Bold new gardens in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco match their museums for innovation and viewing pleasure
Is it a trend for groundbreaking new museums to create innovative gardens to complement the buildings and add to the visitor experience? If so, we are certainly in favor of it.
In San Francisco, there's the startling new garden surrounding the deYoung museum in Golden Gate Park, rebuilt to replace the earthquake-damaged landmark there. Around the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., a garden pays homage to the relationship between Native Americans and their natural environment.
The de Young museum opened last fall, and Herzog and de Meuron's copper-clad building has earned worldwide attention, most of it very positive. The new landscape,
Above left: Native crop garden at D.C. museum.Above right, next page: Tree ferns inside and magnolias outside the de Young.
a masterful blend of old and new, also merits praise and a close look. Landscape ar-chitectWalter Hood faced several challenges.While designing a landscape to complement the about-to-be-iconic building, he also wanted to honor the original garden and plants.
Historic, century-old Canary Island palms (Phoenix canadensis), saved from the old landscape, were replanted after almost five years in storage and now break up the southern face of the building. Old favorites are given a new twist: A circular Pool of Enchantment replaces the old rectangular Turtle Pool. New artworks are showcased alongside old: Andy Goldsworthy's meandering Drawn Stone, underfoot at the museum's front entry, contrasts admirably with the reposi tioned Dore vase. Native plants like redwoods and sand-dune-like mounds of soil remind you of the park's wild heritage.
Fitting in with neighbors—a familiar theme for homeowners—was also an issue, with the venerated JapaneseTea Garden next door. A clipped hedge of white camellias is just the right connection. More of Golden Gate Park is also inside the museum—tree ferns and eucalyptus in the skylit courtyard.
Visitors can best see the nearly 5 acres of landscaping from the building's 144-foot tower. A bird's-eye view reveals a zigzag of ferns and a grove of eucalyptus almost slicing one building into three. From this height, the abstract ground shapes of the Garden of Enchantment resemble a Miro painting.
In Washington, D.C.,The Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian opened in fall 2004, and the permanent plantings have settled in nicely—the birch
Museums do not just happen—j. paul getty
dirt trees' bark is peeling off in hefty chunks and looks ready for canoe making.
The landscape around the curvy, rough-hewn sandstone building occupies much of the site's 4'/> acres and gives the visitor a sense of how Native Americans lived with nature. Ethnobotanist Donna House conceived the garden in conjunction with landscape architects at EDAW in Alexandria,Virginia.
Plantings of some 150 species represent traditional crops and the forests, meadows and wetlands of the Chesapeake Bay region. The focal point of the landscape is the pond near the front entry; realistic touches include cattails, bald cypress and fallen trees left for visiting birds. Along the building are native grasses. During the growing season, another section is devoted to native crops grown for food and medicine. What you won't notice are plant labels—a no-no for House, a stickler for maintaining an authentic native spirit.
Of special note are several dozen boulders placed around the property. These are known as grandfather rocks, symbolic of the relationship between nature and America's native peoples.—ruth chivers and bill marken
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