“To plan or make decisions about something that is being built or created.”

This is one of the definitions of the word, “design.”

In Landscape Architecture, this has always been a primary function.  Forward-thinking.  Imagining and then producing what may be, can be, ought to be.  It is envisioning the future.  It is filling a void.

What if, however, just for fun, we were to embrace the void?  What then?  Perhaps, just to switch things up, design became about removing substance rather than creating more.  Can we learn from the negative space?  Can more be created with less?

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Yes, yes, and a resounding yes!

At LandCurrent, such a process is underway.  A Zen-inspired courtyard at McKenzie Hall on the University of Oregon campus has been the focus of a desired revitalization project.  The usual introductions were made on site, naturally, in order to become better acquainted.  Photos, measurements, and a brief history all commenced.  Questions were asked.  What is the present relationship this space has with its day-to-day visitors?  What can be done to improve this relationship through the vehicle of design?  You know–the usual form and function drill that is vital to design decisions.

However, something was very different here.  Specific attention to Zen Design principles surprisingly afforded an unexpected perspective towards this little rectangle of concrete, plants and rocks.  The results, magically, somewhat reversed that usual process.

The concept of “ma” is about emptiness.  It is focusing on that negative space where energy flows.  Ma is an essential component of Zen Design.  Delicately removing elements from the existing garden, one at a time, until only the most minimal of frameworks remained was task one.  A small island of plantings, and a solitary basalt column were all that remained.  Seating, edges, pathways–all removed.  How is energy flowing in this space?  Energy, naturally, included both mental energy, from a strictly visual perspective, as well as the physical energy of bodies moving in and through the space of the courtyard.  How is this energy maximized and flowing positively? How is it lost and wasted within the framework of the space?  Understanding this flow of energy was crucial.

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Secondly, the Zen mind embraces the concept of “wabi-sabi.”  This is the balance of perfect and imperfect, new and old, pristine and worn with age.  The brutalist architecture of McKenzie Hall has developed a distinct patina over time.  This is shared equally by the concrete surface of the building and the long wall that separates the courtyard from the outside flow of the campus.  This stained surface also resonates in the solitary basalt column that demands attention in the current design symbolizing the Three Sisters in Oregon’s Cascade Mountain Range.  The design decision that followed was to continue to embrace the weathered, richly textured components of the garden, and then juxtapose them with clean, new elements.  Wabi-sabi at work.

Together, the future McKenzie Halls lies poised and ready to begin breathing again.  The stagnated energy flow will be re-opened.  The story of what was will be clearly visible alongside the new layer of what is.  Minds will ponder, bodies will flow, and balance will be restored.

Yes, embracing the emptiness is a great way to start.  Less is, truly, often the most one could possibly want or need.  Perhaps, in the design world, it may just be everything.

(To be continued…)

Rendering of Design Proposal

Who is winning in Survival of the Fittest? Testing Urban Landscapes @ Bailey Hill Plaza

by Anita Van Asperdt July 19, 2016 Contemporary Landscape Architecture

As designers, finding solutions is our calling.  As Landscape designers, we do this, among other adaptable media, with plants.  Plants solve LOTS of problems.  Situation after situation will arise that calls for an extensive amount of problem-solving and the joys of seeing harmony where once thrived chaos is more than just a little rewarding.  Its […]

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South Hills Modern Landscape Includes Nature Play

by Anita Van Asperdt June 28, 2016 Contemporary Garden Design
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Do you see what I see?  Something hiding among the thick vegetation.  Ah!  There it is!  Construction has officially begun at LandCurrent’s latest project, fondly referred to as Prado Parrilla, in the South Hills of Eugene.  Inspired by the homeowner’s Brazilian influence, Prado refers to the expansive, central meadow design, and Parrilla gives homage to the fabulous […]

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Water Wise Demonstration Garden tour/talk

by Anita Van Asperdt April 25, 2016 Contemporary Garden Design

April 19, 2016 A cloudless sky and summer-like heat greeted those who gathered today at Alton Baker Park’s Water Wise Demonstration Garden.  No, there was no entertainment of free food, but rather a short, sweet tour of this innovative and thriving space by its designers.   Organized by Eugene’s Cascadia Building Council, this little mixer was […]

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FineLine Landscape at the 2015 People’s Choice Award in Eugene Oregon

by Anita Van Asperdt October 7, 2015 Contemporary Garden Design

Every year Architects and Landscape Architects from the southwest Oregon region showcase their best projects at the People’s Choice Awards. People can vote for their favorite projects. You can vote here online. Or you can visit the Broadway Commerce Center in Downtown Eugene, during business hours through October 31 (44 W Broadway Ave). LandCurrent submitted […]

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Award for Cat’s Ear Savannah

by Anita Van Asperdt January 22, 2015 Contemporary Garden Design

LandCurrent has been working in  close collaboration with envelōp design  on a new residence just outside Eugene, Oregon. The collaboration has already received recognition. During an event organized by the local chapter of the American Association of Architects (AIAS) it won an award for BEST RESPONSE TO CONTEXT.

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Hyper-Angular Home in Dwell Magazine

by Anita Van Asperdt December 11, 2014 Contemporary Garden Design

Dwell Magazine December 2014 issue  features the year’s best prefab houses.  It includes the Hyper-Angular Home in Portland Oregon designed by  Jeff Kovel of Skylab Architecture.  Kitty Davis of LandCurrent conceptualized the  landscape taking the angular leitmotif into the garden spaces.  It is nice to see that Dwell gave her credit for her work, read […]

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EcoDistricts in Europe 2015 Program: Webinar Friday December 5, 11:00 am PST/2:00 EST

by Anita Van Asperdt December 2, 2014 Ecodistricts

RSVP dianep@uoregon.edu   Would you like to study EcoDistricts in Europe?  The University of Oregon is offering an extensive fieldtrip and research program this summer through the study abroad department. The program will be led by Dr. Deni Ruggeri (Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture) and Anita Van Asperdt (principal landscape architect at LandCurrent and adjunct […]

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Last week at Oregon Hills Park

by Anita Van Asperdt July 1, 2014 inclusive playground
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Nothing beats play with sand and water besides perhaps dirt and water. The kids had a blast damming up the trough exit.  The moms came prepared with towels and dry clothes. Click here for more information.  

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Ontario award for Natural Playground designed by LandCurrent.

by Anita Van Asperdt May 19, 2014 Natural Play Areas
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  Landscape Ontario Awards of Excellence 2014 has awarded Earthscape in the Special Interest Construction category for the Natural Play and Discovery Environment at the Ottawa Montessori School. Designed by Landcurrent, this unique natural playscape provides a variety of play opportunities that enrich the lives of the children who attend the Montessori school. Recess will never be the […]

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