Posted tagged ‘public gardens’

A Visit to Chicago’s Lurie Garden

September 25, 2015

In late July, I made a short visit to some friends in Chicago whom I hadn’t seen in many years. High on my list of sights to take in were two iconic but very different gardens – the Chicago Botanic Garden about twenty miles north of the city, and the Lurie Garden, sited downtown on the south side of Millennium Park. Happily, I was able to work in a visit to both, but let’s take a look in this post at the award-winning Lurie Garden, built about ten years ago on top of the Lakefront Millennium parking garage – right, a parking garage – smack in the middle of downtown, next to the Chicago Art Institute and a stone’s throw from the famous “bean” sculpture.

Visible from the second floor of the new modern wing of the Art Institute, the 3-acre public ‘botanic garden’ adjoins a bandshell ‘headdress’ sculpture designed by Frank Gehry that anchors the Great Lawn, a public venue for concerts and other events. The garden is divided into ‘Light’ and ‘Dark’ Plates, separated by what is (somewhat preciously) called ‘the Seam,’ a boardwalk boundary between the two.

Lurie Garden

A view of the Lurie Garden’s Light and Dark Plates, separated by the Seam, from the modern wing of the Chicago Art Institute.

Two outer edges of most of the garden are visually enclosed by what is called the ‘Shoulder Hedge,’ taking its name from the Carl Sandberg poem which referred to Chicago as the “city of big shoulders.” The hedge is big indeed, fifteen feet high (there are metal girders that act as frame and guide for pruning) plantings of dark evergreens, designed to protect the lower perennial plantings from visitors leaving the Great Lawn after events there. When I visited, mid-summer plantings of ornamental grasses, Amsonia hubrechtii, coneflowers and daisies were in full bloom in the Light Plate area.

The Lurie Garden won the 2008 American Society of Landscape Architects General Design Award of Excellence, honoring the Seattle landscape architecture team of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd. and the planting genius of Piet Oudolf (who was responsible for the perennial planting design). The following description of the garden comes from the ASLA website:

Chicago built itself up from marshy origins and continues to rise ambitiously skyward. A refinement of nature and natural resources has accompanied Chicago’s willful development. Similarly, the site of the Lurie Garden has been built up over time. It has been elevated from wild shoreline, to railroad yard, to parking garage, to roof garden. Lurie Garden celebrates the exciting contrast between the past and present that lay within this site.

The strong grid layout of Chicago’s streets highlights striking physical features that are not orthogonal. Railways form sensuous braids that merge and swell through the grid. Angled roads radiate out of Chicago like crooked spokes from Grant Park’s location in the center of the city. The paths and other forms of the Lurie Garden, and their relationships to the formal grid structure of Grant Park, are inspired by these patterns and by the strong forms of Chicago’s bold, urban, and Midwestern landscape.

Although I visited in mid-summer, the garden’s website photographs demonstrate clearly the beauty of the landscape year-round. If you’re visiting downtown Chicago in the coming year, I urge you to stop by the Lurie Garden and experience its pleasures for yourself.

Walking with CityGuides in San Francisco – Part 1

July 10, 2015

Last February, I spent a long weekend in San Francisco visiting family. While I was there, I took a walking tour offered by San Francisco City Guides. This volunteer organization, started by the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library over twenty years ago, offers free guided tours in countless parts of the city (donations are accepted at the end of each tour, to offset administrative and operating expenses). On this tour, I spent a fascinating two hours in the Mission District on a tour called “Mission Murals.” We started out at Precita and Harrison Streets, behind an elementary school. En route to the meet-up point, I’d already seen any number of murals.

Our guide (whose name I don’t remember, unfortunately – he was terrific) showed us murals on the back of the elementary school, then took us to the Precita Valley Community Center, where I struggled (unsuccessfully) to capture the mural in its entirety.

The Precita Valley Community Center is covered with a three-story mural

The Precita Valley Community Center is covered with a three-story mural

Many of the murals in the Mission have been created by PrecitaEyes Muralists, a nonprofit arts organization based in the community that sponsors ongoing mural projects in the Bay Area and internationally. Their artists are enormously talented. The final stop on this tour (which took up almost an hour, not surprisingly, was Balmy Alley, where virtually every garage door and building wall is covered in amazing murals.

It was a wonderful, colorful introduction to a part of the city I hadn’t known. Next post – discovering hidden ‘public spaces’ with CityGuides.

 

Beautiful Bonsai at the National Arboretum

February 6, 2015

In early January of this new year, I was feeling a little stir-crazy at home. So I decided to visit the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, at the National Arboretum. I had drifted through the collections before, on other visits, but this time I went specifically to see these miniature treasures.

As many of you probably already know, bonsai is the Japanese art form of growing minature trees in containers (bonsai literally means “planting in tray,” according to Wikipedia). It is over one thousand years old. A similar practice grew up in ancient China, where it is called “penjing” and includes creating miniature landscapes as well as trees.

 

National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, National Bonsai Foundation,  US National Arboretum

Part of the collection at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum at the National Arboretum.

Because it was winter, some of the bonsai specimens were leafless – but not all of them. A conifer is a conifer, after all, regardless of size. So the Chinese and California junipers, as well as the camellias, still sported their leaves – and one camellia was even in bloom. It was a quiet afternoon, well-suited to enjoying the charms of these beautiful specimens. Here are some of my favorites. If you’re ever fortunate enough to visit the Arboretum, don’t overlook this hidden gem. The museum’s hours are more limited, however, so plan your visit between 10 am and 4 pm most days.

 

Discovering Long Bridge Park

January 9, 2015

Last summer, as I was nearing the end of my photo-a-day project (or rather, its extension after the workshop ended), I ventured across the bridge to Arlington, Virginia with a friend from the class. We were exploring the Crystal City/Rosslyn area, which consists primarily of large office and apartment buildings centered around the Crystal City Metro stop. Sarah wanted to check out some galleries, but afterwards we walked around and eventually stumbled onto the Long Bridge Park area.
20140729_0020-web

The park, which has three full-size, large athletic fields and an elevated walkway planted on either side with native perennials, is near I-395. The walkway offers views of the Potomac River and flights taking off from National Airport.

The walkway over Long Bridge Park offers views of the National Monument.

The walkway over Long Bridge Park offers views of the National Monument.

Long Bridge Park

Joe Pye Weed and other native perennials line the walkway, which also serves as a running destination for local residents

County residents have authorized a bond offering that would help fund a large aquatic center, but the County Board recently shelved plans as construction bids came in too high. Nonetheless, the athletic fields apparently are quite popular. And as we wound up our walk in downtown Crystal City, we found the other end of the Park’s offerings, a beautiful ‘water wall’ installation that helped cool us off on a hot July afternoon.

Long Bridge Park

These water walls and plantings (looked like feather reed grass to me!) in the downtown area of the park help provide green space for all the surrounding office buildings.


<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: