Between Two Worlds
I am a landscape architect by profession. It is a career I chose out of passion and calling. I love the nobility of the profession’s history. Frederick Law Olmsted’s sweeping democratic vision created parks that made America’s great cities habitable after the Industrial Revolution. I love the expansive scope of the profession. Landscape architects design almost any site under the open sky, including highways and bridges, water treatment plants and power lines, urban plazas and parks, green roofs and greenways. I love the breadth and diversity of projects. In the last two months, I spent one day wading through a woodland swamp, one day in the Library of Congress researching historic letters, one day sketching a plan for a three-acre urban park, and one day designing a high speed race track. Next month will be entirely different.
Yet despite my love for landscape architecture, it is the garden that I keep returning to. The garden speaks to my intellect, my emotion, and my spirit. I am beginning to understand why Spanish landscape architect Fernando Caruncho calls himself a ‘gardener’ rather than a landscape architect. “I say ‘gardener,’” says Caruncho, “because this mythical word belongs to mankind and contains memories of our purest origins, so full of resonance and touching aspects both elemental and fragile.”
What’s the difference between landscape architecture and gardening? Some have described the difference between the garden and landscape architect as a matter of scale. The garden is simply a more concentrated version of landscape architecture. Gardens are to landscape architecture what poetry is to prose. But I think the differences are more profound. Each discipline involves a different approach to land.
|Corporate Headquarters, San Francisco. OLIN. Photo by Marion Brenner|
|Image from The Ministry for Food, 1941|
One of the themes of this blog is to advocate for gardening. Garden more, garden now, just get out there and garden. What we need now is not so much a new concept for re-shaping land, or a new image for landscape. What we need now more than ever is to be in relationship with land. The blessings that flow from this engagement are myriad and mighty. Be absorbed in a garden: I can think of no purer expression of the human condition.