Jane Amidon. Birkhauser, 2005
One can agree with Betsky in praising, and indeed singling out, the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in Kensington Gardens: a superb and elemental commemoration and reflection of that love of children that so epitomised her life. The fact that bureaucracy and self-serving user litigation, or its propensity, has drawn a cloud temporarily over this beautiful and benignly poetic project simply demonstrates the need for the operators to anticipate, and resolve, previously unforeseen barriers. The water flows and sparkles gently round, playing with the light in this big space. Neil Porter, Gustafson's London partner, is to be praised here for his 'coolness under fire' and his inspirational management and support. Amidon singles out Gustafson's recent re-awareness of the once abandoned tradition of the Picturesque - always a natural concomitant of the Sublime - and an emphasis in her recent schemes of that horizontal continuity of form. It is 'Sense of Nature' that pervades Kathryn Gustafson's work in its broadest sense. The current idea of 'feminine minimalism' seems to underline much of Kathryn Gustafson's work and that of her partners in Europe, Britain, and the USA; 'Sense of Nature' in the traditional meaning is, therefore, equated with a rational intuition, a key characteristic of the work upon Jane Amidon focuses.
The Swiss Cottage Open Space project, now under way in London, provides a subtle, compelling oasis of trees and water, mediating the noise and fumes of a notorious traffic node of North London, By contrast, Gustafson Porter's proposal for a Crystal Palace Park on that other site in London evokes a lost world, a 'past dream'. Working here with architect John Lyall, they have offered a prolonged, sustainable process of natural rehabilitation that duly restores the original narrative of its creator, Sir Joseph Paxton. A current, challenging scheme for the multilayered classical and mediaeval core of the city of Beirut, Lebanon, allows the vernacular of an avowedly regional landscape to be revealed, embracing the true history of all the forces and communities that have left traces, while pointing to the future.
The growing range of work by Kathryn Gustafson and her partnerships today displays, over two continents, a remarkable homogeneity in terms of both design philosophy and intention. Given a spread of one-third of schemes in the USA, seven with her UK partner Neil Porter, and 15 schemes (including several in France) in which she has been sole lead designer, this shows a remarkable consistency. Indeed, as the author of this book reveals, in all of the work there is a mysterious, magical touch fusing varied design intentions together, but in the least forceful and demanding manner from the point of view of client and community.
Book review: Passion City: STraum a. Landscape Architecture
The authors of this book are the landscape design practice STraum a. based in Berlin. Kristin Feireiss is an important author and curator in the European architectural field and her introductory essay ably sets the context for this compendium for
Morandi's Legacy: Influences on British Art – book review
This publication is essentially also the catalogue to the exhibition of the same name, which was first shown at the Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal (12 January-25 March 2006) and subsequently at the Estorick Collection, 39a Canonbury Square, London. Professor Paul Coldwell both curated the exhibition and created the catalogue, with support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
Book review: Landscape Design and the Experience of Motion
This important publication, edited by the director of Dumbarton Oaks, Michel Conan, fills a vital gap in the literature of garden and landscape design, and is surely an essential for all landscape and garden libraries. The series of papers, from the 24th Colloquium, is now edited together, ranging from case studies of particular examples, such as the Roman Water Garden (Sperlonga and Tivoli), by Ann Kuttner, to a new study of Stourhead by Michael Charlesworth.
Ends Middles Beginnings: Edward Cullinan Architects – book review
This practice biography (a more appropriate term than 'monograph' (which is over-used and misunderstood) comes at an important moment in time for both European and emergent British architecture, and it appears as something of a historical marker. Ted Cullinan has been a doyen of British architects, always deeply and perceptively aware of the shift in definition of current architectural quality, and yet more hands-on than most of his contemporaries in the craft and formulation of building.
Edgar Degas: The Last Landscapes
Edgar Degas: The Last Landscapes – Edgar Degas is well known as a painter of the human figure. One immediately associates him with ballet dancers, portraits, women at their toilette, laundry women, cabaret singers and racecourse scenes. His work epitomises life in Paris, where he was born and where he spent his life, mostly in Montmartre. Degas, in fact, poured scorn on his fellow Impressionists who painted en plein air, maintaining that 'real artists finish their work at home'.