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American Society of Landscape Architects


December 2005 Issue

The Chaumont Garden Festival 2005
The theme of memory in the garden inspires artists and landscape architects.

By David R. Marshall

The Chaumont Garden Festival 2005
Jerome Galland/Aleph

The spatial arts—sculpture, installation art, land art, and landscape architecture—have for several years been on a converging course with the garden—that is, garden design, the conservation of historic gardens, horticulture, and the popular pastime of gardening. It is at garden festivals that gardens are most able to reach out toward the other spatial arts and be sympathetic to the avant-garde. For horticulturalists and garden designers, garden festivals are sources of new ideas that can invigorate their traditions, while for artists, they represent a new type of gallery space that reaches different audiences. Landscape architects, of course, are in their element. The International Garden Festival at Chaumont in the Loire Valley, founded in 1992 and now in its 14th year, enthusiastically brings together between April and October all the genres of the spatial arts, allowing them to rub shoulders in unexpected ways.

Chaumont, framed as a historic garden, is on a plot of land separated by a ravine from Château Chaumont and its outbuildings. It was designed by Jacques Wirtz as a series of roughly rhomboidal spaces defined by hedges and accessed by gravel paths. The effect in plan is like a tulip tree with a single, too-heavy leaf on each branch. On the ground, though, the tulip-tree plan is less perceptible. The trunk reads as an entry path with various side branches that soon diverge and can quickly disorient visitors, who may take some time to work out that a central space is the heart of things. Visitors should study the plan to avoid missing a space at the end of one of the branches.

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