Steel and fog, Geneva

chair 2, Route de Chene wall, June 2016, by enclos*ure
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.)

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

Continue reading “Steel and fog, Geneva”

Prairie strip, Washington, D.C.

Hellstrip west of Museum of Natural History, Wash., DC/enclos*ureThis is an example of how nice an urban ‘hellstrip’ can be. It’s just to the west of the Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution. I took this photo in the last few days of September.

Hellstrip west of Museum of Natural History, Wash., DC/enclos*ureI think they are all American native plants. I see a fine grass I can’t identify (just visible in the top photo), goldenrod (‘Fireworks’?), amsonia (I think), and the seedheads of purple coneflower.

I like the arrangement of squares of a single species, one after another, rather than all of the plants in one long mix.  It goes well with the surrounding architecture.

Sometimes I save a weed if its leaves
are spread fern-like, hand-like,
or if it grows with a certain impertinence.
I let the goldenrod stay and the wild asters.
I save the violets in spring.   People who kill violets
will do anything.

Ann Struthers, from “Planting the Sand Cherry