- Primeval Atmosphere: Garden Design
- To heighten a visitor’s awareness of the horticultural and evolutionary history of Gondwanan flora our garden produces a strange marshy and primeval atmosphere to fully engage the visitor and transport them to a far distant time. To produce a primeval atmosphere and to fully engage with the horticultural matter we felt it necessary to detach the visitor from the world in which they came from by altering their general perceptions of space. The garden has been wrapped by a high soft sound absorbing wall which isolates noise from the surrounding context, this soft matter continues along the ground to produce a soft mushy pedestrian friendly surface. This soft flaccid surface heightens the visitor’s awareness of their location allowing them to focus on the display of the unique silhouettes and textures of Gondwanan flora. To further enhance the primordial qualities established by the ground the plants on display are merged with mineral matter to produce larger sculptural forms. These mineralized forms function as large pots for plants and shrubs elevating them to eyelevel or above, allowing views of plants often unexperienced in typical gardens. The pots themselves are based on a branching and clustering system allowing multiple plants to be grouped together in a single megapot. The morphology, texture, materiality and the sparse placement of the pots produces a larger primeval landscape of non organic material that supports the Gondwana flora.
The organization of the garden relies on geological history for its organization. By elevating vegetation the ground plane is fair game for exploration and serves as an educational surface mostly free of organic material. The soft and layered tiling system produces a mushy ground to walk across, a contrast to surrounding urban hardscapes. The circle is further divided into three separate regions representing the three continents that are key to the San Francisco Botanical Garden’s Gondwana collection, South America, Africa and Australia/Oceana. While in the garden one can trace lineages shared by plant species across continental divides by examining the plant families represented in clustered pots that span the garden’s divisions. Notions of geology are also explored in the garden’s plan through the use of morphology and seams that reflect convergent and divergent boundaries in plate tectonics. The boundaries between regions in the garden split occasionally to allow direct planting into the soil for trees and shrubs that are unpottable.