Contemporary Landscape Architecture

“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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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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The man to my right on this photo totally inspired me last week, read why.

by Anita Van Asperdt May 10, 2014 Contemporary Landscape Architecture

 Ken Smith at the University of Oregon . Landscape architecture is the process of turning ideas into a physical space.  As a landscape architect, you often find yourself endlessly deliberating about every aspect of a design, and meticulously making sure that each detail and specification comes to life during construction.  In his presentation at the […]

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New Waterwise Demonstration Garden in Eugene Oregon

by admin June 5, 2011 Contemporary Garden Design
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Yesterday we had the VIP party to celebrate the completion of the Water Wise demonstration Garden in Eugene, Oregon.  The project was initiated by the Eugene Water and Electric Board in partnership with the city of Eugene, Nearby Nature, Satre Associates and LandCurrent landscape architects. LandCurrent was responsible for the design work with technical support from […]

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LandCurrent’s “Garden House” Wins Two Awards

by admin April 9, 2011 Contemporary Garden Design
Thumbnail image for LandCurrent’s “Garden House” Wins Two Awards

LandCurrent’s “Garden House” has won both the People’s Choice and the Collegeaus Choice award this year in Eugene, Oregon.  As part of a larger landscape plan this small elegant Garden House was designed by LandCurrent and constructed by Greg Morrow & Sons.  We titled the project Garden House to reflect that a small structure like this can be used as […]

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