The Chaumont Garden Festival 2005
The theme of memory in the garden inspires artists and landscape
By David R. Marshall
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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