

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. . . the light was dropping fast backlighting the trees with flashes of fire from the low band of the sun . . .

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tonbridge

. . at Tonbridge, the schools entered the train. There are many ‘good’/ ‘fee paying’ schools here but the noise levels of the young is much the same – the accents slightly different. Chattering and more chattering –  all quite loud and not very interesting unless you are concerned with league tables – so, the option is to listen or stuff in the headphones . . .

tonbridge platform

. . . ah, after Battle, we’re released. We, dull adults, are left to fiddle with phones or glimpse at the strong compositions of the twiggy textures flicking beyond the mucky windows . . .

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. . the light of the sunset across Beachy Head streams across the horizon.

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last sunset

Black is the prominent tone. Black landscapes that suddenly seem so unthreatening – static – dramatic.

So now I think that the journey back is best just at nightfall – for the time being anyway.

wadhurst

On my bedroom wall

Father paints a beautiful picture

of the famous river that runs beside our house.

 

The river is black and all the clouds,

fields, thin shimmering houses, stars,

moons and bridges are black, cool and noir.

Soon the entire wall is black.

 

His river-painting is so beautifully black,

so wild, so percussive,

it makes me weep, on each of my tears

is painted a tiny curled-up baby, seahorse-neat.

 

Father shrugs off praise.

‘Picasso is right,’ says Father,

‘black is the only colour.

You can fly through black!’   Penelope Shuttle   Picasso is Right

shard

Meet under the canopy of  the Shard – this was the instruction for the students studying garden design masterplan (BA Hons Garden Design) and place and culture and masterplanning (BA Hons Landscape Architecture). New start to the term and new project site: The Borough, Southwark. Cold, windy and hard environment here with major works happening to London Bridge station. The Wikipedia  reference: Southwark is recorded in the 1086 Domesday Book as Sudweca. The name means “southern defensive work” and is formed from the Old English sūth and weorc. The southern location is in reference to the City of London to the north, seemed appropriate to machinery machinations . . .

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shard opposite

. .  just a glimpse of a tree and a tempting offer on a station poster.

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We intended to cover a semi circle – radius of 1000m centred on the station with first stop at more london  . . black Kilkenny limestone defining the strong desire line . . . a busy ‘chunnel’ at 1pm on a working day. We talked about how the space would feel on a Sunday. We hoped/suggested that the students might make a visit then to note changes. I would if this was my major design site  . . .

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. . .  some tumbling and some sitting about and some standing around on scaffolding. Great Fraxinus – they work better here than the more decorative birch . . .

potters field

prunus sargentii

Through Potters Field and on by the London City Mission, we crossed under the tunnels arriving at St Mary Magdelen Churchyard and then into Tanner Street Park. A group of Prunus sargentii were starting the fireworks display  of autumn but, these poor trees showed the detrimental effect on plants trying to cope with badly laid paving + kerbs – terrifying hard landscaping. Through Leathermarket Gardens and Guy Street Park and on southwards to Tabard Gardens (lovely, potential here for detailed design – hint, hint) then east to Merrick Square and slowing down, a bit, to enjoy Trinity Church Square. .

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trinity square

mint street

. . . through Mint Street Park, we came across this community garden – green roof building and plenty of info for interested visitors. And yes, the baby came too.

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On passed Cross Bones Cemetery and the ‘site with most potential’ that is currently a car park prior to development, we swung left down Southwark Street and into Neo Bankside. Many smiles spread across faces here. Maybe because the end was in sight but most likely as this landscape was deemed attractive by those studying – the staff more sceptical, which is their rightful position when analysing landscape projects, . . . . we’ll be doing it all again with the MA students – click here for this. We covered the semi circle ending at Tate Modern – another potential site – in just under 3 hours. So, looking forward to hearing and seeing the group survey presentation on this area, reading the A3 document and getting stuck into individual masterplanning at 1:500. All by the start of December – no pressure, of course.  Exciting site will produce imaginative designs. And the poem, well for me it’s about not being precious about the past, allowing some respect  but, mainly welcoming the future.

neo bankside

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant

to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or

next-to-last, of three loved houses went.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident

the art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.  E Bishop  One Art

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