Formal Analysis (Second Draft)

Place des Droits de l’Homme, Evry, France

Rights of Man Square by Kathryn Gustafson

Kathryn Gustafson is an American, born in 1951 and raised in Yakima, Washington; she crossed the nation for her undergraduate education at the competitive Fashion Institute of Technology of New York and thereafter crossed the Atlantic to work in Paris. She turned to landscape design in France and graduated as a Landscape Architect from L’École nationale supérieure du paysage de Versailles in 1979. Gustafson understood her French audience. She is renowned for her studious interrogation of each space once assigned to her. Gustafson thoroughly knows the history, the popular use, the significance and symbolism of each setting ; such information is foundational in her approach to design. Gustafson won the competition for this Square in 1989; the 2.5 acres (1 hectare) granite pavement space is surrounded by a train station, national highway bordering the north, and the City Hall of Evry; Mario Botta’s Cathedral, another bordering structure, was installed 2 years after Gustafson’s square was completed. Underground spans a parking lot. The square is a suburban nexus between public transitional-transportation spaces, a civic building and a novel sacred space.

The French Constitution’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen was a document inspired by the Enlightenment during the French Revolution; this document’s publication immediately preceded the French Constitution’s and inspired Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man. Two drafts were completed on August 26, 1789 (223 years ago; Gustafson’s Evry square commission was for the bicentennial of Les Droits de l’Homme) and on June 24, 1793 (219 years ago). The Rights of Man are sacred; royalty is banned, so declares the people. Equality is a natural right of all French citizens.

Perhaps Gustafson synthesized the significance of the French version of Human Rights with the space, supporting her infusion and the importance of her design principles with understanding of the document and spirit of the proto-constitution. Relevant to a landscape architect, I imagine, is the eleventh tenant of the French Rights of Man: “Free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Consequently every citizen may speak, write, and print freely subject to responsibility for the abuse of such liberty in the cases determined by law.” Freedom of expression is a theme that Gustafson evokes and encourages in this democratizing park. She welcomes overlapping perspectives by way of subtle grading and from perches places at various heights; Gustafson most sensorially evokes humanity’s freedom through her water features. We need water to survive. It is a basic requirement of life. Is Gustafson equating water—life—the potential for the consequential activity water provides, with the rights of man, with the expression of ideas, with the freedom to express, export, be expedient or slow, to play as children, to remain serious as adults tend to do? Gustafson’s equations, whatever they may be, are not linear. Gustafson does not set a Manichean x = y; she suggests and provides.

There are few designated paths in the Rights of Man Square. However, pathways over water are linear; once a visitor is on terra firma, anything goes. The right of man, woman and child is freedom to pave individual paths. The Rights of Man Square, this stone nexus provides a wellspring of distraction. People will traverse, will descend to parked car, will rush through their lunch breaks; however, Gustafson does not include goosefoot axes, does not allow for a crow’s flight. There are no orthogonal biases immediately connecting civic, religious and commercial space. In order to connect each of the exterior edifices, one must move through water, one must move around water, one must experience water. Water is the valley. There is a slight decline, a slight incline. Water is meant to reduce the tempo of the space.

Water…

… reflects the sky when resting horizontally; it essentially welcomes the vertical with a horizontality. Water breaks perception. Water is a mirror. Gustafson plays with this dynamic with her still Dragon/Ribbon Pool and Movement Pool.

… is vertical as a fountain jet; Gustafson has water shapeshift to wheat. The fountain jets evoke the site’s agricultural history. Gustafson asks us to come back to the land, if abstractly. The water, the sensually playful refreshment it provides also distracts us from the gravity of any memorial, any historical reference to a national document.

… is a lens that reflects and reverses space, transforms and refracts light; water has texture, changes texture; water has color, changes color. Water takes on colors of the environment.

… is transient, evolving, polar and stable. Gustafson installed and designed the fountains to fill empty space and to be absent during peak hours. More of a presence than an absence, more of an absence than a presence. Water is moving, malleable.

Water is distraction, an option to linger, to remain, to absorb the necessary nourishment of experience. To move. The right of man is the right to embody the self. Water is quintessentially abstract medium; it cannot easily be shaped but it can be guided, sprayed, siphoned. Water distracts visitors from the possibility of concentration on the appearance and potential symbolism of memorial.

Le Corbusier in his 1949 Modulor wrote: “The lines do no more than establish order and clarity on the level of geometrical equilibrium, achieving or claiming to achieve a veritable purification. The regulating lines do not bring in any poetic or lyrical ideas… they merely establish a balance.” The themes of balance, justice, scales, regulation, laws, order, constitution commune. Gustafson obeys geometrical rules; she follows a constitution and achieves a space of navigable openness. The resulting balance is for the people. The constitution is for the people. The grid of the pavers is geometric. The geometry recalls the constitution, the organization, the ordering, with the intent of balance for the people. For the rights of the people. The space is characterized by a peaceful openness which can be modified into a forum for play. There is axiality in the constitution of this space, and the water is the cooling focal point, the intentional distraction.

Space has existing slope which Gustafson divided into a “plinth,” subtle graded plane, leveled area and set of “site-scaled seat steps.”

Plage des Jets (Beach of Jets) allots the space to “be full when empty, empty when full.” At the center of the plaza, 153 recessed nozzles emit thin streams of water at varied heights, as tall grasses.

Dragon Pool is “reference line,” retaining wall, riverlike pool, plaza divider and balcony. Pool/basin walls are green granite, 15 centimeters (~6 inches) thick, 5 meters x 2 meters (16 feet x 6.5 feet).

Movement Pool: Narrow rectilinear stationary water feature invites visitors to wade in water.

Siège/Seat/Guard Rail: a sculptural, metal rail inviting observers to perch.

Seat Steps: Broadly stretched set of steps which serve also as seats rise from the north side of the space. Steps spread the width of the plaza.

The Grand Stair: connects to the parking lot below.

Materials: Minimal components. Stone, water, light.  Plantings: Oak trees, still young in dividing axes.

Organization: Sight lines, physical (horizontal) movement, vertical movement of fountain streams, horizontal flow of canaled water, public interaction, double use of space for performance and observation, stage and viewing, perch and climb. The space is designed for freedom of expression.

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First Draft: Formal Analysis

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Maya Czulewicz
Landscape Traditions: First Draft of Research Paper, Formal Analysis
Place des Droits de l’Homme, Evry, France
Rights of Man Square by Kathryn Gustafson

Bibliography:
Amidon, Jane, The Landscape Architecture of Kathryn Gustafson and Partners (Basel: Birkhauser, 2005), 82-7.
Andersson, Thorbjörn; Baljon, Lodewijk; Bellmunt Jordi and Goula, Maria; Imbert, Dorothée; Schröder, Thies; Trieb, Marc, Territories: Contemporary European Landscape Design. Washington, D.C.: Spacemaker Press, 2007.
Girot, Christophe. “Review: Kathryn Gustafson: Sculpting the Land,” review of Kathryn Gustafson: Sculpting the Land, by Leah Levy, Land Forum: Review of Landscape Art and Garden Design, Spring/Summer, 1998.
Hales, Linda. “Landscape Architect Kathryn Gustafson, Going with the Flow.” Washingston Post, June 25, 2005.
Levy, Leah. Kathryn Gustafson: Sculpting the Land. Washington, D.C.: Spacemaker Press, 1998.
Russell, James. “Landscape Urbanism.” Architectural Record. 189 (2001): 66-72.
Stevens, Quentin. “Nothing More Than Feelings: Abstract Memorials.” Architectural Theory Review: Journal of the Department of Agriculture. 14 (2009): 156-72.
Gardenvisit. 2012. “Rights of Man Square (Place des droits de l’Homme) Evry.” Last updated Sept. 8, 2008.
http://www.gardenvisit.com/garden/rights_of_man_square_place_des_droits_de_homme

A Bostonienne told me that Kathryn Gustafson’s Boston “designs are lovely, elegant, and interesting. Plus — at least in the case of the North End Park — she was highly respected for listening to community members and businesses, and delivering something that everyone really used and enjoyed. Not an easy thing to do.”
I. Key Facts: Rights of Man Square; Place des Droits de l’Homme by Kathryn Gustafson, 1991.
Gustafson won the competition for this Square in 1989; site conditions included the space surrounded by a train station, national highway bordering the north, (public transitional spaces) the City Hall of Evry, (a civic building) and Mario Botta’s Cathedral (a historic sacred space). Underground spans a parking lot.
The French Constitution’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen was a document inspired by the Enlightenment during the French Revolution; this document’s publication immediately preceded the French Constitution’s. Two drafts were completed on August 26, 1789 (223 years ago; the commission was for the bicentennial) and on June 24, 1793 (219 years ago). The Rights of Man are sacred; royalty is banned, so declares the people. Equality is a natural right of all French citizens.
The space is 2.5 acres (1 hectare) of granite pavement.

II. Description, Analysis of Square’s Formal Characteristics: “masses, spaces, materials, textures, colors, organization, configuration, dimensions, size, proportions.”
Space has existing slope which Gustafson divided into a “plinth,” subtle graded plane, leveled area and set of “site-scaled seat steps.”
Materials: Minimal components. Granite, water, light. Plantings: Oak trees, still young (species to be identified) in dividing axes.
Organization: Sight lines, physical (horizontal) movement, vertical movement of fountain streams, horizontal flow of canaled water, public interaction, double use of space for performance and observation, stage and viewing, perch and climb. The space is designed for freedom of expression.
Dragon Pool is “reference line,” retaining wall, riverlike pool, plaza divider and balcony. Pool/basin walls are green granite, 15 centimeters (~6 inches) thick, 5 meters x 2 meters (16 feet x 6.5 feet).
Movement Pool: Narrow rectilinear stationary water feature invites visitors to wade in water.
White Wall
Siège/Seat/Guard Rail: a sculptural, metal rail inviting observers to perch.
Seat Steps: Broadly stretched set of steps which serve also as seats rise from the north side of the space. Steps spread the width of the plaza.
The Grand Stair: connects to the parking lot below.
Plage des Jets (Beach of Jets) allots the space to “be full when empty, empty when full.” At the center of the plaza, 153 recessed nozzles emit thin streams of water at varied heights, as tall grasses.

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Awe at a Mazar Garden

This gallery contains 7 photos.

I asked an architect to articulate “What makes a space awe-inspiring?” He, my brother-in-law, told me this: “For me the answer lies in the space being both beautiful and sublime, to steal Kant’s thoughts. In short, he thinks that the … Continue reading

Gallery | 1 Comment

Bibliography & Outline for

Landscape Traditions Research Paper, Formal Analysis

Place des Droits de l’Homme, Evry, France

Rights of Man Square by Kathryn Gustafson

Bibliography:

Amidon, Jane, The Landscape Architecture of Kathryn Gustafson and Partners (Basel: Birkhauser, 2005), 82-7.

Andersson, Thorbjörn; Baljon, Lodewijk; Bellmunt Jordi and Goula, Maria; Imbert, Dorothée; Schröder, Thies; Trieb, Marc, Territories: Contemporary European Landscape Design. Washington, D.C.: Spacemaker Press, 2007.

Girot, Christophe. “Review: Kathryn Gustafson: Sculpting the Land,” review of Kathryn Gustafson: Sculpting the Land, by Leah Levy, Land Forum: Review of Landscape Art and Garden Design, Spring/Summer, 1998.

Hales, Linda. “Landscape Architect Kathryn Gustafson, Going with the Flow.” Washingston Post, June 25, 2005.

Levy, Leah. Kathryn Gustafson: Sculpting the Land. Washington, D.C.: Spacemaker Press, 1998.

Russell, James. “Landscape Urbanism.” Architectural Record. 189 (2001): 66-72.

Stevens, Quentin. “Nothing More Than Feelings: Abstract Memorials.” Architectural Theory Review: Journal of the Department of Agriculture. 14 (2009): 156-72.

Gardenvisit. 2012. “Rights of Man Square (Place des droits de l’Homme) Evry.” Last updated Sept. 8, 2008. www.gardenvisit.com/garden/rights_of_man_square_place_des_droits_de_homme

Outline:

Pre-writing: Diagram, trace, draw landscape. Several (at same scale). Find more plans, maps, photos, also articles and books. Interview people I know who have visited (responses pending)—just for fun and possible leads to further information.

  1. Key Facts: Rights of Man Square; Place des Droits de l’Homme by Kathryn Gustafson, 1991.
  2. Description, Analysis of Square’s Formal Characteristics: “masses, spaces, materials, textures, colors, organization, configuration, dimensions, size, proportions.”
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Pastorius Park Amphitheater

Chaque paysage est un état d’âme.” Henri-Frédéric Amiel, Swiss philosophy professor in the late 1800s wrote in his obsessively lengthy personal journal that “each landscape/countryside is a state of the soul/spirit.” I considered Amiel’s words as I meandered through Pastorius Park’s green amphitheater, built in 1915. This space is a sustainable rendition of an ancient theme, a modern version of an old world tradition. The dramatic place appeases the cultural tastes of the urban spirit while providing 16 acres of rolling country-like oasis. The green amphitheater is cultural and environmental: sustainable for the globe and society. Pastorius Park reifies the conditions of spirits both classical–set-in-stone–and relevant, modern, breathing, photosynthesizing.

Along Millman Street, by Hartwell in Northwest Philadelphia, we are welcomed by a dingy sign. Welcome to Pastorius Park!

Welcome to Pastorius Park!

Dogs are allowed here. This land is owned by Fairmount Park Commission. Boring, dirty sign. Small font. Let’s run right past it!

Pastorius Park is located in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, PA. Here is a “Bird’s Eye View” via Bing of the park, taken in winter. The evergreen trees stand in contrast to the bare deciduous trees.

There are no exterior borders or fences surrounding the park. This is an open park, surrounded by a grid of streets. There are no sidewalks around the perimeter. There are lined trees, a dominance of well-established plane trees.
Open border to Pastorius Park

Abington Ave.

Allée of deciduous trees as border to open Pastorius Park.

Odd, old murals decorate bordered up windows of a defunct stone building. Again: Welcome to Pastorius Park!

Again: an odd mural.

Entering the Amphitheater, looking toward the stage.

Grassy carpeted terrace rolling down to the orchestra/moat surrounding the stage. This is one entrance among several identical entryways.

The amphitheater is close to Millman Street. The canopy is verdant now, in July. This is a green space amphitheater, not a hardscape amphitheater. Upper canopy trees and midcanopy trees are wall-like on one side; grass rolls around, allowing cooped-up city dogs to sprint about through and on the other side of the theater.

Mimosa, or Silk Tree, no longer in bloom; mid-July.

From the Mimosa/Silk Tree, spanning across the theater to a small, unused, stone building, note the gently-sloped terracing of the amphitheater.

The sloping lawn is navigable, easy to ascend and descend. The stairs, intermittently placed, are a formality, perhaps.

Stone steps.

These punctuating steps provide less function than cosmetic axiality.

Upward perspective. Green prevails over grey, in sepia.

Green plays the leading role; grey hardscape is in the supporting cast.

This design prioritizes green over grey. Why, however, must the stone stair structures be inserted? Perhaps to assert the function of the space, to orient the viewers’ collective gaze, a nod to classical axiality.

This is what the actors see, looking from their stage out into the audience.

All the world's a stage...

Evergreen columns, backstage, looking out to the amphitheater audience at Pastorius Park.

Where is the color? There is little in mid-July here in this green space. There are no intentional herbaceous planting beds, no collections of containers, no sprays of color, no splashes of annuals. In fact, the lack of reds, pinks, purples, oranges surprised me, considering the location two blocks from Laurel Hill Gardens on Germantown Avenue near Abington Avenue and the neighborhood: Chestnut Hill. When I saw jewelweed in bloom, I couldn’t resist zooming in.

Impatiens pallida -- Yellow Jewelweed, a native medicinal plant.

This is a volunteer splash of color. Nature offered this small yellow bloom; landscapers or horticulturalists did not install this plant.

At least 2 magnolia trees thrive in Pastorius Park and one is showing its color in mid-July. There are few specimen trees at the park.

Cucumber Magnolia (I think).

Here is a link to a moveable camera, a 360-degree-and-more view of the park when dandelion bloom had just gone to seed, which I could not see in mid-July. Most striking is the preponderance of greenery: it’s everywhere. Green is what the people want. I suspect that if the locals here really want to get some color, some culture, they’ll pay money to go into an air-conditioned man-made building so they don’t have to sit on a blanket and get cramped-up knees. They’ll get a babysitter for the kids and wear new dry-clean-only outfits. But when the locals come to Pastorius Park, they are here to run with their dogs and children and lovers and frisbees. They are here to feel good about living in a city that provides them with a suburb’s amount of run-around space, uninterrupted by grey. Then again, how could anyone pass up free live music or Shakespeare a block away?

Here are some more photos I took in Pastorius Park, mid-July.

A species of Apple Tree, fruiting. Bench visible in background There are few benches in the entire park.

I noticed the orientation of all benches was away from all external roads, toward the nucleus of the park: the pond and the amphitheater. The benches illustrate Amiel’s point: the spirit of this park, the spirit of the people who frequent the park and who finance the park, (the very mind– “esprit”) is in search of more. To find more, to seek more than fulfillment at work, at home, in the city, Pastorius Park offers people a seat, albeit a hard-to-find hard bench–facing away from the city, toward more green, toward the water, toward a nucleus, toward the self, perhaps. This park exploits an “inward focus” as termed by Elizabeth Barlow Rogers in Landscape Design: A Cultural and Architectural History, in her discussion on early Western city planning.

Sweetgum and pond reflection

Sweetgum and pond reflection in sepia.

Cucumber Magnolia (methinks) budding in July.

Here is a link from a recent concert at Pastorius Park with a photo gallery showing the vivacity of the public cultural green space.

Strolling through Pastorius Park, I wondered if Amiel implied that I would inform my interpretation of a landscape with the condition of my spirit. Or was he speaking generally: do the space-creators’ spiritual conditions direct the scope of the landscape? Do those who enjoy, who utilize, who beautify, who engage in the space have a soulful hand in a green space’s being? All of the above. From this space, I glean all of the above.

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