Revisited the Kurilpa Childcare Centre a month after installation and its looking good with some expected casualties and replacements but not many. One species of grass, Baloskion tetraphyllum, being hit hard – its just not wet enough for it. I thought as much but thought the water course might be wetter – it has such nice feathery seed-heads i took a risk. I reckon maybe 3 will survive. SOmre birdsnest ferns are burnt, which they already were when they arrived and some of the old leaves of the Bangalow palms have also browned off. But these species will survive – they are tougher than you’d think. Other than that I did the gardening equivalent of a sh*t, shower and shave to spruce the place up: weed, remove dead plants and trim dead leaves, smooth over mulch – I would have swept the path but I didn’t have a broom. Sometimes gardening is like hair dressing. Kim built the seat and steps to my detail and its one that I have wanted to build for a long time. Its pretty simple, its just using recycled paving bricks on end in an un-bonded stack bond – deliberately relentless. I hated red brick in the 1980′s as a tradesman and I have been trying to work out how to use it ever since and a number of precedents and opportunities have appeared and disappeared since then: I tried to put it into a garden for Simon Drysdale that fizzed out when I got too busy; then for the Queensbridge Square competition Jason McNamee, Nick Murray and I used undulating red brick when working on Kirstin Thompson’s scheme for the site; a beautiful built example of it is by Neeson Murcutt at Homebush; and the Dutch use it commonly on their pavements. Nonetheless this is the first project where I got the detail in and Kim executed it perfectly.
I continue to work with some of the people I met while there, including Kim Baber who has started an architecture practice with his wife Monique called Baber Architecture. Kim is one of the most talented designers I met there in a very lateral but utterly un-snobbish and inclusive way. Monique studied architecture but is returning to design after working in arts management, and works in the practice as a design consultant and public art project manager.
They asked me to design a garden for their addition to the Kurilpa Community Childcare Centre. Since it was being built by parents from the centre and effectively had no budget it was always going to be a Backyard Blitz kinda affair. I spent half the week designing via spreadsheet and sourcing cheap things w available budget and then supervising the installation. Its largely plants with some steps and a platform of recycled pavers. When we installed it there was the craziest storm ever and we all huddled under a tiny porch in mad thunderstorms. The dry creek bed we had just installed got a work out and luckily functioned well.
Kim and Monique redesigned the entry of the Child Care centre to address the existing porphyry wall adjacent and make a space along it. Since the easiest and most plants we were going to be able to get was tube-stock from Greening Australia I followed an indigenous vibe and designed a gradation from dry grasses to fake rainforest near the building entry. I trained and worked as a bush regenerator before i studied LA so weirdly I drew on this background on the project. Also, West End is full of hippies (albeit Subaru driving ones) and the indigenous plants thing seemed appropriate here. If i had had to use plants in 150mm pots and a landscape nursery the project would have cost 10 times as much w less effect.
The soil was almost mud that day and I was worried about the plants but its been 30-40 degree days since and is going gangbusters apparently.
Gotta love the Qld vibe.
I met Gerry Murtagh
, Don Watson
, Russell Hall
and Rex Addison
because they regularly attended the QUT School of Design lecture series when I was organizing them, first at QUT, then at the State Library of Victoria. They sat a bit like the two old guys at the back in the Muppets, Statler and Waldorf, except there was 4 of them. Despite regular critiques of the speakers I was bringing, they attended religiously and I got to know them and to feel honored by their attendance: Gerry as a fastidious and learned architect, really a natural academic in practice; Don as a scrupulous local architectural historian, practising with govt public works; Russell as the “Peter Corrigan of Queensland” as he was explained to me, building contextual, urbanistic architecture in West End, and; Rex as one of the originators of the contemporary timber and tin language that has become distinctive of Qld architecture. When the lecture series finished on Tuesday nights these guys would go and have dinner together at Neo on Gladstone Road and debate the merits of the speakers, and sometimes once the series finished, I would join them.
Hearing that I would be in Brisbane, Gerry invited me to give a lecture on a Tuesday to the group on a topic relevant to me. Since the lecture series is no longer going, these guys had organised their own lectures for the dinner and were using it for CPD points (continuing professional development). Since I am both writing about pruning for my PhD in the work of Sven Ingvar Andersson (Gerry, you can find the published essay on SVA’s work here as your CPD handout..), and also doing a fair bit of it (like here), I figured I would focus on how and why we prune, and then talk about SVA as a case study. It was a great night, and Greg Bamford, James Davidson and another gent (a local engineer) joined us. And a PDF of the lecture I gave, Gerry, is here.
Human refuse is an ideal environment for weeds because both arise from the same operation: ignorance, perhaps avoidance.
Bergson and North Whitehead are at pains to join mind with nature and here they are one. A psychological reality creates a formal condition. Objects with autonomously generated forms are combined thoughtlessly, GET THEM OUT OF HERE. Together they make hybrid spaces, inaccessible niches. Vegetation occupies them and is difficult to remove. Weeds, thus was it ever this way. An ergonomic for invasion.
Form, mind, process.
More and more I go back to pruning as one of the main form making activities in gardening, and also as a particular type of improvisational practice in relation to the existing. I like pruning. Its a bit Edward Scissor hands.
“Techniques are all the rage today. They suggest a certain control that aims to determine a certain outcome.. (but) a practice simply disposes us to allow something to take place. For example, a gardener does not actually grow plants. A gardener practices certain gardening skills that facilitate growth that is beyond the gardeners direct control. In a similar way, the sailor cannot produce the necessary wind that moves the boat. A sailor practices sailing skills that harness the gift of wind that brings the sailor home”. P.4
I remember a project where a client started to refer to the water feature as “a big slab of blue stone” and remember thinking, that element is dead: once something gets a bad vibe, its over, better jettison it before it takes the rest of the project down.
So in the JOG garden the idea the the deck rail would not be transparent enough became a big issue even though it was a point i originally made.. The whole idea for a hand rail was mine and was just because the deck was just a bit too small and i was worried about chairs going off the edge. So if we built in a bench then we could get an extra seat and also have a hand rail. We could also use the same sliced log detail i was working on for the fence.. This was a feasibility for it.. Did it happen.. wait and see..
The house was finished and so the clients invited the architect (James Davidson Architect
) to test out the spa.. The landscape architect had to present his concept design, done on the iPad.. He hadn’t met the client before and so was reluctant about the spa idea.. He asked “Shall we do the presentation before or after the spa?”. One of the clients was a sound recordist and so he said “I’ve got an aqua pack so lets do the presentation IN the spa”. And so it was, with Black Sabbath playing in the background.. They liked the design..
Did I mention the project, and the spa, was in Queensland?
Going to a client meeting (where I ended up in spa w clients.. More on that later).. Had to redesign backyard there and then because of difference between plans and as built.. Used the iPad there and then to improvise a new treatment.. Love NotesPlus..
After the planners told us about the set back and the architect convinced the client that an angle on the deck was space waste..