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Just a few fleeting glimpses of up above . . . ‘a glimpse is much harder to pin down’ Howard Hodgkin.

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And, down on the ground, from a few hours in Uzès. Basalt setts inlaid in the stone to give subtle definition – a pleasing aesthetic.

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Old and new – skills and  craftsmanship  – and atmosphere.

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The moment when, after many years

of hard work and a long voyage

you stand in the centre of your room,

house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,

knowing at last how you got there,

and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose

their soft arms from around you,

the birds take back their language,

the cliffs fissure and collapse,

the air moves back from you like a wave

and you can’t breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.

You were a visitor, time after time

climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.

We never belonged to you.

You never found us.

It was always the other way round. Margaret Atwood

the old village

January 7, 2015

cupressus 1

The terraces in Oppède-le-Vieux hold a decent collection of native plants – all labelled with correct nomenclature and explanation for herbal or culinary use if applicable –  but it’s difficult to concentrate on these when the panorama is so splendid – the Luberon valley, Mont Ventoux and part of the Vaucluse  – like tiers of old stage flats punctuated with pencil slim cypress. Clients often express the misguided notion that trees will block the view but there are ways of planting trees to emphasise the view as shown here . . .

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These terraces are dedicated to Sainte Cécile. Flat plates of Umbilicus rupestris – navelwort – are springing forth now in the crevices not only here but in many dry stone walls in the area. Below is the site of the old threshing floor – aire de battage – now an angular foot print but originally it would have been circular so more practical for the tethered animal to do his or her circuit.

threshing floor 3

From here, the old village is seen spread across the north facing side of the Petit Luberon. The winter sun starts casting its shadow by midday so houses beyond the medieval ramparts are dark, humid and tricky to maintain apparently. The domination of the restored church of Notre-Dame-D’Alidon and the ruins of the castle are felt from a distance as well as within the village streets. I found it a charming and quirky place and many others have enjoyed it and settled here. Following the armistice of June 1940, architect Bernard Zehrfuss founded a commune of artists in the old town, a project that attracted French sculptor  François Stahly and the writer and artist Consuelo de Saint Exupéry. The commune proved short-lived but, interestingly, it was the basis for Saint Exupéry’s fictionalized account, published in 1946, called  ‘Kingdom of the Rocks’.

view to chateau

town hall

Looking at close up details, the clock and bell tower on the town hall and then at even more smaller scale . . .

knocker

figurine stutuette

. . . a statuette, religious of course, as the Popes, based in Avignon, dabbled religiously and relentlessly here. The main route up to the church and castle was the village street; access points of the wash houses and modest homes are still evident . . .

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blocked up 2

blocked up 3

 

chapel of white penitants

. . . they retain a theatrical  feel (like a discarded film set) of the past – very beautiful and evocative. In the 19th century, the inhabitants had enough and started to move down in the valley, dismantling the roof of their houses to stop paying property taxes. By the beginning of the 20th century, Oppède-le-Vieux was a ghost village and a new community was officially established in the valley, with larger streets, cosier houses and farmers closer to their fields – the new village – Oppède-les-Poulivets (“nice view” in Provençal),

The Chapel of the White Penitents is set half way up the stepped ramp path, beautifully laid, and then, in the full light at the summit sits the church (12C) and the medieval fortress.

church steps

Spacious steps with integrated landings below cantilevered gargoyles lead to a rocky unmanicured area where temporary safety fencing protects the castle – an engineered structure integrated within the natural environment. Work due to start in 2015.

gargoyle

chateau 2

chateau 1

chateau

chateau detail

A line of Renaissance villas line the north facing rock face – a mix of superbe, mysterious and the fairytale. Glamorous and expensive.

renaissance villas

villa detail

Sitting in the cemetery, something I do in a regular fashion, and looking beyond the walls, the tiers of vegetation – ivy in flower, Viburnum tinus in berry, olive, oak and pine gave me goosebumps. And then the surface of the wall, encrusted with stonecrop. Marvellous.

vegetation layers

cementary wall

Despite the open window in the room of long absence, the odor of the rose is still linked with the breath that was there. Once again we are without previous experience, newcomers, in love. The rose! The field of its ways would dispel even the effrontery of death. No grating stands in the way. Desire is alive, an ache in our vaporous foreheads.

One who walks the earth in its rains has nothing to fear from the thorn in places either finished or unfriendly. But if he stops to commune with himself, woe! Pierced to the quick, he suddenly flies to ashes, an archer reclaimed by beauty. René Char.

a Christmas present to myself

December 26, 2013

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Walking in a landscape with trees is one of my most favourite things. A suggestion that we might get out from family Xmas indoors stuff was grabbed at. We needed to go to a landscape that would be user friendly for the youngest member of the family and his special Xmas present, so we came to the Barrage de Bimont which along with the smaller Barrage Zola holds most of the water for the town of Aix. The main path weaves its way easily through the rocky surroundings. Blustery wind and threatening clouds moved around us – along with other families, runners and singletons . . . .

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. . . .  this is a pine and holm oak landscape with a few cedars sprinkling the edge of the pathway network making up the tall structure – cistus and lentiscus the prevalent second storey. Careful management of the twiggy planting gives the ground plane a presence, filters the wind and also provides beautiful visual effects – the trunks of the holm oaks carefully cleaned to show the character of the plant.

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Heavy rain on the gentle slopes had left ‘fun’ elements . . . and he only needed a push on the odd occasion – such energy, resilience and joie de vivre.

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I couldn’t have wished for a better outing – like a pig in muck.

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Back in town, festive activities are of course totally human based – some want to exercise for leisure and some need to entertain for a few coins; some require churches to reflect and worship in. I simply put myself back within the barrage landscape. Won’t forget it and lots of love, T, C + H..

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In a house which becomes a home,

one hands down and another takes up

the heritage of mind and heart,

laughter and tears, musings and deeds.

Love, like a carefully loaded ship,

crosses the gulf between the generations.

Therefore, we do not neglect the ceremonies

of our passage: when we wed, when we die,

and when we are blessed with a child;

When we depart and when we return;

When we plant and when we harvest.

Let us bring up our children. It is not

the place of some official to hand to them

their heritage.

If others impart to our children our knowledge

and ideals, they will lose all of us that is

wordless and full of wonder.

Let us build memories in our children,

lest they drag out joyless lives,

lest they allow treasures to be lost because

they have not been given the keys.

We live, not by things, but by the meanings

of things. It is needful to transmit the passwords
 from generation to generation.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery  Generation to Generation.

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 . . .

l bridge

l bridge 2

shard opposite

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

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more london 2

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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more london 4

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

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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.

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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

1 door

In a village in Normandy, faded French Navy paintwork and glorious mixed tones of iris – I really don’t care about the chain link fence as the tones of the flags are so rich and complimentary. Cayeux irises maybe . . .

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4 iris

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. . . and they’re in a garden in Rue de la Messe. Beautiful calligraphy on the road sign – it’s France, of course. Further south on the Loire, more constrained planting here by the donkey stables in the Domaine of the Château de Chaumont-sue-Loire. The box balls sit in corten circles lining the well raked path network.

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And nearby in Blois, box and other evergreen shrubs are planted and clipped to form green pillows on the sloping bank between road and château.

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In the small park opposite, the planting is older, maybe early 1900’s, but thoughtful in the composition of shape and form. The tree planting in France always causes me to catch my breath in wonderment . . .

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. .  on the higher level are the Jardins des Lice with combinations of plant forms spread below the avenue of limes. This is the only part of the three parts of the Les Jardins du Château de Blois which remains incomplete but what is here is well maintained.

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The completed parts designed by Gilles Clément contain Jardins des simples et Clos des simples zodiacaux. Below is the Jardins des simples viewed from the terrace above  – one of my favourite town parks – a gem of the contemporary treatment of traditional elements. Simple structure, cherries, crab apples, box + yew and decorative infill planting with classical limestone. So simple, yet so effective – it’s all in the detail.

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Another are that sits midway between Jardin des lices and Jardins des simples et Clos des simples zodiacaux is the Terrasse des fleurs royales with the squares of iris – the flower of  Franςois I – at the end of the flowering season now but still effective with the papery brown flags en masse.

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Perfect planting of philadelphus to shoulder the gated entrance. And the view from Clos des simples zodiacaux to the established and mature trees below and, even more faded French Navy, showing me once again that style, finish and detailing are second nature here.

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Viens-tu du ciel profond ou sors-tu de l’abîme,
O Beauté? ton regard, infernal et divin,
Verse confusément le bienfait et le crime,
Et l’on peut pour cela te comparer au vin.

Tu contiens dans ton oeil le couchant et l’aurore;
Tu répands des parfums comme un soir orageux;
Tes baisers sont un philtre et ta bouche une amphore
Qui font le héros lâche et l’enfant courageux.

Sors-tu du gouffre noir ou descends-tu des astres?
Le Destin charmé suit tes jupons comme un chien;
Tu sèmes au hasard la joie et les désastres,
Et tu gouvernes tout et ne réponds de rien.

Tu marches sur des morts, Beauté, dont tu te moques;
De tes bijoux l’Horreur n’est pas le moins charmant,
Et le Meurtre, parmi tes plus chères breloques,
Sur ton ventre orgueilleux danse amoureusement.

L’éphémère ébloui vole vers toi, chandelle,
Crépite, flambe et dit: Bénissons ce flambeau!
L’amoureux pantelant incliné sur sa belle
A l’air d’un moribond caressant son tombeau.

Que tu viennes du ciel ou de l’enfer, qu’importe,
Ô Beauté! monstre énorme, effrayant, ingénu!
Si ton oeil, ton souris, ton pied, m’ouvrent la porte
D’un Infini que j’aime et n’ai jamais connu?

De Satan ou de Dieu, qu’importe? Ange ou Sirène,
Qu’importe, si tu rends, — fée aux yeux de velours,
Rythme, parfum, lueur, ô mon unique reine! —
L’univers moins hideux et les instants moins lourds?

Do you come from Heaven or rise from the abyss,
Beauty? Your gaze, divine and infernal,
Pours out confusedly benevolence and crime,
And one may for that, compare you to wine.

You contain in your eyes the sunset and the dawn;
You scatter perfumes like a stormy night;
Your kisses are a philtre, your mouth an amphora,
Which make the hero weak and the child courageous.

Do you come from the stars or rise from the black pit?
Destiny, bewitched, follows your skirts like a dog;
You sow at random joy and disaster,
And you govern all things but answer for nothing.

You walk upon corpses which you mock, O Beauty!
Of your jewels Horror is not the least charming,
And Murder, among your dearest trinkets,
Dances amorously upon your proud belly.

The dazzled moth flies toward you, O candle!
Crepitates, flames and says: ‘Blessed be this flambeau!’
The panting lover bending o’er his fair one
Looks like a dying man caressing his own tomb,

Whether you come from heaven or from hell, who cares,
O Beauty! Huge, fearful, ingenuous monster!
If your regard, your smile, your foot, open for me
An Infinite I love but have not ever known?

From God or Satan, who cares? Angel or Siren,
Who cares, if you make, — fay with the velvet eyes,
Rhythm, perfume, glimmer; my one and only queen!
The world less hideous, the minutes less leaden?   Charles Baudelaire   Hymn to Beauty

glimpse

Some very enjoyable hours are spent researching enclosed gardens nowadays. For one researcher it is directly connected to an imminent installation, so the aesthetic;  and for the other, it is connected more and more to the 360 degree view of the plot being worked by the gardener, so the practical. A glimpse into one of the cloistered green areas at Val de Bénédiction Chartreuse in Villeneuve les Avignon offers up the expected box framed parterre – a warm berceau – a  14 C  space lined by cloisters but now the 21 C view that visitors expect. This is the church cloister bounded by chapter room, sacristan’s cell, shaving room and the church housing the mausoleum of Pope Innocent VI. It may have been an area for cultivating herbs . . . . a  ‘focal point’ – vase has been placed as part of the experience that is de rigueur now.

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The feature look a a little out of place in the new setting but it’s a good reproduction of 17 C decorative finial from the entrance gate and posts. Pomegranates, melons and acanthus adorn the vase. This may be a copy of  the original by Franςois Des Royers, a local architect, sculptor and stone mason, who was invited to add similar touches. The monasatery grew richer, more influential and beautiful over the centuries until the Revolution.

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Long corridors offer up a peaceful and serene atmosphere. Any decoration is subdued but appropriate. Following a carving up into lots of the library and works of art including frescoes and the bad damage to the building during the Revolution,  the Inspector of Historical Monuments, Prosper Mérimée started the process of repair.

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ceiling

support

The priest’s cells form a linear terrace on the right side of this cloister – Cemetery Cloister. The cells had a mezzanine sleeping area looking out onto a private walled garden, and across the Chemin des Chartreux to the Fort St – André,  high on the hill overlooking the new town, the Rhône and the old Avignon.

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monks houses

The individual garden – hortulus –  has a raised level to catch as much sun as possible. A majority of the herbal plants had been introduced by the Romans but also brought back from The Holy Land by Crusaders so sun and warmth were a prerequisite in their growth and cultivation.

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plan of certosa

The plan of another Certosa, Pavia, shows the uninterrupted rectilinear regulation of line and form. Inward looking and contemplative – nothing from the outside or larger world can interrupt. My thoughts on tending earth and growing plants are on the same level.

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This was the area of the hortus catalogi, also part of the Cemetery Cloister, where plants were grown for food and healing. Grown in an ordered pattern, originally as a user friendly method of organisation,  with roots from ancient Muslim gardens.

hortus catalogi

long corridor

All circulation was through covered cloister walkways – repetition – harmoniously connecting functional spaces – inward views – geometric planes of light and shade – unified  – humility and piety – prayers offered up to save the human race.well

One necessary functional space was based round the water reservoir. The basin here built by Des Royers and covered later with an octagonal rotunda by Franque seems monumental and indicative of the power of the church . . . . so back firmly down to earth with Carol Ann Duffy:

Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.

Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.

Pray for us now. Grade 1 piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child’s name as though they named their loss.

Darkness outside. Inside, the radio’s prayer –
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre. Carol Ann Duffy  Prayer

Some other posts on the research:

https://juliafoggterrain.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/chronicling-the-day/

https://juliafoggterrain.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/quietude/

https://juliafoggterrain.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/land-of-the-saint-the-devil-and-the-monks/

https://juliafoggterrain.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/a-room-without-a-ceiling/

(refs: drawings from The Enclosed Garden Aben + de Wit; Captured Landscape K Baker)

arch mus lapider nave

This is acte 1 of a double acte post.  At Le Musée Lapidaire where Medieval and Gallo-Roman sculptures of the Calvet Collection are housed, the experience is educational. The ecclesiastical building, a former Collège des Jésuites, sits on the main route into the historic centre of  Avignon. Visitors and locals stream passed to and from the stations probably unaware that a museum lies within. The building retains a confident aura although the use has changed into an environment for stone statues, friezes, funery urns and other ‘finds’ from earlier centuries. These are very beautiful in subject matter  – figures both human and animal – and in the craft of the execution.

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The insect world and the botanic world are also treated with a sense of reverence as well as delight . . .

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arch mus lapider 8

arch mus lapider 3

arch mus lapider 11

arch mus lapider 6.

Pure compositions occur whether meant intentionally or just  in the accumulation of storage.

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arch mus lapider composition

A short step across the street in Rue du Pourtail Bouquier, is another Jesuit building. Once a seminary, and then an officers’ hospital, and then a hospice, and now a hotel and restaurant with eye watering prices. Forgive the sarcasm . . . .

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cloitre 2

. .  the mature trees and the surrounding built facades are one.

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As the sun swings round, a sense of theatricality and memory fills the courtyard. An art installation or is it merely items on their way somewhere? And old crafts, like the laying of pebbles, will never be the same again.

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composition

pebble finish

On to Rue Violette and the Collection Lambert . . .

lambert outside

facade 1

J’ai longtemps habité sous de vastes portiques
Que les soleils marins teignaient de mille feux,
Et que leurs grands piliers, droits et majestueux,
Rendaient pareils, le soir, aux grottes basaltiques.

Les houles, en roulant les images des cieux,
Mêlaient d’une façon solennelle et mystique
Les tout-puissants accords de leur riche musique
Aux couleurs du couchant reflété par mes yeux.

C’est là que j’ai vécu dans les voluptés calmes,
Au milieu de l’azur, des vagues, des splendeurs
Et des esclaves nus, tout imprégnés d’odeurs,

Qui me rafraîchissaient le front avec des palmes,
Et dont l’unique soin était d’approfondir
Le secret douloureux qui me faisait languir.  Charles Baudelaire  La Vie Antérieure

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