The first part of this process, hardening the fabric model, worked unexpectedly and extremely well with very cheap hairspray. I used a lot, and my bedroom smelt of it for a long time afterwards. The next step, drawing lines on the fabric to mark out the flat polygons that comprised it, was fairly straightforward, and actually very revealing – I looked at the object in a very different way having seen its ‘components’. Even just making those marks evoked a sense that it could be, or had been, assembled.
However, turning it from an image laid out on paper to a net that really could be put back together was such a challenge and I found that I just could not get my head around it. In the end it took a great deal of trial and error to produce a useable net, and only once I had managed this and fixed it together was it possible for me to really understand it. I hope there is a better system for going about similar tasks in the real world! I’m pleased, however, with the form that has emerged from this task – it is a much simplified version of the fabric model, but it seems to have a great deal of strength and stability, and, visually, great potential for interpretation.
I really like the effect of using thick watercolour paint to make these line drawings on brown paper – it reminds me of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs on papyrus, or Chinese characters drawn for meditative purposes. They also seem to be like onomatopoeia, but pictorial instead of verbal – just as the word ‘squelch’ is similar to, but not exactly like, the sound that it represents, so the line drawings of ‘scrunch’ and ‘stretch’ are similar to, but not exactly like, the image-actions to which they refer.
I found it incredibly painstaking trying to create these two close-ups, because not only did the level of detail necessitate the painting of the corrugations of the cardboard – but the corrugations also had to be described using their shadow and not their outlines. I experimented with ink when I began painting the laminated model, but it was very slow as the ink was thick and I didn’t have distilled water with which to thin it. So I swapped mid-way to watercolour paints, which were much easier to work with and varying the intensity was much simpler.
I feel that the light/shadow technique was more successful in the painting of the laminated model, but I really like the way that the angle of the grid model painting gives a sense of being about to fall into the picture – the more I look at it, the more dizzying it is.
I am not entirely sure what Rasmussen means when he talks about ‘taking over the beautiful architecture of a past era’. He surely cannot be referring to the fact that we allow buildings created in bygone times to remain standing and in use. The logical conclusion of that reasoning would require us to abandon and demolish historical buildings because they no longer fit in with our lifestyle and fashion, or more correctly, because we no longer fit in with their lifestyle and fashion. I would agree that there is a place for certain forms of architecture, and that his second example of the Danish street is not the place for the Venetian building. But I think that he is wrong to suggest that architecture from a past era should be out of its time. I don’t think it matters that students of Oxford University live in Elizabethan halls and yet wear trainers and use mobile phones. What matters is that the college buildings are situated amongst other similarly grand, ornate or formal examples of architecture.
The kinds of ‘games’ that connect me to gardens and to other garden enthusiasts are those simple, indulgent childhood activities of exploration, of uncovering the unexpected, the mysterious, and that which remains a mystery even once it has been discovered: locked doors in moss-covered walls; inscriptions in a foreign tongue or initials in hearts carved on stone or wood; a floral scent that teases at not-quite-remembered memories; an insect that looks so unearthly, perhaps because I have never seen its like before, or perhaps because it is as yet an unrecorded species; water – water that is a mirror, that looking down I see below me a Narnian world that is so like our own but which, because it is almost the same, is more different than Africa – or water that is clear, that sends up lilypads and tempts me to shrink myself to become a fish, to leap in and adventure through this world-within-a-world, an unbreathing pioneer who would publish the survey of these uncharted depths nowhere but in a secret journal to be discovered generations hence like a Jules Verne cliché.
The single most important function of a garden is to provide an outdoor living space in much the same way that a house provides an indoor living space. It serves a purpose different from but complementary to that of a house. Where a house provides a space to be sheltered from wind, rain, high or low temperatures, plants and wild animals, a garden provides a space to experience these things in a way that is more manageable than in wild nature. In Isaac Asimov’s Foundation and Empire, the planet Gaia and all of its plant, animal and human life is a harmonious whole, so that houses and gardens are obsolete – the winds are soft, the rain refreshing, and the day and night temperate. There is no need for protection from nature; humans sleep on the grass without blankets or roofs, and crops grow in abundance where they are needed, without fertilisers or field boundaries. This edenic world is a far cry from our own Earth and illustrates by contrast the primary function of gardens as an outdoor living space which is the happy medium of house and nature.
I imagine that the main difference between landscape architecture and garden design would lie primarily in their respective scopes. Garden design has a specific focus, not necessarily on a smaller scale but on spaces more narrowly defined. These spaces are often private and associated with a particular building or group of buildings. Landscape architecture can also have to do with gardens, but its scope is much wider, including public spaces. Another main difference between the two is that a professional must be chartered by an official body in order to earn the title of landscape architect, whereas any professional or amateur may be referred to as a garden designer. Finally, it may sometimes be assumed that on balance, landscape architects might be concerned more with hard landscaping, and garden designers more with planting.