ISABELLA GARDNER MUSEUM – PART 2

COURTYARD’S SEASONAL DISPLAYS

 

This is the second part of a Post I published last week Isabella and her love for Art and Gardens, on it, I talk about the amazing life of the Gardner family, its trips, and their lifestyle that lead them to build the Isabella Gardner Museum.

Isabella Stewart Gardner was passionate about art and culture, she became interested in the gardens she saw while traveling all around the world and wanted to leave her legacy through art; this Museum is the accomplishment of those interests, with, of course, her personal and intimate touch.

Isabella Stewart Gardner in Venice, 1894, by Anders Zorn (Oil on canvas, 91 x 66 cm)

Her museum is a mix of styles, gothic, renaissance, roman and byzantine, famous because of its great art pieces, nevertheless, the garden courtyard is also an essential part of the building, with floral exhibitions of new and full-grown plants that change constantly during the year, according to seasons and blooms.

Every month the courtyard has a floral theme and color, therefore it has become as essential and iconic as every part of the museum.

The Courtyard


Before we start talking about plants, here are some curiosities about the courtyard and it’s care:

  • Every seasonal display in the courtyard contains 300 to 500 plants.
  • Each plant is placed in the courtyard for around 7 days, after that, they have to replace it with another identical one; there’s a lack of sunlight in the courtyard, caused by the tall walls so close to each other and the plants can suffer having low light.
  • The most traditional display is the long Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) hanging from the third-floor balconies as Gardener used to in the early 1900’s.


That being said, here’s the list of displays during the year

 

Winter tropics (January – February)

Tropical and subtropical plants fill the courtyard: lots of Orchids, norfolk island pine (Araucaria heterophylla), tree ferns (Cyatheales), fishtail palms (Caryota), areca palms and ferns.

This display is inspired by old images of plants placed by Isabella.

(You can also grow this plants at home, in a room with indirect light and high humidity).



Orchids (February – March)

Exotic orchids native to Southeast Asia and Africa, like slipper orchids (Paphiopedilum) with maroon and green flowers, Leopard orchids (Ansellia) with yellow flowers and brown spots, nun’s cap orchids (Phaius tankervilleae) and other groups, all of these, surrounded with calla lilies.


Hanging Nasturtiums (April)
The most traditional display in the museum.

As Isabella did in the late 1800’s, hanging nasturtiums keep making a dramatic appearance above the courtyard. Cascades of flowering nasturtium vines grown in the Museum’s greenhouses, they require continuous care to ensure the dramatic length.

Hanging nasturtiums above the Gardner Museum courtyard

 

Spring blooms (April – May)

Time to talk about color! After the Nasturtiums (also colorful), they place azaleas, blue cineraria, ivory and cream daffodils, and pines. Another Gardner Museum’s signature is the Clivia miniata. Flowering maples used to flank the steps and the statues.

This is the most famous and labor intensive of the courtyard displays.


Hydrangeas (April – June)

The most notorious and common are the Hydrangea macrophylla, Hydrangea quercifolia, and Hydrangea paniculata among other specimens grant life and color to the courtyard. Violets, deep blues, and whites of the hydrangeas complement the delicate yellow oncidium orchids.


Summer blues (June – July)

Late-flowering hydrangeas are a great source of color and create a nice environment in summer. Mophead Hydrangeas and H. paniculata ‘Grandifolia’ fill in the courtyard and stand out among the statues, then, they introduce Agapanthus blue blooms.

Agapanthus at the Gardner’s Museum

 

Bellflowers (August – September)

As the courtyard has small dimensions and tall walls, it remains fresh during warmer months, ferns and fountains’ water help maintain it that way. At this time of year, chimney bellflower (Campanula pyramidalis) appears in the courtyard. The Museum’s horticulturists grow this plant as a biennial, from seeds; it takes two years to get Campanulas to maturity (1,80m tall) and thrive in the courtyard.

Campanula piramidalis at the Gardner’s Museum

 

Chrysanthemums (September – November)

Late September is chrysanthemums’ time, different colors and species. It’s known that Isabella grew many chrysanthemums varieties, as a matter of fact, a pink-tinged chrysanthemum was named for her.

Chrysanthemum at the Gardner’s Museum
Chrysanthemum at the Gardner’s Museum

 

Holiday Garden (December – January)

Holiday traditions at the Gardner Museum showcase flowering jade trees (Crassula argentea) raised in the Museum’s greenhouse for many years, the oldest ones are 60 years old, with trunks around 10 to 15 cm in diameter and 90 cm tall.

Crassula, holiday courtyard

Other plants thrive around the Museum like jade trees, like silver dusty miller, green aloe, and amaryllis red winter blooms.

 

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Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum – Part 1

ISABELLA AND HER LOVE FOR ART AND GARDENS


Last year, we decided to take a trip to the USA, 
my first trip to the USA.
It was fun, cold, hot, windy, special, interesting, fulfilling and everything I never thought it would be.

We met a lot of crazy –yet lovely– people and learned a lot from them and from their culture and surroundings.

Talking to a group of friends, we started a conversation about landscaping and how gardens have become a passion and a way to relax for a lot of people, including me.  One of them listened closely, not everybody is interested in talking about plants with a stranger, but he was and he mentioned this Museum, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; he said it was his favorite and that I should go and take a look.

At first, I was unsure, I don’t know much about art (nothing, to be fair), and I didn’t quite related plants with painting, but I listen carefully and he repeatedly mentioned plants, Italian architecture and other things that sounded good, so I was then interested.

By the end of the conversation, I was like: “ok, it is time for you (me) to learn about art and even if you (me) don’t understand a thing, just GO!!!”… So I listened to myself, and I did.

When I entered to the Museum everything I was expecting wasn’t there, everything I imagined had nothing to do with this building, do not get me wrong, it was beautiful, like a piece of Italian Renaissance in the middle of Boston.

Some lines about Isabella

Isabella Stewart Gardner by John Singer Sargent (1888)

I’m not going to tell you the whole story about her, let’s say Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924), came from a wealthy family, married John “Jack” Lowell Gardner Jr. another wealthy man. She was intelligent, elegant and eccentric.

They had a rough life with a series of losses, including their child. Isabella became extremely depressed and her doctor advised her to travel. Their elegant adventures began around 1867 when they travel to Northern Europe, Russia, Egypt, the Middle East, and Asia.

Isabella kept elaborate journals of her visits; their love for art, books, and culture grew with every travel and people they met.

The building

My personal impression of the museum: A small Villa with a courtyard, flowers, water, and art; it had a presence, an elegant and peaceful presence. I instantly felt comfortable, like I was visiting somebody’s home, Isabella’s home.

The building has her style, her taste, her soul.

In 1884 Isabella and Jack Gardner first visit the Palazzo Barbaro, a Venetian palace which became Isabella’s source of inspiration for her museum’s design.

Exhibition room
Ground hall with garden courtyard views

The museum is a mix of gothic, romantic, Venetian style; it also has that something, or, everything that Isabella wanted it to be.
A combination of styles, materials, spaces, colors, architectural elements and this is what makes the place unique. On their trips to Italy, they purchased columns, windows, and doorways to adorn every floor of the building, as well as reliefs, balustrades, capitals, and statuary from the Roman, Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance periods.

Exhibition room with one of Isabella’s paintings by John Singer Sargent (on the right corner)

The museum has had different interventions through the years. For the last changes at the Museum, Architect Renzo Piano was hired to design the New Wing, he emphasized the external gardens’ views through glass walls around the new area. He made the new building a piece of art that coexists with the historic building and share with it the same architectural importance.

“Gardens, both interior, and exterior are an integral part of the Gardner Museum experience today. When Isabella built the Museum, she created an experience that was as much about flowers and plants, artfully arranged, as it was about masterpieces of art. The culmination of that vision is the courtyard but botanical images can be found throughout the Museum.”

The Courtyard

In this museum, every space was carefully designed and the courtyard was no exception. Isabella was present in every step of the design and construction, she managed to mix different architectural elements and periods and created a beautiful harmonious space, worthy of a true collection, she transformed an exhibition place into a natural, delightful area which made me feel (again) that I was in her home.

First-floor courtyard view


The country yard was designed by integrating Roman, Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance elements like stonework arches, columns, and walls.

Isabella’s passion for gardens inspired this area, the place where nine seasonal garden displays change throughout the year. Most of the plants for the courtyard are grown in the Museum’s temperature-controlled Hingham greenhouses and trucked to the Palace location where they are rotated in to keep the displays in peak condition.

Cool things about the garden displays

  • Every seasonal display in the courtyard contains 300 to 500 plants.
  • The average time for a plant in the courtyard is around 7 days, after that, they replace it with another identical plant, so they don’t suffer the lack of sunlight in the courtyard. It is a small courtyard with tall walls so direct sunlight is very poor.
  • The most traditional display is the long Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) hanging from the third-floor balconies as Gardener used to in the early 1900’s.

For those who know it and for those who don’t, this is a small but very rich space and there’s a lot to say about it, in terms of design, art, architecture, lifestyle, details and of course PLANTS!. I decided to separate this post into two parts, so I don’t leave behind the things that matter to me the most and that I want to share with you: Architecture and Garden Design.

Hope you enjoy this post and stay tuned for the next post, I’ll be talking about all the plant displays during the year in the museum’s courtyard.

The link to the Isabella Gardner’s page https://www.gardnermuseum.org/

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Simplicity of Culture

It’s been a while that I wanted to write about Japanese Architecture, but it’s not an easy topic, behind the designs of the city and the contemporaneous architecture, there’s a lot of history and culture. This is a short introduction of my vision about this simple but amazing living style and architecture.

The most impressive thing (for me) about Japanese Architecture is the simplicity, the clean lines of every structure, the minimalism and their everyday living that shows in the architecture perfectly, it seems they really live the architecture, they feel it; Nowadays, we don’t get to “feel” the architecture, we practically do not look the way while we are walking, we have so many things in mind that we do not realized what’s going on around us, we have to focus on the simple things of life, like many cultures do.

Living a place is to enjoy what you see around you and what you sense from it, this applies specifically in architecture, we spend most of our time inside an structure, whether you are a writer or a doctor, there are places in the structure you work  on (office, home, hospital, etc.) where you feel different, a lighter place, a relaxing place or even a place where you feel proactive, this is what it means to “live” the architecture, even if we don’t realized, every area has a purpose and it should help you feel/work different. This concept for every space is what makes  Japanese Architecture a great example to “feel” the architecture.

To understand the morphology of Japanese Architecture we should know that Japan has had some big transformations during the centuries, from culture to religion, this transformations affected architecture directly. Japan has a variety of influences in its architecture, like:

– Chinese culture and Buddhism from the VI century with temples and stupas or pagodas, as funerary structures.

– The integration of Tea Ceremonies held in rustic wooden houses to drink tea and enjoy art.

– In a military period (Azuchi Momoyama/Sengoku), Castles where built as a defensive structure of liege people.

– They also tried to simplify architecture because of the attacks some cities suffer; they combined classical architecture with new simple forms so the reconstruction of buildings didn’t take long.

– After the First World War, the Japanese architecture change, a big transformation that came from modernism architects like Frank Lloyd Write (United States) and Bruno Taut (Germany) that arrived to Japan to work, they help with a transition from the architecture that had become “traditional” through the pass of the years, new methods of construction and occidental influences.

The modern architecture brought new techniques of construction, styles, new materials like concrete and new interpretations from the traditional architecture; the concept of space, the relation between interior and exterior and, of course, simplicity are the main concepts that I take when it comes to think/design about Japanese Architecture, especially in the contemporary architecture (but that’s a whole new topic for another post).

– After the Second World War, Japanese architects started to emerge; they brought simple forms to architecture and elements from the everyday living, and managed to ease off the architectonic patterns that characterized their history.

Just how new symbolic elements appear and remained from century to century in their life and construction, simple forms are now taking the step down and becoming the new symbolic way to describe Japanese Architecture and culture.

We can not simply the culture of a country, specially if it has so many changes and diverse influences like Japan’s culture, what we can do, is to understand the basic ideas (in this case) of the design and the everyday habits of a population; like a great architect said: … originality consists in returning to the origin.

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Plan for a Sustainable Life

A few years ago, I made an study about a small village in my home-town in Venezuela, a cold mountain zone. The study was about Sustainable Environments, it may sound redundant because it is a rural area with agriculture and cattle raising activities, the common activities in these type of places, but, specifically in that village, agriculture wasn’t the first economic activity for the anymore.

The younger generation does not practice the heavy work in the land, they realized that, because of the beauty of the town, it’s full of tourists and its visiting was increasing very fast; they decided to make some money renting their own houses, this activity continued growing and by 2010, the village was very different, architecturally speaking, they managed to use the money from the renting to enlarge their houses or even to built new ones, let’s say they managed to start a “Bead & Breakfast” kind of activity. The problem was that the typical architecture and the sense of an antique or “folkloric” village was disappearing, it was loosing its identity which was the main reason for the tourists to visit it.

THE PROJECT

This study developed the proposal I handed in for my final thesis, it helps me realized how overrated and undervalue my city was. The idea of this project was giving the village a new perspective, not for the tourist but for the inhabitants; they needed to care more about the land and the culture they lived in.

The project consist on placing a Sustainable Agriculture Village Centre, a few minutes away from the downtown, the project consists in a land area divided in sections, each one with an assigned activity, the architecture style was the fusion of minimalism with the main elements taken from the colonial architecture in the place; It is composed by:

– The access building which was inspired in the main entrances from the old houses in the colonial period.

– Pig, cows and horses’ stables, where all the visitors can interact and be part of the routine activities from the farmers. An inner “private” path designed only for riding a horse and move around the Centre. The roof of the stables should have solar panels.

– Stable for producing humus, compost and lombriculture used for the inner crops and for sale too. The visitors can learn about the process of raise earthworms and how to use the product they form.

Sustainable_Centre

– Different “eatable squares” or sections where visitors can be part of the cultivation and harvest activities. This area implement activities like: changing crops, using organic humus and harvesting. It will be open to schools and private groups that want to learn about the process, teached by people from the zone. The harvest vegetables will be used in a gourmet Restaurant placed in the Centre; people from the town can also buy some of the harvest in the Centre once a week.

– A BioGas zone (only for intern use) powered with cow and horse excrement, it will produce gas and hot water to all the Village Centre. It is placed in the south-east of the village so the smells or any leak of gas does not contaminate the hole Centre or the surroundings (the zoning was made studying the air flows).

– The Restaurant will have a menu with dishes from the local cuisine, using the vegetables harvested from the inner gardens, the structure has local materials like stone walls (the town is placed in a cold zone and the stone helps maintaining warm on the inside when the sun goes down) and wood beams and columns, like all the “colonial” houses are made in the zone.

–  The “living” area, situated in the gorge of the land, so the small duplex apartments have the best view with the benefit of privacy at the end of the day. This are administrated like Bead & Breakfast and people can be included in all the inner activities and town activities as well.

Sustainable_Centre

OBJECTIVES

The main objective of this project was giving the agriculture a new meaning, specially for the inhabitants; resettle this activity as the main economic entry for the town.

Fusion the agriculture with the “new economic activity”: renting small apartments inside of the Centre, so the town still have its visitors, this time, including them and the inhabitants in all the precesses that take place in the zone.

Promote healthy activity, ecological and consciousness of the agricultural products.

This was a very interesting study, it help us realized how fast culture and even architecture can change if people isn’t stimulate, people need to re-learn how to work with its surroundings and improve the old techniques; every individual can do something for its environment, but, let’s be clear, the state must be interested and encourage its inhabitants too, otherwise, our roots will disappear faster than we think.

Architecture is also part of the change, it changes people habits, town activities and even culture, so never underestimate the meaning of architecture around us.

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Castle of Legnano

THE PLACE

The Castle of Legnano is located in Milan, Italy, in the south of a town named Legnano as well as the Castle. It is placed on an small “island” formed by the bifurcation of the Olona river.

The Castle is known as “Castrum Sancti Georgi”, wich means Castle of St. George, whose presence has been documented in this place since 1231. The fort was buid on a Regular Augustinian convent.

This areas was given to me and my companions as an individual project to develop in a year of Master, as well as other areas but today let’s talk about this interesting place.

THE CASTLE

Inside the castle we found a small museum of the medieval events that took place in this area, like the “Palio” which is an annual athletic contest between towns in Italy, that involves horse racing, archery, jousting and crossbow shooting; It is still an active event or festival and the one in Legnano is very famous in the Lombard region. In the museum we found the original costumes and armers that were used in the medieval period, it is a very compact place to visit but it was nice, however, the castle surroundings have no maintenance and that’s were we got in.

The idea of creating a project there was to give a new direction to the use and function of the castle and the surrounding areas to attract and increase the number of visitors during the year.

The project started studying the area, pros and cons inside and out the Castle and type of visitors during the day.

The first thing that I notices was the Park called “Parco Castello” (The Castle park) right next to the Castle, it is very good publicity but’s not being used, we saw people going for a walk, jogging and doing what they like, but, all of them seem to avoid the Castle, it has such low maintenance that people don’t even notice it, it’s like they know it’s there but, nobody cares.

The other thing that caught my eye is that at the end of the area, behind the castle, there are the ruins of an old mill, the project doesn’t include that space but, it could be easily be part of or at least it could be considered as a focal point of interest.

In the other side of the Castle, there’s a parking area, a big one, which means that it is a very accessible area and it is well served too. Nowadays the parking is being used by camions and trucks for many hours. It could be easily fixed establishing schedules for the trucks, leaving space for visitants during the day

The access to the Castle is the most visited one, it’s the point of connection between the city and the Castello’s park, it means that the access is the first thing people would notice in the area and it can be well used to amplify the attention to the Castle itself and not that much attention to the park or its surroundings.

THE PROJECT

This was a particularly exiting project, it was one of the few projects were we can worked at first in group and then by ourselves.

– First I divided the castle in areas: Public, Semi-public and Private, I thought it needed to be stablish “who” and “why” people would like to visit the Castle.

– Then, I gave every section a use, for Public space I proposed a plaza and everyone is invited!, it is the first thing people would see, it’ll have seats, trees and a very wide view of the Castle. It’s placed outside the “island”. When passing the island, there’s an open area that embrace the castle with few seats so that people can get comfortable in the green areas and there are groups of rustic plants that takes the castle to an ancient age.

Plaza

– The semi-public area is placed in the inner garden of the Castle, there are some open buildings and a backyard so there can be made some private events like weddings and official dinners. I proposed pergolas with vine, green and stone pavement and a series of part-shade shrubs for the inside edges of the Castle. For the backyard I proposed espalier fruit trees, seats and an elevated zone for future events.

Backyard– Behind the Castle there’s a great empty area, this one is for the young and not so young. There will be a wooden zone with elevated connections inside the trees, so people can have another reason to visit this awesome but ignored place. There’s also an open space with rustic flowers and grasses and the rule is: There are no rules!

Castle_playwood

There is already a new plan for the Castle, however, we realized that when it comes to students brainstorming, there are always a bunch of ideas to consider. We had a great time, we studied the problematic of the area and got to the proper design according to every point of view.

Castle_p

Castle_generalplan+

Plants

For any question please write me down.

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Mc Donald’s by Patrick Norguet – France

Patrick Norguet is a very distinctive french Freelance Product Designer that’s known over a few years for his fourniture and interior design, he has worked with renowned brands like: Renault (Brusels and Tokio), Marithe & Francois Girbaud (Florence, Paris and Peijing), Petit Bateau, among others.

This is the time for the  fast-food grand Mc Donald’s across France, where Norguet was in charge of executing the new Identity Interiors for the restaurant.

The idea was to return to the concept of “Family” which in the passed years was being returned to, leaving behind the “teenage hangout”. We can see how the design has notably changed, in terms of furniture and even colours, we’re not in the playgroud for kids anymore.

 Dinning aera

The designer based on a neutral White pallet with degradations of grey and light brown, but always including the active and bright colours that caracterize Mc Donald’s, like yellow, red and a little orange was also added this time.

 

Norguet created diferent spaces and with those, different moods for the social interactions, open areas for eating standing up as well as more private areas for gathering in family, and digital terminals where you can order and have the food served directly to the table.

The zones are divided with his own “Still” metal chairs from Lapalma, plywood cabinets, shelving and booth, a very organic and also functional furniture wich is a very important topic in the fast-food restaurants.

The colour palette is the important topic in this design, the main idea is to return to the “Family Resaurant”concept and besides the new and formal interior design the colour is one of the most important factores when we want to direct and space to an specific client.

If we look at this design and imagine the old colours like: Yellow and Red we still look at it like a Kid’s restaurant, but the same design with the actual colours, more sober and clear, we inmediately feel in a “Grown up Restaurant”, the fourniture and the diferent aereas make clear that serious doesn’t mean boring. The nwe atmosphere is joyfull and easy to interact in family or even in small groups of friends

So  the great tip  in this design is that the colour can define a space if you direct it correctly, even if you have the simplest room, just think about what you want and who you want to visit your new areas.

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“Futokoro House”

Mizuishi Architects AtelierThis is a very interesting house in terms of Functional Space. This residential house with 108,11 m2 takes place in Tokyo, Japan, in a pice of ground open from North to South that gives the amplitude and openness that caracterized it.

A place created with the main idea of “organization” so the owners had plenty space for storage and disposition for their personals. The storages are located on the two walls with more lenght (East and West), that define the edge of the ground and are closed to the exterior.Mizuishi Architects AtelierThe structural walls were nominated “Futokoro” wich in japanese means: “hollow space between something”. Between those two walls takes place the kitchen area, the dinning, the living room and a few free spaces more on the ground floor so the owners can personalized them and still follow the open concept of the design.

Mizuishi Architects AtelierThey also focus the design on having natural light and ventilation, that is achieved beacause of a skylight in the centre of the house and a numerous cuts on the exterior walls as much as in the interior walls so the air can circulate all around the diferent areas of the house.Mizuishi Architects Atelier

The front of the house is covered in wooden lattice that gives the owners privacy but at the same time allow the entrance of sun light into the house.

A great idea for those who have a limited  and space; There are always list of solutions for intrincated grounds.

In this case, they had the answer for the organization theme, creating storages on the sides of the main circulation of the house, this detail leaves and open and bigger space for circulation. The illumination has also been solved among the entire house with a skylight and a complete open front that brings natural light on the two levels of the house.

The natural ventilation was solved with the same open skylight that allow the entrance of air and at the same time, a few perforations on the interior walls made the circulation of air possible between the two levels

These concepts are easily adaptable for our designs or home modifications.

"Genkan" a traditional japanese entryway
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