Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Landscaping IS Art

Four random quotations came my way recently, and they all seem to connect with one issue I've been exploring. Or maybe I'm so immersed in this issue, everything seems to have to do with it. We're getting some high-rise apartments in my neighbourhood. While I'm all for high-density at the core of a city, I'm concerned with the various by-law infringements the developers are trying to bypass.

They want the set-backs from the street to be significantly less than allowed. They want a greater density, almost double, than allowed. A building closer to the downtown (further from residential areas) was denied the increase in density, but these guys seem to be untouchable.

But the one that really gets me is this: They're supposed to landscape 30% of the property. This is not only a matter of aesthetics, but a means for rainwater to become groundwater instead of rushing down concrete into the storm drains. They want to get around this bylaw by putting a garden on the roof. They don't mean a green roof; they mean some plants in containers on the roof for the guy in the penthouse to enjoy. So I wanted to write a letter to the editor and include some quotation to back up my thoughts.

The first quotation that came to mind was this line that has stayed with me for years because of the imagery: "What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?" That's from Ginsberg's Howl. Gorgeous, but a little intense for a local paper.

Then there's Henry Ford: "Change is not always progress. A fever of newness has been everywhere confused with the spirit of progress." And Frank Lloyd Wright, "The skyscraper is responsible for the congestion, and is making the city of today impossible to use. The skyscraper piles the crowd up high, dumps it on the street, stuffs it in again, and the streets are not nearly wide enough." Perhaps, but a bit mundane.

The city wants some concessions for giving in to the developer's demands. It's asking that the developer spend 1% of its budget on a piece of public art. Very nice. Landscape with concrete and add a sculpture, and you're golden.

Walking in the halls past the student art display of Ontario Greenbelt graphics, one of them had this quotation:

"I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art anybody could want to own."

-Andy Warhol.



landskapeideas said...

it's true..landscaping helps cooling down the cities..but some developers/clients doesn't want to put a lot of budget for landscape..of course they are more focus on the building. i was a landscape architect and its sucks when they always treat landscape architect as '2nd class professional' !!

Marie said...

Yup - landscapers, farmers, - the professions closest to the ground get shafted. I think it's partly from the idea than anyone can do it, but so many of us have lost touch with this dying art, we need professional help, so to speak.