Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Landscape planning to revive sacred space

Landscape Design and Planning
As I was designing the landscape for my yard and wanting to include some sculptures in the backyard, to get inspired, I started to browse few works of notable Landscape architects including Laurie D. Olin from University of Pennsylvania, who also has written a book named "Placemaking". I landed on one of the projects in Romania involving landscaping Constantine Brancusi's Endless Column Complex. It not only provided me some insight into landscaping but left me thinking about life. Let me describe you briefly and I have to start with Brancusi.
Brancusi in his studio
Brancusi, in his Paris studio, surrounded by his models

Constantin Brâncuși is an internationally known modern sculptor. He is know for his simple, distinctive and pure sculptural forms : the 'eggs', 'fishes', 'heads' and 'columns'. These pieces are in stone and marble, result of direct carving and polishing. In making the forms, Brancusi's quest was to reflect the essence of things rather than showing symbolism or abstract ism. As a result, he made many pieces of the same theme and each time reducing the details and purifying a selected form until only the essence was left. See few photos.
Google celebrates the 135th birthday of Brancusi and few of his sculptures 

In words of a curator, What Brancusi did was 'to concentrate on very simple shapes, to keep his sculpture, as it were, one-cylinder, to refine and polish a single shape to a degree almost too precious.' This statement is also true for a large sculpture, "the Endless Column", which I am describing soon; in my opinion, it is not only precious but almost spiritual and sacred.

Here, in a monumental ensemble, Brancusi created three sculptures (1935-1938) as a memorial to the 8,500 Romanian soldiers who died defending the Jiu Valley from the advancing German army. The three sculptures, the Silence Table (Masa Tacerii), the Kiss Gate (Poarta Sarutului) and the Endless Column (Coloana Infinitului), are placed on mile-long (1.5 km) east-west axis that runs through the heart of the city and perpendicular to the River Jiu.  See the photo below.

The ensemble of the Silence Table and the Kiss Gate are made up of travertine. You can see the simple forms of table and stools. The Kiss Gate is the derivative from his famous sculpture the Kiss (you can see the motif). The Endless column measures 98 feet tall and stacks 17 rhomboidal modules of zinc and brass-clad, cast-iron modules threaded onto a steel spine. The column has a half-unit at the top expressing 'infinite'. It has been seen as a symbolic means of dead soldiers' souls rising into heavens. Since its construction in 1938, the run-down park surrounding these three sculptures and the deteriorating structure of the Endless column in dire need to replace or restore.

In 2000, with the funding from World Monuments Fund, the Romanian Ministry of culture  and the World Bank, 32 specialists from all over the world concluded to conserve -as opposed to replace and the column structure was clad with rust protective layer and  cast-iron modules of the Endless column were repaired and re plated with zinc, brass and clear protective coating.Extra lights and ventilation were added. The travertine Gate of the Kiss and the Table of Silence conservation projects took another 18 months. A project for restoring and conserving the park setting for these monuments was devised by Laurie  D. Olin of the Olin Studio, who I mentioned in the beginning. All these work was done between 2004 and 2006.

Based on the urban designer's plan and landscape designer's plan, plantings and shrubs covering the stools were removed and backgrounds were screened by planting shade -tolerant shrubs in three rows of increasing height. The species were chosen to provide subtly varying seasonal colors and textures. For the walking surface, the same crushed stone that was used around the table was extended along the walkway and edged with a matching colored curb. Within two parks, the same crushed stone were used from which the stools were made. The trees above the stools were carefully pruned to filter more light down to the stools.  For nighttime illumination, lights were placed high within the foliage of the trees suspended from discreet poles placed apart from the stools between the tree trunks.

The Olin's plan succeeded to make landscape and surrounding areas to feel the quaint and calmness of original rural settings in modern context. Also the landscape restoration made it possible for Brancusi's three sculptures feel the same power as it was originally installed and once again be experienced as the coherent, powerful, and spiritual ensemble the artist envisioned.

Now, I have to consider the location and scale of my future sculptures in the design of my backyard. I will also pay attention to sunlight and artificial lights for my usability of the area. Apart from these,
I got fascinated  by his approach and philosophy towards life. I will share few of his quotes.
1- Things are not difficult to make; what is difficult is putting ourselves in the state of mind to make them.
2- Create like a god, command like a king, work like a slave.
3-What is real is not the external form, but the essence of is impossible for anyone to express anything essentially real by imitating its exterior surface.

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