Landscape

PETER WALKER, FASLA
PWP LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS
View of meadow with Richard Serra's Contour 290 (2004). ...
view of main gate with gatehouse ...
view of pond with Ellsworth Kelly's Untitled (EK949), 2005 ...



The sculptures and architecture are meant to work in the landscape in the same way follies do in English landscape gardens: as focal points within the continuum of the naturalistic landscape.

Peter Walker
PWP Landscape Architecture

Dialogue

Perhaps the most unique aspect of working on this project was that we used the existing site as our tree nursery. When we first came to the property in 2003 we were very impressed with the existing trees, but the pending Gwathmey Siegel architecture, as well as our goals for the topography, meant that very few of the trees could remain at their existing locations. Ultimately, we dug and moved over 200 of the trees on site, some of which were 50 feet tall. They were held in a nursery on the property while the topography was reshaped. Later they were replanted to create the design that you see today.

It is important that the reformed land and the existing wooded landscape read in a unified composition at a large scale. Two of the most remarkable things about the site are its size and pastoral character within the larger landscape field of the D.C. region. Our goal was to make this site feel very generous, as if it is opening up. Additionally, we worked to create seamless transitions. The entry sequence to the main building, the topographical change from each ridgeline to each valley, and the moments where ground meets water at the pond -- each of our resolutions to these conditions serves to hold the entire property together as one choreographed landscape.

The great English landscapes were designed as picturesque, idealized versions of nature -- as though each view within an English landscape garden could be a landscape painting on a canvas. To that end, the character of each element that made up those landscapes was idealized -- the grading, the planting, and the focal points within the landscape, such as follies or ruins. At Glenstone, we tried to make the relationships between the elements feel natural, so that the eye moves smoothly from place to place. Similarly, the sculptures and the architecture are meant to work in the landscape in the same way follies do in English landscape gardens: as focal points within the continuum of the naturalistic landscape.

In a subtle way, these two elements create a simple yet grand entry sequence. The row of [trees] is a linear gesture, and one of the few formal elements used to frame the views of the rolling landscape. The flowering meadow is a dynamic element that falls away from the road, emphasizing the size and extent of the site and the beauty of the shape of the land. At the same time, the meadow draws attention to Richard Serra's Contour 290 (2004). The meadow, made of perennial flowers and grasses, is home to thousands of animals, like deer and foxes, and creates a heightened reality.

We introduced a wide range of greens that act as the background, a "natural" tabula rasa upon which both the architecture and the art are seen. One reason Contour 290 (2004) is so dramatic in the landscape is that the meadow is made up of many shades of green. The orange, rusty quality of the Serra plays strongly against that. The white of the buildings does the same thing.

The landscape color palette changes through the seasons. We choreographed these changes so that they occur in a subdued way but on a generous scale. When the flowering meadow changes color, it is blanketed by the main color of that season. Early spring is white; later in the spring pinks and purples emerge. Summer is predominantly yellow and gold. Because of the scale, these colors play the role of background. Similarly, the changes to foliage of the deciduous trees in the fall, winter, spring, and summer contrast with the continuity of the architecture.