André Le Nôtre and the Plane


André Le Nôtre ‘places objects on a plane not to glorify the object but the express the plane itself. And however enriched with patterning and planting, the plane remains taut’ (Walker and Simo, 1996, p 66). Although Le Nôtre designed the gardens at Versailles, I am not sure whether or not he is responsible for placing Jean-Baptiste Tuby’s Fountain of Apollo in its position at the head of the Grand Canal. Regardless, it is a wonderful example of the concept discussed by Walker and Simo above. Whilst the fountain sprays, the sculpture surges and crashes through the water. When still, however, the surface of the water truly is this ‘plane’ that the object is placed upon (or through), and all the reflections of the sculpture and the trees serve to frame the plane and emphasise its tension.

Enzo Anea’s Tree Museum could be a contemporary example of the same concept. Not only the plane of the stone walls, but also that of the manicured lawn are picked out, magnified and given presence by the trees that are ‘placed’ upon or next to them, planted or potted. Thus this space can be called a Tree Museum and not only an arboretum. Without the trees, the lawn would be mere ground upon which the stone walls as objects were placed. With the trees, the lawn becomes a surface, something that has more of a sense of perpendicular connection to the walls, which are now no longer objects (the trees have assumed this role) but areas, albeit vertical ones. In Walker & Simo’s concept it is the two dimensional, the surface, the area that takes precedence over (and is given its precedence by) the three dimensional, the object.


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