Monday, January 31, 2011

Push button landscapes

There is a manmade creek in the park at the Letterman Digital Arts Centre in San Francisco. Located in the Presido, this park is the setting for a stylish complex of buildings and the new home of three very successful corporations, Industrial Light & Music, lucas Arts and Lucas Films. The park was designed by well known San Francisco landscape architect Lawrence Halprin. Amongst other elements the park incorporates a clever selection of tree and shrub plantings, several bronze sculptures, and a 'life size' (can you say that about an imaginary character?) fountain/statue of Yoda.

I was impressed to also see some very bold uses of natural stone there, including a couple of curved (albeit mortared) walls and this very natural looking stoney creek bed. It not only looks like a un-engineered watercourse, it sounds like one too. However, the rocks that the gallons and gallons of gurgling water cascade over, through and around, have all been hand picked, carefully transported, arduously moved into position and then fixed in place (with steel and concrete) in order to give the impression of a natural flowing mountain stream. Everything was designed and redesigned to maximize the 'feel' of a real stream.

It is very convincing stone and water display, except of course for the emergency 'turn off the creek' switch located near where the creek disappears into the ground.

While I applaud the clever use of imported stone and pumped water to simulate a very charming little creek, I am thankful to have had the opportunity last October back in Canada to integrate some less expensive, local random stone material over a really free-flowing watercourse in the form of a traditional-looking Scottish dry stone bridge, at The Canadian Rocktoberfest in Landon Bay Park.

A collaboration of wallers spent a rainy week before the festival carefully building the bridge foundations into the bedrock, while the creek level kept rising.

We never did mange to find the 'off switch'.

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