Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Influence of Backgrounds

I often begin a landscape plan by standing back from the site and letting the surroundings tell me the setting in which the ideas will live.
Fire place and ledge island by North Star Stoneworks
I can do this even before I meet the prospective clients. This is the sort of ‘homework’ that enables me to later comment on the neighboring environment and its effect on what we are planning.
Painters often begin a painting by working on the background. This may be a practical approach as it is easier to paint a building, portrait or tree over a background than to paint the background around them. It also serves to tune the foreground objects to the color and texture of the background.
In landscape design it is doubly important because we can’t go in and move a mountain or building after the fact.
Chapel Fountain at Franklin Memorial Hospital by David Neufeld
Sculptors too must be aware of the surroundings their work will be placed in. A niche in a building is very different than a town square.
In some instances, the background becomes the heart of the plan and the materials and plantings are placed to enclose the landscape.  Fences, walls, and tall planting obscure whatever was formerly the background. Thus we create a new world within. 
The same applies when designing a space for a brick oven.  We can't ignore the building, its history, and the people who live there.

We can also infuse the space with new meaning.  I often find three-season rooms (or screen porches as they are called in New England) remarkably neutral (adverb use intentional).  Adding a brick oven both jumps the purpose of the room ten-fold but also lets the owners use the oven almost year-round.

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