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American Society of Landscape Architects


December 2004 Issue

Vive le Chaos!
The 13th Annual International Festival of Gardens at Chaumont-sur-Loire.

By Lake Douglas

Vive le Chaos Yan Monel

For most people, garden festivals are either small, self-contained demonstration gardens for the homeowner-on-a-budget or overwhelmingly lavish but intellectually shallow horticultural displays. The International Festival of Gardens at Chaumont-sur-Loire, in one of the most picturesque and historic parts of France, is something altogether different, not only for its provocative and challenging content but also for its environmental context. The Loire River valley and France itself are the big pictures here, and French attitudes about landscape, art, culture, and civilization are what made Chaumont possible and sustain its annual success. And that's what separates this garden festival from all others.

Chaumont, a small town less than 150 miles southwest of Paris, is located on the Loire River between Blois and Tours. Visiting the Chaumont International Garden Festival (always held between May and October) or exploring the Loire River valley should be reason enough for any landscape architect to go, but to experience one without the other would be like going to Central Park and neglecting the city around it. Just as an appreciation of Central Park is crucial to an understanding of American landscape architecture, the experience of Chaumont and its context is critical to an appreciation of the arc of European landscape design from the Renaissance forward. And like going to Central Park, going to Chaumont should be required for both students and professionals.

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