Landscape architects, architects, and artists have long tried to evoke emotional reactions through their creations, using landscape and building forms to create atmospheres that influence our moods. Now, some artists and architects are toying with our perceptions, designing optical illusions that create a sense of confusion, amazement, and perhaps even awe at their technical chops.
Since 2004, architecture and landscape photographer and artist Zander Olsen has been working on Tree, Line, a series of “constructed” photographs that play with our notion of foreground and background in a forest (see image above).
Olsen writes: “These works, carried out in Surrey, Hampshire and Wales, involve site-specific interventions in the landscape, ‘wrapping’ trees with white material to construct a visual relationship between tree, not-tree, and the line of horizon according to the camera’s viewpoint.”
In Deformscape, architect Thomas Faulders, turned a conventional backyard in San Francisco into an outdoor sculpture garden vortex.
Faulders writes: “Situated in a tightly packed urban neighborhood, this limited space outdoor sculpture garden inherits a large tree and uses this sole arboreal presence to establish a gravitational pattern of grooves that are focused towards the tree’s centroid.”
A “3-dimensional bulge” formed around the base of the tree connects with a distored “wire-grid projected onto a 2-dimensional surface,” creating a sense that the courtyard is plunging in around the tree. Try carrying a tray of cocktails out there on a summer evening.
Lastly, French artist Francois Abelanet, created Whom to Believe? in front of Paris’ Hotel de Ville for its “jardin éphémère” last summer. An anamorphosis, which is a “distorted projection” that can only be reconstituted by viewing from a certain angle or using a mirror or glasses, this 1,500 square-meter landscape installation created the illusion of depth, a floating orb landscape.
The official Web site of Paris writes: “Monumental, it measured 100 feet long and required 1,200 square meters of lawn, 300 square meters of sedum, and 650 meter-cubed of sand and straw. Nearly 90 gardeners and technicians were mobilized continuously for five days for the completion of this ephemeral work of art.”
Abelanet told the city he wanted to get visitors to think critically about nature in the built world: “We live in a world where we hear the debate of environmentalists, scientists, industrialists. I wanted to just [explore] the problem of the tree and invite people to consider the place of the tree, nature, and the environment.” In changing the focus, he asks them to think differently.
Image credits: (1) Beeches, 2004 (cropped) / Zander Olsen Copyright, (2) Duncan Wood, 2004 (cropped) / Zander Olsen Copyright, (3) Jhutti, 2004 (cropped) / Zander Olsen Copyright, (4) Francois Albanet’s Whom to Believe? / Laura Prospero. Flickr, (5) Francois Albanet’s Whom to Believe? / Comment Vous Dire? Flickr, (6) Francois Albanet’s Whom to Believe? / Comment Vous Dire? Flickr