Category Archives: nature
[“Big Trees”] consists of 1525 woven stalks of bamboo imported from plantations in West Java. Bamboo is historically associated with traditional craft. . . . [Avianto] borrows and reinterprets traditional Sundanese (West Java) weaving techniques to construct his exaggerated sculptural forms. His innovative process of breaking the long compact fibres of the columns between each node of the bamboo stalk makes it pliable while maintaining its strength. This allows for the bamboo to be manipulated, bent and woven into soft curvilinear lines. An underlying concern for Avianto is the changing socio-economic and cultural values associated with bamboo cultivation. This includes the decline of village owned and cultivated bamboo forests in West Java due to a new wave of global industrialisation, and the aggressive monoculture of the palm oil industry.
— from the sculpture’s label at the Kunstverein
You can watch a 4 1/2 minute video of its construction here.
And from a hill,
The earth is masses
Of cane, bamboo,
And other grasses.
— Donald Hall, from “Bamboo“
A variation on the same theme. . . in Venice, at Christmas, our hotel also had an unusually large garden.
The Boscolo Venezia was built in the 16th century as a family palace. It is located in the Sestiere Cannaregio, between the Fondamenta de la Madonna dell’Orto and the lagoon, facing the island of Murano.
It claims to be the only hotel in Venice with a garden over 2,000 square meters.
Long and fairly narrow with winding paths of light grey pea gravel, the garden is heavily planted in trees and large, dark-leaved shrubs (and variegated Aucuba japonica). Berms down the sides and crossing the middle increase the sense of privacy, restrict a sense of the whole, and make the garden seem larger.
Click on any thumbnail in the gallery below to scroll through larger images.
Although a large garden was mentioned on TripAdvisor when I was booking, I had guessed that this would mean — particularly in late November — neat gravel paths, some dormant shrubs and lawn, and beds of chilly purple pansies on a 8″ planting grid.
That the “private park” would actually encompass meadows, large plots for flowers, vegetables, and herbs, rows of berry bushes, and an orchard was a wonderful surprise.
The hotel’s rooms are in one part of a building constructed in the 1860s as housing for the Basel Evangelical Missionary Society, now called Mission 21. (Hermann Hesse lived here for six years as a child.) The garden was once a place for teaching outgoing missionaries how to grow their own food.
Unigärten’s goal for the Mission 21 garden is to show the “greatest possible diversity of plants” within a permaculture system. They believe the garden, open to hotel guests and the surrounding neighborhood, can inspire both experienced and novice gardeners.
I loved this practical and romantic garden. I spent the beginning and end of every day we were there taking dozens and dozens of pictures — which is why it has taken me so long to post this. (There’s also a good photo of the garden in summertime here.)
(At the bottom of this post — click on ‘Continue reading’ — click on any thumbnail in gallery and you can scroll through larger versions of all these photos, plus several more.)
The back garden
In the back garden, seven rectangular and square sections are outlined in sheared boxwood.
Wild plants (Wildpflanzen) — particularly those that thrive in dry and waste or disturbed ground (Ruderalflächen) — take their place alongside the urban agriculture. They have been left to spread largely undisturbed along the pathways and under shrubs and fruit trees. And in the two meadows, there are forty species, “providing joy to many insects,” according to a sign posted outside the restaurant.
The front garden
The front garden, across from the hotel entrance, does contain curving gravel paths and lawn, but also a number of large, old trees underplanted in a very rough and natural way with native plants from the region — mostly those with the downy oak forest as their native habitat.
You can also see that this front area has been designed to accommodate the hotel’s and the Mission’s entertaining needs and is surely at its best in the warmer months, full of tables and chairs, lights, and people.
Basel travel tips
Meals are the biggest expense for a tourist in Basel. Main dishes in all the guidebooks’ lists of budget restaurants are $20-$45. A Whopper meal at the local Burger King is around $15, although sandwiches from bakeries, eaten standing up, can be had for $6 – $10.
I can recommend Zum Isaak and the bistro of the Museum der Kulturen (nice for lunch), both on Münsterplatz; Manger & Boire at Barfüsserplatz; and ONO deli cafe bar at Spalenvorstadt and Kornhausgasse (their generous Zmorge breakfasts are good for lunch too).
All public city transportation is free for anyone staying in a Basel hotel. Just ask for a pass when checking in.