Acuities in Landscape Architecture

Alessandro Giulio

Located in the quiet seclusion of London's Hyde Park, lies the Diana Memorial Fountain designed by the architect Kathryn Gustafson. Since its opening in 2004, the Diana Memorial Fountain has attracted the masses in pursuit of both respects to the late Princess Diana and for personal contemplation. The fountain plants itself ambiguously within the spectrum between organic and engineered landscape architecture. The acuities between Space and the Senses are (in my opinion, of course) the hidden details that make the fountain an exceptional example of contemporary sensory landscape architecture.

When we construct walls around a given location, we create space; closed, clearly defined and often conditional space. But how does one design and ultimately provide for a sense of place without enclosing space? This is an issue landscape architecture continues to address. By consequence, landscape architecture projects range in their success of providing a sense of space. For this reason, sensory implementation allows for Kathryn Gustafson’s Diana Memorial Fountain to be a success project of landscape architecture. It should go without saying that the fountain holds a contemplative experience from approach to interaction. The following text is an experiential narration intended to portray the acuities between space and the senses.

You make your way into the grounds of Hyde Park. You wander through the tranquil landscape and suddenly you stumble upon the fountain in the distance. The fountain, an organic egg-shaped form, cuts across the Hyde Park landscape; a small collection of people are gathered at the form’s edge. You make your arrival to the fountain, where you would be greeted by a contrast in materiality and a sense of space. The architecture of the fountain, as you begin to examine, is slightly receding in the distance and provoking within you a sense of demarcation as the fountain gently carves out the ground in which you stand on. Standing on the outside perimeter of the fountain, you feel outside. You give a glance around the perimeter, where you quickly notice the footbridges that could bring you into the inside of the fountain. So you make your way around the fountain, closely admiring the changes in the waters speed and sound, briefly looking up to realize your place between the park and fountain. You reach a small footbridge that gently leads you into the fountain’s inside. The space you encounter is quiet and as welcoming as you would want it to be. You easily find yourself in a relaxed state of contemplation once inside the fountain; distanced from the perimeter of the fountain, yet within the fountain and its reaches of sound from the waters movement. At the fountain’s edge you see the collection of people from before, yet their voices are reduced to murmurs by the soft noise of water movement. A softscape path marks your return to the outside of the fountain, but you find yourself content with your position. Sitting on the lawn, on the inside of the fountain, you realize something. You are neither in or out of the any given space, but rather you are simply within the space sensorially.

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