Boost your productivity with these low-maintenance houseplants!

Hello there!

Here I am again with some more tips and ideas to help you transform your own space into a fresh and relaxed one with the use of plants.

This time I’m showing you a project for a Home Studio (or home-office, I just don’t like the word “office” anymore, be patient with me 🙂 ), my clients work at home and they weren’t feeling it, they were bored of the space, there was no life and it was affecting their mood and their way to engage with the space.
Sometimes we don’t realize that small changes can brighten up our day, that’s why I keep repenting we all need “fresh” spaces, where we can breathe and concentrate better, in this case: working better.

 

THE PROJECT 


They have a small studio, about 12 sq.m, it may seem small but they do have a lot of indirect light and I wanted to take advantage of that with the use of succulents, because, let’s face it, if you’re working, the last thing you want to think about is plant’s caring, and they will make the difference.

The project includes low-maintenance plants, each of them with a lot of character because sometimes, transformations require being bold, and these plants have everything we want.

I love sketching, so here’s a view from my client’s studio with some nature behind

 

PLANT SELECTION

 

Studio floorplan

 

  • Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
    Is an ornamental, evergreen, perennial plant. Evergreen means that even in colder seasons they’re going to maintain all their green leaves. Leaves grow vertically about 70 to 90 cm, dark green color with yellow edges when mature. It is perfect as a houseplant because it can tolerate low light and irregular watering.
    It will highlight every angle, and in this case, we’d placed it in a narrow niche to give the illusion of a taller space.
Sansevieria

 

  • Inchplant (Tradescantia zebrina)
    I chose this plant because of its colors, so beautiful and intense. When decorating, we also have to think about shapes and this one has it all.
    It grows well in indirect light and dry to wet soil, obviously, it has to be a balance, but you’re going to be fine with them.
    The falling shape makes it easy to find a high spot on a library, a shelf or in this case, the top of glass doors.
Tradescantia zebrina

 

  • Pincushion Cactus (Mammillaria)
    Is a cactaceae family member, small dimension plant, they need direct light, but, indoors, it’s better to place them in a bright place but avoiding direct sun through glass windows, it can be too intense for them. They like breezy areas so it is ok to open the windows and let them have some air in summer.
    If you find the right place for them, they’ll bloom in summer, forming a little “crown” around your cactus, it’s really pretty and perfect for a bookshelf or in a high space so you won’t pinch yourself constantly 🙂 it also works perfectly by itself or in groups. Give it a try! it’ll make you love cactus.
Mammilaria

 

  • Zebra Cactus (Haworthia fasciata)
    Small but equally ornamental as any other big plant, it’s a succulent with chubby leaves and white reliefs on the bottom that cross the leave all over them with (like a zebra). It can grow from 5 to 10 cm and needs a nice amount of light during the day, but, as I said before, it is better if you can avoid direct sun especially in summer.
    It’ll look amazing in a small container with other plants, but this time, we’ll keep it alone. If you have clear walls (for example) it will stand out without efforts!.

    Haworthia fasciata

     

    There you go, now you have character and colors in a small room, with no effort, no added furniture, and practically no deep plant care. Plants make our life better and sometimes you just need small steps including small but full or style plants.

    Hope you enjoy this post and if you have questions, I’m here baby 🙂

Best Low-Maintenance houseplants that also work as air-purifying!

Indoor plants

Everybody (including me) want the perfect living-room but sometimes it feels like a never-ending homework of details, and to be fair, sometimes it is, that’s why I’ll show you how to make the difference in your living-room, make it stand out with some beautiful and functional plants and especially, no effort required!.

This topic came to me because my husband and I are moving into a new house, we are leaving a downtown apartment, to live in a house, surrounded by nature, with a real garden and a bunch of noisy roosters around… but we love it!. Somehow this has become a goal for some people, they’re getting tired of living in the city chaos and they’re connecting more with nature, but, that’s another topic for a different post.

Enough about me, let’s get to the real thing: beautiful and functional plants for your living-room, this list is all about plants that will make your living-room look good, they require really low maintenance and the cool thing is that NASA agrees with this selection 🙂

 

This low-maintenance plants also require low-light orientation, so they’re perfect for your workspace!

 

Before getting to it, you will notice a connection with basic care steps and that’s a good thing, once you memorize it, having more than one plant will be a piece of cake;

  • Indirect light: they need moderate to indirect light so finding a place for them will be easy.
  • Moist soil: most of them are native to tropical environments so humidity is important for their growth, but remember: Moist doesn’t mean Wet!
  • Green leaves are healthy leaves: if you see some brown tips, pale green or sluggish leaves, check the soil, something’s not right.
  • Fertilize: they need nutrients just like us, give it to them.

Remember: is better to water your plants with abundant water in long intervals, that way, the water can go deep in the soil, the roots will grow down to feed themselves and be protected. If you put little water, the roots will stay in the soil’s surface, so whenever you forget to water them, the roots will dry quickly enough to damage the plant.

 

Let’s divide the plants so you can choose wisely

 

Colorful leaves

Sansevieria trifasciata or Snake plant: an ornamental evergreen, its young leaves are dark green and with time they get that nice yellow edges that will stand out in your living room or workspace. This is one of the most tolerant indoor plants, they grow by rhizomes so they need a good and draining soil; they can root easily, so few water is more than enough to take care of this elegant and structured plant.

NASA research has shown that snake plants are able to clean the air, filtering and removing toxins like formaldehyde and benzene formed at home.

 

Dieffenbachia or Dumbcane: an ornamental evergreen with different dimensions and colors (depending on the variety), It has big leaves in shades of green, yellow and white that will decorate your room very elegantly and it definitely will stand out from any angle. It rarely blooms indoors and it likes a moist drained soil. It’s convenient to rotate the container just to make sure that it can receive light in a uniform way.

Basic care:
– Filtered light
– Moist soil (not soggy)
– Removing the dry leaves to avoid fungus.

It is important to know that the leaves if chewed or eaten are poisonous, so place it where babies or pets can’t reach it.

Dumbcane

 

Falling plants

Hedera helix or English Ivy: this one can survive every condition, sun, shades and little water, it is a warrior and you can take care of it, trust me, you can!
This climbing and/or falling plant is an evergreen perfect to grow indoors with indirect light, they even survive in shady angles but the leaves will lose its variegated margins and stay dark green.

You just have to maintain a moist soil watering it about every 7 to 10 days (depending on your home temperature) during winter and if you don’t want/can’t do it, you can buy a special container with a water dispenser and you’re done, no headaches for you.

Climbing English ivy

 

Epipremnum aureum: also an ornamental with nice heart-shaped leaves and clear green-yellowish lines, very decorative, subtle and romantic, with nice and soft falling shapes.

For this plant, you can use an aerial container or a simple vase on the edge of a library to let the leaves fall. It grows fast so it’ll cover your corner in a few seasons and of course, it will clear the air at home.

They love indirect light and water every 8 to 9 days in winter.

Epipremnum

 

Tree-like

Ficus benjamina or Weeping fig: is an erect plant with a tree-like shape, dark green and glossy leaves. It will make a statement in your living room so don’t be scared to use some big indoor plants. They are slow-growing (up to 3m tall) and they will bright up and refresh your room. Water roughly, then allow to dry out slightly between watering, it does not tolerate soggy soil. Keep soil slightly drier in winter.
This fig tree will help you breath easier being one of the best plants used to improve indoor air quality, it’ll help you remove rates of toxins like formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene.

They like bright indirect light and no air drafts, in early fall it will lose some leaves but, they will be fine by spring, this is a long-lived house plant so if you take care of it, it will take care of you.

Weeping fig

 

Shrubs

Chlorophytum comosum or Spider plant: considered one of the most adaptive plants and one of the easiest to grow, so it’s perfect if you want to try your abilities and “green thumb” with “one” plant at a time; its spider-like leaves are clear green or variegated.

You just have to provide:

– Bright indirect light,
– Well-drained soil
– Moist but not soggy soil, let it dry between watering.

Spider plant

 

Palms

Dypsis lutescens or Areca palm: also known as butterfly plant and awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit; NASA tested it and concluded it is one of the best plants at cleaning air at home and working spaces.

Dark and shady areas or direct sun are not good for them, so try to find a place in between (indirect light) at home so they can grow big and stylish as they are. This plant is always thirsty, but don’t exaggerate with water, there’s have to be a balance.

* This plant needs more cares than others, but it’s not impossible to do it, just practice with other plants before you engage to this one and then you’ll be prepared 🙂

Areca palm

 

Chamaedorea seifrizii or Bamboo palm: they have dark green leaves and erect strong stems, they’ll grow well and fast (in comparison to other indoor plants, about 2 to 5 years) if placed in a bright place with indirect sunlight; they don’t like sitting water, it can rot the roots and stems. You will notice if you are overwatering if new leaves are clear green and you’ll notice some brown tips or brownish new growing leaves.

This plant will give you instant gratification and that’s what we all want in a plant, right? If you take care of it, it will give you years of nice foliage at home. It also grows well in bathrooms and you wouldn’t have to water them so often.

Clean the leaves every now and then with soft soapy water and if you want a regular and even palm shape, turn the container every week or so, to let the plant have even light.
If you put it in a shady place, it’ll still grow, but slower.

Bamboo palm

 

Blooming plants

Spathiphyllum or Peace lily: they have dark green leaves and white “flowers” that are actually a specialized leaf bract that grows hooded over the “real” small flowers and catch the attention of pollinators.

You may think they need extra attention because of the flowers, but they really don’t and that’s what makes them perfect for someone new in the plants’ world.

They prefer shade over bright spots, but, it will depend on how you want your plant to look like, more sun means more spathes and flowers; less sun means fewer blooms and a green foliage look; they are native from tropical rainforests so they demand basic needs like:

  • Medium to low light
  • Water them when the soil is dry
  • Mist/Spray the flowers and leaves to imitate the humidity in rain forests (once a week or more in summer time)
  • Cut brown, yellow or soft unhealthy leaves; re-pot when it’s big enough to cover the container and cut away rotted roots.
Peace lily

 

Phalaenopsis or Moth Orchid: are blooming plants that will grant color to your living-room for long periods. Sometimes is a little bit difficult find a place for them to adapt, but, following this basic steps it will grow nicely and catch everyone’s attention:

  • Find a (moderate) bright windowsill and test its adaption to the spot.
  • Use good draining soil, roots are the most important thing to care.
  • Buy a container with little holes around it, this will let the roots to breathe.
  • Water when the soil starts to look dry (every 7 to 10 days, depending on the season)
  • Use a specific fertilizer for orchids and when the bloom season is over is good to re-pot them with fresh soil, they will appreciate it!
Moth orchid

 

This is really a nice list of easy-growing/low-maintenance houseplants and they will reward you by giving you clean air, bright colors, and beautiful shapes at home.

You can do this, try your skills with one of them and soon enough you’ll see that is totally doable, believe me, you’ll see and feel the difference at home.

 

 

Transform your terrace in only few steps!

I’m so excited to share my first Garden Design with you!, as I explain on my profile, every project and its information is going to be public so you all can get ideas for your own garden needs.

Today’s design is about a particular “L” Shaped Terrace, the clients are a family of three, a mom and two daughters. They had 3 specific needs;

  • They wanted relaxing “tea time” area so they can have some friends in spring afternoons
  • A sunbathe private area for the summer
  • And a space for aromatic plants because they love to cook.


Let’s get started!

 The terrace is placed in the 4th and last floor, pointing to North, it means that each side of the garden is going to have sunlight for at least a couple of hours during the day. It turns convenient because every angle can be used depending on the needs. One thing to know about me is that I really struggle with unused spaces and stuff, I always try to have functional things and (obviously) space, I believe we should all enjoy every angle of our home and that’s what I’m doing here.

 

Plant selection:

Terrace floorplan

 

  1. Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)
  2. Iris ‘Wedgwood’
  3. White Hortensias in tall containers (Hydrangea macrophylla)
  4. White Hortensias in tall containers (Hydrangea macrophylla)
  5. Hosta ‘Halcyon’
  6. Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’
  7. Coral bell (Heuchera x ‘Midnight Bayou’
  8. Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’
  9. Festuca glauca
  10. Bergenia cordifolia ‘Purpurea’
  11. Aromatic herbs

 

THE NEW GARDEN

The new terrace design

Tea-time area

It was designed as a seating area, with an outdoor sofa in dark wood with cream cushions and a tea table in the same material.

  • On each side of the sofa, tall containers carry white hortensias (Hydrangea macrophylla) which will grant elegance to the terrace.
  • On the right side of the couch, star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) that gives privacy and in the same containers, a line of iris bulbs like Iris ‘Wedgwood’ for a touch of color and shapes during blooming time.

 These girls love maples so the main angle will be a perfect spot for some colorful maples, it could be a new sitting area in the future so having all the plants in separate containers can be a good option for those who love changes.

 So:

  • The same line of containers carries red and acid green maples. Those are filled with small ivy (Hedera helix) that gives a falling effect and different shapes to the garden.
  • Winter bulbs like snowdrops (Galanthus elwesii) will make the difference in cold seasons, mixed in the same container with the ivy.
  • Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’ is a 6m tall maple with yellow-green leaves and red coral branches visible during the winter. This maple is in constant color change, even in winter, when it has no leaves and the red brunches will give another shade to the garden.
  • Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ is a 5m tall maple, with dark red leaves that change into vibrant red in autumn.
  • Small but strong plants surround the A. p. ‘Sango-kaku’, like Hosta ‘Halcyon’ nice and compact shrub, loves partial sun to full shade, tall 35-40cm and 70cm wide. It has blue-grey heart-shaped leaves and grey-lavender bell-shaped flowers.
  • Another great shrub is the dramatic coral bell (Heuchera x ‘Midnight Bayou’) with red foliage, perfect for growing in containers and beautiful in contrast to green foliage plants. It grows well in partial sun, it is 30cm tall and 50cm wide, in summer it forms stems with white little flowers.
  • Next to the A. p. ‘Bloodgood’ goes the or blue fescue  (Festuca glauca), an evergreen grass, tall 30cm and blue-gray foliage of erect tufts, it stands up under the red maple foliage.

Sunbathing in an orchard

 Some aromatics will help these girls relax while sunbathing, a free space and seating area that’s not visible from the tea area, thanks to the shape of the terrace and the plant selection.

  • The aromatics selection is always easy and hard at the same time, all of them are beautiful and tasty. Perennial shrubs like rosemary, chives, and sage will work just fine to look at and to cook. Other herbs like basil and parsley are placed in separate containers so they can rotate and change them in winter.
  • Other annual plants are dispersed around the terrace, like geraniums (Pelargonium) that they can alternate every year with bulbs.
  • Another small shrub will look good here and it’s the evergreen known as elephant’s ears (Bergenia cordifolia ‘Purpurea’); It has rounded deep green leaves that turn into purple in winter, it’s 60cm tall and it’s perfect to help the garden looking alive in winter.

 

There it is!

It’s all about colors during the different seasons, contrasts between colors and shapes is all it takes to start a good project, I hope you’ve enjoyed it!.

 

Italy’s Beautiful Gardens: Villa del Balbianello

We are in beautiful Italy, it’s summer, it’s sunny and there’re big quantities of gelato.

Last Sunday I decided to visit Villa del Balbianello in Lake Como (North Italy), somehow I always thought about this kind of places to be full of tourist and I rather go first to the “local” places, but, obviously, there’s a reason why they are so famous, and I’m glad I finally did it (after a long time, may I add).

Villa del Balbianello is part of the Italian National Trust (Fondo Ambiente Italiano – FAI) which owns a list of awesome historic buildings and gardens. Villa del Balbianello had existed since the 13th century and its firsts residents were Franciscan Monks. In 1785, the Villa was purchased and the changes in the building and gardens started, along with new owners until 1988, when its last owner died.

Guido Monzino, the last owner, was a renowned Milanese businessman, art collector and a passionate traveler who left the Villa, the Gardens, the furnishing to the Italian National Trust; He also donated a dowry which still helps to cover the Villa and Gardens maintenance.
Since then, they have renovated the Villa and partly turned it into a private Museum with Monzino’s art collection, memorabilia from his famous expeditions to the North Pole and the Everest (between 1971 and 1973) and, they’ve also renovated the Gardens.

Villa del Balbianello

The Gardens

This time I only entered the Gardens, the thing I love the most and what I wanted to show you.

The gardens frame the Villa, they’re developed in different floors and paths, as they follow the rocky mountain shape. From the beginning the big shaped Platanus acerifolia stand out, a nice Magnolia and alternating Hydrangeas follow the paths. Then, as you keep walking, the Lake takes control of the view, it just blends with the gardens like a perfect painting.

The most interesting thing about this garden is that, because of the rugged terrain, they couldn’t design a formal “Italian garden” nor a romantic “English garden”, so, they had to work and create paths around the Villa and make a unique space that gives you the opportunity to enjoy the lake from different angles. You really get to discover different scenarios just by descending the paths.

They made a pact, between the formality of the design and the “informality” of the nature when they design the Gardens.

Numerous statues guard the surroundings of the Villa and get to watch the Lake through every season.

Plant Selection

  • Wisteria sinensis: full of color in late spring and early summer
  • Hedera helix: covering some walls facing the lake
  • Agapanthus: that welcome you if you arrive by boat
  • Buxus sempervirens: elegant and a formal icon from antique gardens

You can use some of this plants to make your garden a “Royal Garden“, it’s always worth to invest in some strong and long-lasting plants, you’ll get your reward, trust me.

Agapanthus

Also, you probably recognize the name of this Villa because of its appearances on Hollywood films since 1990, like:

  • A month by the Lake (John Irvin – 1995)
  • Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones ( I said “probably”. By George Lucas in 2002)
  • Casino Royale (Martin Campbell – 2006)

Quick tip: if you don’t like crowded places, like I do, just try to go early in the morning, there’s basically no line, your photos will be better and the lights are really favorable in the morning, plus, if you want a summer selfie, your face won’t be all shiny and sweaty 🙂
You have to walk/hike (nothing complicated) a few minutes to arrive to the actual Villa.
Also, I took the bus to get to the Villa; It’s about 45min from the Lake Como’s bus station and the price was around 6$ round trip. Lenno is the name of the village and the bus stop.

 

Marrakesh discoveries: Majorelle Garden

This time, I’m trying to give my blog a new and fresh direction, so today, I’m going to talk about one of my favorite trips I took this year. The destination: Morocco.

Last spring we (my partner and I) decided to go for the first time to Africa, this sunny and kind continent that we knew nothing about, its people, its food, culture… we knew nothing, so we booked a flight to the nearest and convenient place for both of us. I mean, I wanted to see some gardens, my BF wanted to do some surfing and both of us needed to eat some good stuff.

So, we arrived into chaotic Marrakesh, where we were welcome with some mint tea and amazing cookies (already in love with the city).
I dedicated myself to find some good green spots (very difficult, especially the “green” part) to visit while relaxing at the Riad near to the city center, although, the riad had some vines, cactus and rose smell that make you feel in a natural place from the moment you arrive.

Our first visit was to the Majorelle Garden and it was so worth it! here’s why:

Majorelle Garden is a Villa where a Botanical Garden take place along with an Archaeological Museum. It took us about an hour to visit the gardens but you can bring a book and relax sitting in the shade of their palm trees and bamboo selections.

A public open space diverse from others in Marrakesh, with nice refreshing and shade areas designed by the French painter Jaques Majorelle, passionate about botanics and gardening, who put heart and soul to the gardens and it shows.

Jaques Majorelle bought the villa in 1923 and also, a rare variety of trees and plants for over 40 years, creating this unique and relaxing space.

Plants from the five continents:

– Cactus,
– Palm trees,
– Agaves,
– Bamboo,
– Coconut palms,
– Thuyas,
– Willows,
– Bouganvilleas,
– Tree ferns, among others.

This was the first time I saw a plant selection like this in the harmony of a real open garden, it was different, eye-catching, beautiful and surprisingly fresh.

Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé bought the Jardin Majorelle in 1980. They renamed it Villa Oasis, and undertook the restoration of the garden in order to “make the Jardin Majorelle become the most beautiful garden – by respecting the vision of Jacques Majorelle.”.

Automatic irrigation systems were installed, adjusting the distribution of water according to hours during the day and to the specific needs of each plant. New plant species have been added since 1999, increasing the total number from 135 to 300. A team of 20 gardeners once again began working to maintain the garden, its ponds, and fountains” – Jardin Majorelle

Few of the most interesting species in the garden:

  • Echinocactus grusonii: known as golden barrel cactus or mother-in-law cushion (pretty funny), is a spherically shaped cactus, endemic to east-central Mexico. It can reach 1m tall with sharp spines from yellow to white colors. It looks great in rock gardens, it obviously needs its space and it blossoms after 20 years old, so, if you like it, buy it for the beautiful shape.
Echinocactus grusonii (left) and Agave macroacantha (right corner)
  • Pilosocereus azureus: columnar Cactaceae with beautiful blue stems, hairy areoles, and golden spines. It’s very interesting for indoor spaces because of its slow growth, blue color and big flowers that cover the stems during the summer.
Pilosocereus azureus (Pinterest research)
  • Carnegia gigantea: known as Saguaro, you probably relate it to western films (I do), it is a tree-like cactus with white flowers from April to June and it goes from 12m to 21m tall. Very flashy.
Carnegia gigantea (Pinterest research)

 

Other views of the garden

Quick tip: go early, that way you can take good photos and relax if you want to 🙂

About “Fresh Lemonade Gardens” and some Green Love

When I think about Gardens, I immediately think of some open space, full of plants (it’s summer, obviously), maybe some white Hydrangeas, private area, seating comfortably with a cold, super fresh glass of Lemonade in my hand.
That’s it, talking about gardens always takes me to that place, that green and refreshing place where I drink Fresh Lemonade all day (apparently).

So, Fresh Lemonade Gardens represents a window for those green lovers, like me, who want to feel good and comfortable in their own gardens and green (indoor) rooms; in other words: having a nice space to relax with plants around. 

This is also a place designed for those who want to learn how to take care of their plants, take the first step or several more in their gardens, or simply, for those who want to keep their plants alive with no effort.

We can help you transform your space with:

  • Tips and ideas on social networks (like Instagram) to show you how to organize your space with the use of plants.
  • Information about specific plants and how can they light up your space.
  • Personalized design for your own space: each month, we will publish images about green and fresh solutions for yours or others home, real examples of real homes.
  • Short “one-on-one” sessions (30min max.) via Skype, where we’ll talk about your project. In each session we will dedicate time to facilitate yours and your plants life.

To sum up: We will help you transform your space, with personalized solutions, examples, images and a list of things you have to do to, we can have Skype talks to guide you through the process and answer any questions you have. Easy right?

Each proposed solution will be public, this way, everyone can have access to the information and use it as an example to create their own environments. We will try to get everyone to learn how to organize their own space with real examples.

We would love to help you design your garden, terrace or balcony, living room  or kitchen, lounge, workspace… you name it! We have got your back and your plants’.

 

Published Articles

This is a list of articles I’ve written for the online magazine: LAN, one of the most visited websites about Landscape Architecture.

I’ve been writing for LAN for almost two years and it helps me stay focused on this beautiful carrier that I love. I studied Architecture in Venezuela and Landscaping in Italy, after that I became more conscious about sustainability and urban needs these days.

Here I leave some of my articles and I’ll continue adding once they are published, hope you enjoy them!

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.

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.

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.