MARSH & GARDENS

 

Description of the Project

 

The design proposes that the site be divided into two areas:

 

1. A marsh full of cat-tails, created as a kind of wetlands museum symbolizing decay and regeneration. We believe that the area will be naturally populated by red-wing black birds, reintroducing some wildlife to the site. A path, accessible to the handicapped, slopes gradually down to the marsh and back up again.

 

2. Gardens with built-in and movable seating for strollers and people enjoying a break from work. These are hanging gardens, sensual, green, soft and aromatic. The growth springing from the brick and stone paving is reflected in the spring columns.

 

Connecting and separating the two areas is the hat/plow/prow. This symbolizes man as the instrument of change and in particular George Washington as a prominent man who helped start the process. The form has been consciously oriented west towards the Masonic Temple and the opening below the railroad where King Street bursts into the area.

 

 

Concept and Approach

 

Our approach was to try to reach two goals at the same time:

 

1. To reflect in our work the past, present and future of Alexandria in physical and cultural ways.

 

2. To provide an experiential environment which would attract people to it and enhance their awareness of the part of Alexandria in which it is sited.

 

Our initial concepts were expressed as individual ideas based on our understanding and feelings about the site, community, budget, and goals of the King Street Task Force. These were shared and collaboratively combined to form the proposed design but their strength was affirmed at each stage.

 

1. Alexandria has been gradually developed over time and development In the area of the site has been extensive. This development has applied a man-made order over the previously existing natural one.

 

2. George Washington played a major role in the area, being President in Washington, living in Mount Vernon, and socializing in Alexandria. His presence is honored in the Masonic Temple which overlooks the site, but his influence is also reflected in his trade of surveyor, through which he laid out what would be developed.

 

3. We could reveal the development of this area if we both reflected it and at the same time peeled back some of the man-made order to reinstate the natural order which previously obtained. We were particularly interested in revealing in some way the presence of Hoof' s Run.

 

4. The site is an island or oasis. We felt that the sense of island could be enhanced in an attractive way if we explored a series of oppositions to the context:

 

 Greenery vs Facades

 Curved Lines vs Straight Lines

 Softness vs Hardness

 Shade vs Brightness

 Quiet vs Noise

 Sweetness vs Air Pollution

 Wetness vs Dryness

 

 

Metaphors and Meanings

 

As the work evolved we were inspired by our experiences in Alexandria and our research and reading to incorporate in some way the literal sources of inspiration. We recognized that this would produce a literal reading of the experience and reduce its richness and that it would also make it difficult for us to move beyond the inspirations to the experience itself. What has resulted is therefore, more abstract than originally conceived, more open to multiple readings, and most important, more available to redefinition by those who will use and enjoy it. We realize, however that, at this stage in the design, the metaphorical origins are useful to those who look at the design:

 

1. The Spring Garden near the site, Alexandria gardens and garden clubs, and the general idea of Southern gardens were all important. The metaphor of the garden as a bower or intimate room.

 

2. We started with George Washington's hat as a symbol of his pervasive influence. Part of the hat disappeared and the remainder was seen as a plow symbolizing the agricultural ordering of the land, as a boat prow, reflecting Alexandria as a port and a train cowcatcher, referencing the continuing presence of railroads on this site.

 

3. The American penchant for the grid as a planning device is reflected in the relentless way in which we used a grid to order the gardens. Two grids are combined into one in a syncopated way. The upper rectangular grid mimics the planning grid of Alexandria and is superimposed over the greenery. The lower grid is ironically triangular, derived from the fact that the site sits in an exception to the regularity of Alexandria's layout.

 

4. The marsh is a metaphor for ecological awareness. Although it literally re-introduces a wetland to the area in which one existed, it will exist as a cat-tail museum, requiring human care. This reflects the way in which the activities of humans have accelerated in the last few generations to the point that we now must keep our wildernesses in preserves.

Symbolism & Meaning