I started looking for something more on the work of Gilles Clément and came across this interesting lecture that he gave for UCSD, “What is the Third Landscape?”
In the film clip above, Clément defines a garden as an enclosure “done in order to protect the best.” Today, he says, the best is “the life, mostly the diversity.” He discusses his design concept of “garden in movement.” This is the name of the section of Parc Andre-Citroën in Paris that he designed, and which I had foolishly thought referred to a garden with a lot of wavy plants.
In a garden in movement, the plants, principally the annuals and biennials, are allowed to come up by themselves, as their seeds are dropped by the wind, birds, or animals. The gardener mows paths around them according to his idea of what will look best that year. I notice that the aesthetic success of the gardens shown during the lecture, however, depends a lot on the punctuation of shrubs (giving rhythm) and strong, if limited, structure from stones, steps, and paved walkways.
“Low maintenance” only is provided to the gardens, which means no watering, no pesticides.
Clément designed the garden surrounding the Quai Branly museum in Paris, employing the concept of garden in movement, which is funny to me, because when I visited in 2007, I left a note in the visitors’ book that the naturalistic plantings were beautiful (inspired by the savannah), but couldn’t they give them better maintenance and pull some weeds. I didn’t realize things were “in movement.” I still discount the value of diversity provided by crabgrass along the sidewalks.
Clément’s appreciation of what we think of as waste spaces is inspiring though. He calls them a “treasure.” He says he looked at wild forests and farmed fields and didn’t find diversity, but he sees it in what he calls the “Third Landscape” — urban places that have been abandoned, where all sorts of plants have come up on their own. These are places of “diversity in refuge.”
The film clip is about 45 minutes long. I would skip the 5 minute introduction if you’re pressed for time.