03 September 2008

Live Blog: Dean Cardasis, Against the Grain

As often as possible, I will be live-blogging the landscape architecture lectures again this semester. I'll try to clearly mark directly quoted words (or close to it), but the frantic pace of live-blogging and the multi-tasking it requires can make it harder than in a normal academic setting.

Dean Cardasis, FASLA
Graduate Program Director
Rutgers Department of Landscape Architecture
Against the Grain: Jersey Roots in the Art of Sustainable Landscape Design

He began with some background about James Rose, the well-known landscape architect who was an important leader in the modernist movement. Rose rose to prominence in the 1930s due, in part, to some of his writings that helped establish this design revolution. Cardasis is an expert on Rose and the director of the James Rose Center.

Rose's gardens included a lot of plant materials because he wanted them to be so alive. He "sought an essential quality" in each of his projects that belonged to that site. It wasn't something you could manufacture, but you could uncover. He sought a timelessness in his projects that could allow them to endure - but his materials might not have been so timeless.

Rose enjoyed using what was already on the site. Taking advantage of the biophysical properties was not only efficient, but respected the greater truth of the site. He didn't like to bring in rocks, but he did like to use the ones already there to create space and bring ou the most of what was already there. Cardasis speculates on the possibility that Rose was the first landscape architect to use railroad ties in a garden. But he also used old doors for benches, copper roofing was turned into sculpture.

He is sometimes recognized for shunning 90 degree angles. "Why 90? Why not 89 or 92?" It all seemed an artificial construct to him.

Other signature ideas included:
  • Create shallow terraces and depressions
  • Use native, durable plants - "plants require deeper knowledge and familiarity than any other materials".
  • Interlock existing features with new ones
  • Use permeable materials
Cardasis points out that Rose "gave a strong form and meaning to the landscapes on which he worked while preserving natural features and themes". This not only made him a pioneering modernist but also a predecessor of today's sustainable approach to landscape architecture.

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