Saturday, 14 November 2009

Elemental Design

I first learned of this thrilling piece of landscape architecture from the pages of 'Gardens Illustrated' where it was the subject of a short article two or three years ago. Having lost the magazine and forgotten the name, I was delighted to find it again in a book of contemporary landscape architecture.
The project is at Zapallar, Chile, in a location known as Punta Pite. Along the rocky coast which fronts a private development of houses and small estates the landscape architect Teresa Moller has created a walkway that has been fitted to the living rock, climbing the cliffs, meandering over the tumbled boulders, clinging to this amazingly sculptural margin between the land and sea. There are no handrails, just stone cut and shaped piece by piece into crisp pathways and vertiginous staircases. The bedrock is completely untouched, all the masonry fitted to it with astounding precision.
Just a glance at the photographs shows the strength of this approach - with absolute respect for the surroundings the design wraps around the landscape, the shaped materials marry with the environment, in their precision declaring the brilliance of the design and the skill of the masons.
There is something of the epic here - the pared back simplicity of the forms, the reduction of the design to the absolute essentials, the integrity of the materials and the workmanship, the risks endured in making and, presumably, interacting with, the trail. It has the stamp of the permanent, the timeless, the enduring, and as such it is both an amazing monument to the abilities of its creators and a truly inspired legacy.
What are the lessons? Be honest - the old 'truth to materials' creed of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth rises to mind - celebrate the qualities of the materials to hand and deploy them appropriately. Be bold - the whole world loves a big gesture, as long as it is sincere and can be carried off with aplomb. Be humble - work within the environment, for if you respect it your own work has everything to gain.

1 comment:

  1. Just rediscovered the original GI article - it was rom earlier this year. Time flies...