Adriaan Geuze’s Inspirations

At a rich, dense lecture at the National Building Museum, Adriaan Geuze, International ASLA, a Dutch landscape architect who runs the international firm West 8, said in Taoism, “life is tough.” To achieve wisdom, one has to “cross many rivers.” For his Garden of 10,000 Bridges in Xian, China, Geuze and his team actually created the sense of crossing thousands of bridges by setting a series of red fiberglass bridges within a maze-like pattern in an enclosing bamboo forest. The path through is “long,” but once “you get out, you’ve gotten a boost of self-esteem.”

Some of Geuze’s other projects create or enhance an existing sense of the holy. In Padua, Italy, at the Carthusian Monastery, which is famous for its pine tree that creates an “unprecedented amount of pine cones” — so much so that it’s been deemed a miracle by the church — Geuze created walls made of pine cones and pathways through the ever-growing cone floor. The “smell in summer” is amazing, as is the crackling of the walls as the cones dry out.

His project in the swamp of Charleston, South Carolina is for those who worship nature in all its messy glory. “Once they take you in, you feel like you can hardly escape. It’s warm, humid. There are bugs everywhere.” The water “is black like a mirror,” and crawling with gators. There, Geuze created a “simple, intimate space” with hanging spanish moss fences, creating an “intense atmosphere that is stronger than the swamp.” He said being there in his “enclosed swamp somehow changes the whole universe,” with the erotic Cypress roots peeking out of the water. He remembers sitting on a bench watching an alligator sunbathe on the same deck.

Geuze said these places, which create very personal journeys, are his touchstones, his inspirations. But, increasingly, he’s better known for his large-scale public projects, which he explained in a rapid-fire tour and blur of images.

The most impressive may be the relatively new Soundscape Park on Lincoln Road in Miami. A companion to Frank Gehry’s New World Symphony building, the park, which used to be a parking lot, uses the jaggedy-edge patterns West 8 applies to a number of their projects. In this case, the criss-crossing paths play off the “neurotic” Veitchia palms, which are the only ones they were allowed to use (they can withstand just about any storm). The trees, Geuze said, also help create the sense that you are at the beach, “an illusion of ocean.” The park is designed to “capture the euphoria of Miami Beach,” which Geuze said is found in its multicultural food, culture, and nightlife.

Heavy-duty steel pergolas, which were inspired by clouds, were included to provide shade. The vines that will cover the pergolas haven’t grown in yet so the metal structures make a strong statement now. In contrast to the pergolas, there are soft-edged benches that look and feel like ivory, curved and smooth. Because lying is not allowed, large pebble-like forms were added every few feet along the benches.

The design team also had the idea of transforming one of the large white walls of the building into a viewing screen. This way people can also sit outside on a picnic blanket and watch the concerts outdoors. An arena-shaped bowl in the park lined with state-of-the art acoustic speakers creates a “soundscape” visitors can either immerse themselves in or step out of. Many nights there are art installations, student work, and other works projected.

Another project that Geuze and his firm put together in record time in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, cleaned up the mess left by an architect, who didn’t deliver any plans for a huge ocean boardwalk some three months into the project. Geuze came in and had to design the boardwalk in two weeks and then deliver just two months later. A popular tourist destination, the boardwalk had to be up by the start of the tourist season.

Instead of creating another Copacabana, Geuze persuaded the mayor of the town to go local, using an Indian artist to create a mosaic design indigenous to the region. Shamans blessed the patterns, which were then simplified and translated into forms that could be built into the boardwalk by local artisans. Everything was made locally, using local vendors.

Geuze used a circuitous route to persuade the city to turn the strip, which used to be a main thoroughfare for bringing cars into the city, into a pedestrian-only space. Sure enough, right after launch, signs went up saying “no cars allowed.” That wasn’t in the master plan, but put in sneakily.

For Governor’s Island, NYC, one of West 8’s largest and highest-profile projects, an old island fortress is being turned into a fantastic park — with “democratizing elements” like hammocks and free bicycles. West 8, with partners Diller, Scofidio + Renfro and Rogers Marvel Architects, felt that the scale of the place was too big to handle on foot so bikes were needed. Already, in the parts that are accessible, the bikes have been a hit. Watching the tour, one couldn’t help but want to get out there on a bike as soon as possible.

Geuze said the island, which has a clear view of the Statue of Liberty in many spots, has a “different atmosphere every time you visit.” This is largely due to the fact that access to the water is so close, immediate. On certain sides of the island, sea spray comes over the rails.

The design team created a set of vignettes, with man-made caverns and open spaces, creating a series of visual effects. The caverns and hills are there because the low, brackish water on the island kills the grass so root zones for both trees and plants had to be raised up in parts to create any sense of an Olmstedian, English landscape. Geuze said they’ve designed it so you “will be craving to walk through this.”

Image credits: (1-2) Dezeen, (3) Swamp landscape / Andersom agency, (4) Miami Beach Soundscape / © Robin Hill for West 8, (5) Miami Beach Soundscape / ©R Griffijn RAP Photography, (6) Miami Beach Soundscape / © Robin Hill for West 8, (7) Puerto Vallarta Boardwalk / West 8, (8) Puerto Vallarta Mosaic Boardwalk / Discover Puerto Vallarta, (9) Governors Island / West 8 / Rogers Marvel Architects / Diller Scofidio + Renfro / Mathews Nielsen / Urban Design +, (10) Governors Island/ West 8 / Rogers Marvel Architects / Diller Scofidio + Renfro / Mathews Nielsen / Urban Design +

4 thoughts on “Adriaan Geuze’s Inspirations

  1. Alex 10/22/2012 / 3:32 pm

    Garden of 10,000 Bridges – really good project

  2. C L Williams 10/26/2012 / 7:23 am

    The spanish moss curtains in the swamp near Charleston,SC, holds the essence of this uniquely beautiful and powerful area. I grew up on the Georgia coast and recall the sea breeze swaying the spanish moss in the moonlight.

  3. 01/07/2013 / 2:06 am

    “Adriaan Geuzes Inspirations The Dirt” genuinely causes me imagine a small
    amount more. I actually admired every single component
    of this post. Regards -Ladonna

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