Leonardskirche labyrinth, Basel

The labyrinth at Leonardskirch, Basel, enclos*ureThe labyrinth at Leonardskirchplatz in Basel, Switzerland, on Thanksgiving Day.

The labyrinth at Leonardskirchplatz, Basel, enclos*ure

The small square — on a hill spur above the old city center — is next to the 15th century Leonardskirche or St. Leonard’s Church.

The labyrinth at Leonardskirchplatz, Basel, enclos*ure

The labyrinth was installed there in 2002 from a design by Agnes Barmettier.

The labyrinth at Leonardskirchplatz, Basel, enclos*ure

On the right side of the sign is a poem, “Labyrinth Spell” by Ingrid Gomolzik, meant to be spoken before entering the circuit: “The labyrinth is a mystery. . . the giant, the path in the middle, the way to ourselves.”

The design features two turning points around linden trees.
The design features two turning points around linden trees.

The labyrinth at Leonardskirchplatz, Basel, enclos*ure

Sculpture of a Basel public servant by Peter Moilliet.
Sculpture of a local politician by Peter Moilliet.

You can scroll through larger versions of the photos by clicking on ‘Continue reading’ below and then on any thumbnail in the gallery.

Torn turned and tattered
Bowed burned and battered
I took untensed time by the teeth
And bade it bear me banking
Out over the walled welter
cities and the sea. . .

Robert P. Baird, from “The Labyrinth

Vintage landscape: Meridian Hill Park

Orpheus with his lute made trees. . .*

Vintage landscape/enclos*ure: Meridian Hill Park, D.C., 1976, via Library of CongressThe Linden Walk, Meridian Hill Park,* Washington, D.C., August 1976, by Jack Boucher for an Historical American Buildings Survey (HABS), via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

This HABS has photos from 1976 and 1985. The report, which contains a very detailed description and history of the park’s design, was completed in 1987.

Unfortunately, the report notes that the linden trees shown above had to be cut down between 1976 and 1985 because they were threatening the 16th St. retaining wall (on the right side). They were replaced quickly, however, as you can see here.

The HABS report summarizes the importance of Meridian Hill Park this way:

One of the first public parks in the United States to be designed as a formal park, generally considered to be in the continental tradition, rather than in the “natural” mode associated with the English park; Meridian Hill Park was constructed [from about 1914 to 1936]. . . . Under the guidance of the Commission of Fine Arts, the park benefited from the finest criticism of the day. The technologically innovative use of exposed aggregate concrete provided a facsimile of the stone and mosaic masonry traditionally employed in the Italian Garden. The Park represents an effort in a democratic society to match the major European city park.

Today, the last Friday in April, is Arbor Day in many states in the U.S. The day was established to encourage people to plant and care for trees.

The words themselves are a delight to learn,
You might be in a foreign land of terms
Like samara, capsule, drupe, legume and pome,
Where bark is papery, plated, warty or smooth.

Howard Nemerov, from “Learning the Trees


*Meridian Hill Park is bounded by Fifteenth, Sixteenth, Euclid and W Streets, N.W.  The quote above the photo is by William Shakespeare, from Henry VIII.

Where happiness dwells. . .

The courtyard.  The original linden trees were imported from Europe when the house was built.

I love to see rows of  pollarded trees in French squares and courtyards. The quality of light and shade they produce, the formal rhythm of their trunks, and the sculptural qualities of their branches and old “knuckles” have a timeless beauty for me.

Pollarded trees aren’t common in the United States, so I was surprised and delighted when I walked into the lovely, serene courtyard of Meridian House on Friday morning.

Meridian House in Northwest D.C. (just a stone’s throw from Meridian Hill Park on 16th Street) is home to the Meridian International Center.  Since 1960, the Center’s mission has been to advance American public and cultural diplomacy efforts.  It manages international visitor exchanges, holds cultural exhibitions, and hosts conferences and seminars.

I was able to see it — and the garden — last week, when I attended a seminar on Rwanda.

The house, built in 1920 as the home of diplomat Irwin Boyle Laughlin, was designed by architect John Russell Pope, who also designed the Jefferson Memorial, the National Gallery, and the National Archives.  The style of the house, both inside and out, is neoclassical and French.

The front of the house. The inscription over the door reads “Quo habitas felicitas nil intreat mali” —  “Where happiness dwells, evil will not enter.”

The rectangular courtyard just outside the house’s reception rooms is paved in pea gravel and canopied by 40 pollarded linden trees, which were imported from Europe when the house was built (more links on pollarding are here and here and here).

The side garden has a large lawn and planting beds bordered in pink and white impatiens.  The design of both areas is largely original to the house.

The courtyard in early morning.  Click on the photos to enlarge them. 
Young trees the size of poles have been planted to replace the old.
The umbrella-like canopy of the pollarded linden trees.
The old “knuckles” of the trees.
On the south side of the house, the inscription reads, “Purior hic aer: late hinc conspectus in urbem” — “Purer here the air whence we overlook the city.”
Moving from the courtyard to the side garden.
Looking to the right.
An old oak in the center of the lawn.  Its roots are protruding into the grass.
Looking up into the oak.
Looking to the south.
The statues throughout the garden are original to the house.
Several limbed-up fig trees in the southwest corner.
The staff have planted some vegetables around the greenhouse on the south side.
A walkway along the west perimeter of the garden.  
Leaving the house at 1630 Crescent Place.

Not surprisingly, Meridian House is one of the outstanding wedding venues of Washington, D.C.

To see more photos of the courtyard and garden, click on “Continue reading” below and click on the thumbnails in the gallery to enlarge them.

Continue reading “Where happiness dwells. . .”