Doing Garden Design, part 3: Field Notes

As summer’s yard work draws to a close, I offer the following garden-related “notes-to-self” that have been scribbled in my journal during the season.

IMG_4072

fatsia berries

 

PLANT CARE

  • Consider and then use the best available tool for any given task.
  • Don’t cut corners in any task, large or small.
  • Learn about the form of root systems of undesirable plants, the better to eliminate them.
  • When pruning, eliminate dead, weak, and crossing shoots/branches. Be mindful that any cut made will determine the leading edge of new growth. Try to visualize the direction the new growth will take. Cut to encourage growth into outward-inclined free space.
  • No two plants can thrive in the same exact location. Choose one. Carefully extract the other. (See item #4, above.)
  • Mulch, and mulch again.

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magnolia, with hardy geranium ground cover

 

REFINING THE DESIGN

  • Think big, pay attention to tiny details. Be on the lookout for surprises.
  • Allow room for growth.
  • Build into the design some tolerance for chaos. Selectively groom to let in happenstance.
  • Cut losses with too-far-gone plants or schemes.

IMG_4197

giant fern, unfurling

 

MINDFULNESS

  • Note the cycle of patience punctuated by decisive action.
  • Observe with focus.
  • Stand back regularly, and take the long view.
  • Pace self.
  • Slow down. Patience is a goal.
  • Stop and smell all of it.

IMG_4185

tulip

 

All photos by Laura Kraft.

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Spirals

spring rollIt is Winter now, but Spring is right around the corner. Looking back at this picture of a tulip, unfurling from the ground in front of my house a few Aprils ago, got me thinking about spirals.

Many living things, both plants and animals, share this form in their growth patterns. Haeckel_Ammonitida

This plate from Art Forms of Nature  by German biologist Ernst Haeckel shows examples of ancient Ammonitida shells. I marvel at their complexity and perfection.

No less amazing is M74, the Perfect Spiral Galaxy, a spectacular example of a “grand design spiral galaxy.”

m74_baixauli_900

Fibonacci numbers describe these spiral phenomena mathematically.

Fibonacci_spiral_34.svg

There are many works of architecture based on the spiral, from whole buildings to details, to spiral staircases.

There is a special spiral staircase in Baker Hall, at my alma mater, Carnegie-Mellon University (CMU), built with nothing but layered thin Terra-cotta tiles, as a variation of timbrel vault type of construction.

2012_11_12_images_10_guastavini

It supports itself without a steel armature, posts or beams.  The sinuous gentle curve is gorgeous. The a herringbone tile pattern along the curved underside is one of three layers of tile adhered together with fast-setting mortar.  The resulting laminated shell is almost as strong as reinforced concrete.

It was built by the company of a Spanish master builder, Rafael Guastavino, who excelled at designing and building timbrel arches, vaults, and spiral stairs. Guastavino structures, unlike Roman arches and vaults, don’t require heavy wooden supports (centering) during their construction. “The Guastavino craftsmen could start at the four walls of a room and build toward the center. The masons could stand on a ladder or a platform, but they didn’t have to build a wooden frame to support their structure while it was being built—it almost seems miraculous…We have a difficult time today calculating the geometries of (this) structure. I have students here at MIT doing doctoral research, trying to understand how these structures stand up. We can’t build this staircase today.””

The above quote is from MIT structures Professor John Ochsendorf in “Vaulting Ambition,” by Craig Lambert, in Humanities Magazine, a great article that explores the Guastavino’s history, work and influence.

There is an upcoming exhibit in the National Building Museum, called Palaces for the People: Guastavino and America’s Great Public Spaces, which will be on view from March 16, 2013 to January 20, 2014. I hope to get a chance to see it.

The first photo is mine; the second photo is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; the third photo is courtesy of NASA; the fourth photo is courtesy of Wikipedia; and the fifth photo is courtesy of Michael Freeman.

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Color Options

My client chose a particular rich dark green siding and black window trim for their Craftsman bungalow. I presented them with options for the remaining  trim and door colors. Then I made this quick GIF animation for fun.

laura_4

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Grotesques

This post is an answer to question posed in the previous blog post:

Q.  “Who are we?”

A.  We are grotesques, inlaid into the terra cotta floor of the Reading Room in the Laurentian Library, in Florence, Italy.

libreriaThe Library’s Entry Vestibule and Reading Room were designed by Michelangelo. They are notable because of the radical ways in which architectural elements are used without strict adherence to their traditional/ expected/functional roles. The tall vestibule, an interior room, is made to feel like an outdoor courtyard, literally outside-in.  There are large corbels (brackets) that don’t physically hold anything up, and window-frames surrounding planes of opaque stone rather than glass.

It is a prime example of the style called Mannerism. From Wikipedia, “Mannerism is notable for its intellectual sophistication as well as its artificial (as opposed to naturalistic) qualities. Mannerism favors compositional tension and instability rather than the balance and clarity of earlier Renaissance (work).”

I had been taught that the Laurentian Library was both conceived of and fleshed out by Michelangelo. Because of this, I thought that the faces inlaid in the floor were made from sketches by Michelangelo. However, in a correspondence with Leonard Barkan, a scholar, currently at Princeton University, with many deep interests including Literature, History, Art History, Classics, and Meaning, I learned that this was not the case. He wrote:

The faces on the floor of the Laurentian Library are indeed interesting, in the fashion of grotteschi, which were a widely diffused style of decoration throughout the sixteenth century and beyond.  They probably don’t have much to do with Michelangelo himself.  The Library was realized from what appear to have been his very generalized architectural designs, but he seems to have had very little input as regards the details, since it was all done after he had definitively left Florence.  And the letters we possess on the subject suggest that he wasn’t very closely connected with what was going on in the construction.  The drawings for the floor were (we’re told) by Niccolò Tribolo.  For a brief account in English, see: http://www.bml.firenze.sbn.it/ing/tour_of_the_complex.htm

The inclusion of this assortment of cartoon-like heads in this stately space may have been done in order to include the wild, sensuous, and willful side of human nature along with the sublime, intellectual and religious side.

Grotesques are found in architecture throughout the world. The following Gothic examples are from the Bayeux Cathedral, in Bayeux France.

g3

g11g2g7

Bayeux images courtesy of  George P. Landow

Feel free to share the content of this posting, but please provide a link back to 2H Pencil.

I invite your comments.

Spirals

spring rollSpring is beginning to happen. This tulip, unfurling from the ground in front of my house, got me thinking about spirals.

Many living things, both plants and animals, share this form in their growth patterns. Haeckel_Ammonitida

This plate from Art Forms of Nature  by German biologist Ernst Haeckel shows examples of ancient Ammonitida shells. I marvel at their complexity and perfection.

No less amazing is M74, the Perfect Spiral Galaxy, a spectacular example of a “grand design spiral galaxy.”

m74_baixauli_900

Fibonacci numbers describe these spiral phenomena mathematically.

Fibonacci_spiral_34.svg

There are many works of architecture based on the spiral, from whole buildings to details, to spiral staircases.

There is a special spiral staircase in Baker Hall, at my alma mater, Carnegie-Mellon University (CMU), built with nothing but layered thin Terra-cotta tiles, as a variation of timbrel vault type of construction.

2012_11_12_images_10_guastavini

It supports itself without a steel armature, posts or beams.  The sinuous gentle curve is gorgeous. The a herringbone tile pattern along the curved underside is one of three layers of tile adhered together with fast-setting mortar.  The resulting laminated shell is almost as strong as reinforced concrete.

It was built by the company of a Spanish master builder, Rafael Guastavino, who excelled at designing and building timbrel arches, vaults, and spiral stairs. Guastavino structures, unlike Roman arches and vaults, don’t require heavy wooden supports (centering) during their construction. “The Guastavino craftsmen could start at the four walls of a room and build toward the center. The masons could stand on a ladder or a platform, but they didn’t have to build a wooden frame to support their structure while it was being built—it almost seems miraculous…We have a difficult time today calculating the geometries of (this) structure. I have students here at MIT doing doctoral research, trying to understand how these structures stand up. We can’t build this staircase today.””

The above quote is from MIT structures Professor John Ochsendorf in “Vaulting Ambition,” by Craig Lambert, in Humanities Magazine, a great article that explores the Guastavino’s history, work and influence.

There is an upcoming exhibit in the National Building Museum, called Palaces for the People: Guastavino and America’s Great Public Spaces, which will be on view from March 16, 2013 to January 20, 2014. I hope to get a chance to see it.

The first photo is mine; the second photo is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; the third photo is courtesy of NASA; the fourth photo is courtesy of Wikipedia; and the fifth photo is courtesy of Michael Freeman.

Feel free to share the content of this blog, but please provide a link back to 2H Pencil.

I invite your comments.

Reverse Glass Painting

 grandpas sampler 1

This Art Deco painting was made in the 1920’s as a gift for my grandfather by his older brother Jacob, a sign painter in New York.  Within the 6”x 8” frame are featured 6 painted marble examples, 8 painted wood varieties, gold and silver leaf, and a miniature picture of their long-gone home of origin, in what is now western Ukraine.  The initials are those of my grandfather, Abraham Warshaw.

The technique of reverse glass painting is an Old World skill.  Unlike the sequence of ordinary painting, fine details go on first, followed by the background. Colors and details remain vivid, protected by the glass.

Sign painters of that time were, on occasion, called upon to produce faux finishes and other trompe l’oeil effects.

The skill and care that went into the creation of this object make it a family treasure.

This photo is courtesy of me.

Feel free to share the content of this blog, but please provide a link back to 2H Pencil.

I invite your comments.