While we were in Geneva last week, I was able to go see “Floor Works,” a garden designed by Agence TER* for the developers Sociéte Privée de Gérance (SPG). Built in 2005, it surrounds an office building† but is open to the public.
The garden was one of two finalists for the European Garden Award in 2013 — in the category of “Innovative Contemporary Concept or Design of a Park or Garden.” (The winner that year was Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.)
The name “Floor Works” refers to the garden’s parallel lines of red COR-TEN steel and grey slate paving, alternating with long narrow planting beds. Some of the steel lines appear to rise up and fold into chairs and benches. On the building’s west side, the paving pattern also goes up and over the top of the parking garage entrance. About 40 tall bent steel posts are interspersed throughout the area as well.
“The word ‘work’ simultaneously expresses the work (le travail) and [art]work (l’oeuvre); ‘floor,’ the ground,” explains Agence TER. “Floor Works is thus the work produced by working the ground, that is to say, by the action of handling or gardening mineral or living materials.”
In contrast to the earthy qualities of the garden’s “floor,” the office building is mostly glass, often reflecting as an aqua-blue color — beautiful in combination with the rust-red steel.
Nearby buildings are mostly late 19th and early 20th century, of six to eight stories high.
The planting style is naturalistic. It reminded me more than anything else of the often beautiful “Third Landscape” waste areas that one sees along train tracks in Europe. I liked the way the narrow beds allow all the plants to be backlit. But I wished for a few taller (shoulder-high) grasses in the open center. However, the tree-like upright steel posts do provide some sense of depth and shelter without casting shade on the sun-loving plants. (There are actual trees along the west and south sides.)
For me, the real magic came to the garden every few minutes when fog would rise from a mechanism in the top of the garage entrance and envelop the main walkway and building entrance — so densely that for a few seconds I couldn’t see anything else. Then it would start to sink and spread across the rest of the garden.
Finally, along the front of the property, on Route de Chêne, there is an approximately 4′ high wall separating the building from the sidewalk. It is thickly planted with a large variety of healthy perennials. I thought it was superb.
You can see more photos, by Agence TER, here, including overhead views.
Click on ‘Continue reading’ below and then any thumbnail in the gallery to scroll through larger versions of all my photos above (plus several more).
*They were recently chosen to redesign Los Angeles’s Pershing Square.
†It is located about a half mile east of the old city center, at Route de Chêne 30. Take the #12 tram from the city center, Amandolier stop.
5 thoughts on “Steel and fog, Geneva”
I love this garden, and the use of “the Third Landscape” concept, as you say.
When I walked in, I thought, “oh, a (usual) meadow.” But the beds aren’t really filled with meadow plants, they’re escapees — annuals/biennials/perennials from old-fashioned gardens with a tendency to self-seed along train tracks. Plus some low to mid-sized grasses — like the fields of wheat and other grains that are so beautiful right now (and are also dotted at the edges with escapees).
Of course, this Third Landscape was carefully plotted and planted out, I’m sure.
The garden was a pleasure to visit. The fog is the icing on the cake. Mysterious drifting across the garden, but also just fun to stand in.
It would be tempting to sit in one of the chairs and just experience the garden, to feel it from the inside instead of just observing it. Very cool idea!
The weather was alternating between light rain and overcast skies that day, so only a few other people stopped to sit — which was nice for taking photos. About noon, the fog quit for about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes. At first, I thought it was a maintenance break (it may have been), but it later occurred to me that it may be turned off every day at lunchtime, so visitors can eat their sandwiches without clouds wafting over them every minute or so.
What a fabulous garden, and great photos – a treat! thank you.