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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

August 2005 Issue

Ancient Futures
Jeffrey Bale reconstructs ancient cosmologies one pebble at a time.

By JM Cava and Jeffrey Bale

Ancient Futures
Alan Mandell

In the side yard of a Victorian mansion in Portland, Oregon, garden designer Jeffrey Bale explains the new garden slowly taking shape. But unlike many designers who take on a supervisory role, Bale is very hands-on. Shirtless and spry, perched on an old plastic stool, he neatly places wet pebbles into a fresh mortar bed with the calmness and precision of long experience. Slowly, a rich textual pattern comes to life in the spaces between the regular precast paving outlines.

Bale is practicing the ancient craft of pebble mosaics, producing them in much the same way that they have been made for over a thousand years. This preindustrial continuity, connected with ancient holistic worldviews, is something he loves about his livelihood. And he fosters this connection in his designs, incorporating numerology, cosmology, astronomy, and ritual—all of which he refers to as “means of alignment” between humans and the earthly and spiritual world they inhabit.

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