constructing a woods for wandering in space and time

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Visitors to the 2018 Festival international des jardins de Chaumont-sur-Loire are confronted by a dense grove and an important decision, to turn left or right onto a forking path which draws them towards an unknown destination beyond view. In either direction, as if to mock the effort of determining a direction, the path leads to another crossroads and then another until it becomes clear that the paths are all folding in on one another.

One’s sense of time and purpose is contorted by the pathways and the plants themselves. Hundreds of whips propagated from coppiced rootstock, seem young but are actually all part of a single, much older plant. The density of the whips creates an altered awareness of other visitors, creating a space of mystery and delight.

Cedar wood planks form a secondary maze through the grove, beckoning children and adventurous adults to step off the path and venture into a network of narrow passageways. Shou sugi ban, the Japanese process of charring cedar to increase its lifespan, is used to create a stark contrast between the blackened planks and the white gravel floor of the garden.

Into the Woods is inspired by Jorge Luis Borges’s 1941 adventure in interconnected realities, “an infinite series of times, a growing, dizzying web of divergent, convergent and parallel times.” In The Garden of Forking Paths, the narrator journeys beneath tangled branches, confronted with a series of crossroads, finally arriving at a poplar grove in which he discovers that the life’s work of his ancestor is not a garden at all, but a disorienting novel, “a labyrinth in which all men would become lost.”

A garden, like a novel, is a space in which to get lost, and in being lost, to find oneself. At its inception a garden holds multiple divergent futures. If we look closely, we can see past and future compressed in the present moment. Time is altered, speeded and slowed, shaped intentionally or inadvertently by human hands. In the dynamic space of the garden, we discover the infinite possibility of perpetual becoming.

Collaboration with FORGE Landscape Architecture.

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