For years my client and I had been looking at a certain giant blob of a thicket on her property. Lanky buckthorn, lilac and other unkempt and untended shrubs had made the space impenetrable. The fact that the area was on a steep slope made investigating what was there all the more difficult.Not knowing what was in there made it easy to just mow around it, and act like it was part of a landscape. Every so often she would talk about what might be in there; this went on for some years.
One day she called to say she had clear cut the entire spot, and discovered an old rock waterfall and pool. No doubt it dated back to the 1920′s. The precipitous drop, lined with giant rocks, was entirely stable. There was a lot of discussion about restoring the watefall and pool, which led to some discussion of a new fountain; more years went by. One day she called to say she wanted me to look at the space again-I thought as the thicket was threatening to grow back-we were being chased for a plan. How like her to install an enormous concrete and wood sculpture in the center of the old pool. This is so distinctively her way of working things out. Making a move like that was forcing everyone’s hand. I told her I thought a sculpture of this size and proportion needed its own park.
The sculptor had sunk concrete pilings in giant sonatubes. Still visible in the above picture, it was apparent no small amount of grading was needed. My client was concerned that the pool would hold water. The rim of outside soil needed to be taken down. A giant pile of rocks collected from the first clear cutting went into the hole first. Trapping water near the sculpture would not be a good idea.
A skid steer made quick work of removing the weedy growth that had begun to take hold. I have watched the history channel television series called “Life After People” with great interest. It is astonishing how little time it takes for untended ground to go to rack and ruin. Nature abhors a vacuum; any bare dirt will have something going on in short order. Ignore a space, and nature will take over in your absence. The front edge of the old pool was lowered to permit water to escape. I so love this point in a landscape project; bare sculpted dirt is incredibly beautiful. A landscape of evergreens planted in sculpted, cultivated soil-a landscape of my dreams. Barked areas in a garden leave me cold-I like to cover the ground with plants, or see dirt. I mulch strictly to conserve moisture in the soil. The pattern of light and dark on the ground here is telling. The old waterfall and pool were situated in a patch of sun. The sculpture benefits from this.
New lawn softens all the hard edges. The rolling, swelling and dipping of the ground makes for a big fluid situation for the starkly vertical sculpture on its big legs. They look good together.
The fountain rockwork we left exposed. It is a part of the history of the property. Practically speaking, I would never have removed those giant stones; they have stabilized soil existing at a very steep angle. In the spring, my client will be able to pick and choose what she mows, and what she chooses to let be. There is a sculptural element yet to come-the decision about how and where to cut the lawn.
The old stones and the new concrete seem entirely compatible in their contrast. They wrangle with each other. The park is big enough to invite serious viewing. I am seeing that vaulted roof this morning as if for the first time. I need to write my client a thank you note for making a mark, and setting that sculpture amidst the weeds and the history, so as to say what now? Am I not lucky to have her?