Friday, 10 February 2012

Inspiration station #1

Whilst the start of every project is exciting, there are undoubtably those which take you deliciously off-piste - it's a wonderful feeling when an element of the brief, the garden situation, or the client's requirements engages you so completely that you're suddenly, helplessly wrapped up in exploring a stimulating, energising wealth of possibilities.

We've been considering two or three small gardens in the office for a week or two now. Usually, with a small garden, I would first consider the mechanics of the brief - how we're going to make the most of every scrap of space and so make the most of the client's time spent within it, how we'll create accessible, year round interest, hide the bin store, add the washing line and barbecue, explore the new space's overall style; it's materials, plants, lighting and so on - the atmosphere would come along during the design process, almost of it's own accord.

But all of a sudden (much to the irritation of my partner), I'm hooked. With these new spaces, I feel a shift in approach, an about turn in my thinking, and I find myself looking at these small spaces with a new eye.

Suddenly, for me, the most essential inclusion in these gardens shouldn't be the physical, but the more abstract experiential qualities of shadow, light and sky, to explore the relationships of these qualities in an attempt to produce an uncluttered, yet still engaging, small garden.

Suddenly the gardens on my board are so much about what we don't include than what we do, about what is brought into the space by nature, not us, the designers - a soft breeze, shafts of light, the sounds of the trees. We need to find a way to design these gardens (no matter their diminutive size) so natural elements can be enjoyed to their best advantage,  are fleetingly harnessed within the gardens to provide, not just an aesthetic, but a visceral, uninterrupted experience.

I want to take these gardens back down to grass roots level, forget the outdoor room and strip things back to the core. I want these gardens to be spaces to celebrate the sensation of being outside, because essentially THAT's the reason why we have gardens. Simple.

I'm once again reaching for Thomas Church and Jellicoe from the shelves and re-reading into the night. It's a joy. Just today I've fallen in love with the following quote from The Poetics of Gardens by Charles W Moore, William J Mitchell and William Turnbull Jr :

"Gardens exist in Sunlight. Without it the plants would not grow, the water would not sparkle, and the shadows would not fall. So the qualities of the sunlight that a site receives - its intensity, color, movement, and angles, it's filtering by atmosphere and foliage, its reflections off ground and water - create cadenced patterns that may sometimes recall but will never be quite like those of any other place."

We're still ruminating at sketch stage, but here are a handful of our inspirations......... Click on each image caption to find out more about it.......

Bonaire House by Silberstein Architecture 
The Swedish Pavillion by Fia Backstrom and Andreas Eriksson at the 54th Venice Biennale
Sandstone textural images
Casa Kimball by Rangr studio
Los Clubes by Luis Barragon
Natural textural images