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InternationalNov

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InternationalNov

  1. 1. www.sgd.org.uk GARDEN DESIGN JOURNAL 15 Working across three continents, French designers Arnaud Maurières and Eric Ossart have built a reputation for imaginative projects that respond to local climates and conditions Pioneer species Words: Darryl Moore Photographs: Maurières & Ossart international
  2. 2. GARDEN DESIGN JOURNAL www.sgd.org.uk16 “The duo believe that one cannot be a designer without first being a gardener” T he dynamic French design duo Arnaud Maurières and Eric Ossart have been working together since 1985, amassing an impressive portfolio of unique gardens and public spaces, which reflect an ongoing focused and idiosyncratic response to placemaking. A commission in the late 1980s from Jack Lang, then Minister of Culture and mayor of the city of Blois, to work on the town’s public gardens, resulted in a new type of urban planting which replaced the over-familiar ‘mosaiculture’ of municipal bedding schemes. Drawing upon agricultural traditions and meadow plantings, they created a novel design style which soon found itself spreading throughout France, establishing a fertile grounding from which they have since flourished. Since then their itinerant career has produced projects spread across three continents, adapting to local conditions and evolving distinct particularities in accord with each locale. Their widely acknowledged horticultural abilities, honed over decades, have been underpinned by the belief that one cannot be a designer without first being a gardener. This basic tenet has manifested itself in three very personal and formidable projects, in which they have created not only their home, but also unique and distinctive horticultural habitats. These have been experimental and educational playgrounds, in which they have been free to develop their own design language unfettered by the constraints of any other stakeholders. It has also allowed them to delve deep into their fascination with the various iterations of Paradise gardens, which have provided formative design blueprints for gardens across the Magreb and Mediterranean regions for many centuries. As topologies of distinct utility and scale, the bustan, the gulistan and riyad have been forms which Maurières and Ossart have reinterpreted within contemporary contexts, using them as means to structure space and deploy plants in a sensuous and exuberant manner, creating gardens resplendent with flavour, scent and colour. Defining ‘Ethnistory’ Their first personal garden, Les Fournials in Tarn, started in 1996, allowed them the space to play with a large-scale country vernacular, developing and enriching the planting palette until they sold the property in 2003. Their second home marked a distinct cultural shift towards their Arabic inspiration, with a relocation to Morocco. The house and garden, Al Hossoun, located just outside the ancient city of Taroudant, provided an opportunity to put into practice the idea of ‘Ethnistory’, which they’d been defining for over a decade. Their concept builds upon the holistic approach of artisanal practices, such as is evident in pottery and rug-making, which fuse design with local materials and knowledge. Utilising this approach, they drew on the local skills network to fuse the traditional with the contemporary and intimately integrate the garden with the architecture. Experimenting with rammed earth meant the material excavated from the site not only provided the material for the house, but also defined the garden’s form of sunken areas and swimming pool. A series of enclosed spaces allowed for the creation of a steppe-style environment, which featured a more spontaneous and naturalistic looking approach to planting. Yet whilst many plants were local, Maurières and Ossart were keen to avoid endemic cliche, employing plants chosen from regions with similar climatic and ecological suitability, many of which they had collected as seeds or cuttings on travels, from places such as Madagascar and Yemen. Experiments at Al Hossoun with international
  3. 3. www.sgd.org.uk GARDEN DESIGN JOURNAL PagE 15 Introduced agaves blend with the rich existing flora, including cacti and grasses at Los Garambullos Facing Page Discreet interventions of indigenous plants amidst the existing landscape reveals a new approach to planting design clockwise from toP The long swimming pool provides a visual line to the landscape and horizon beyond; the architectural forms of Agave weberi punctuate the southern side of the garden; the organic shapes of Opuntia sp and Myrtillocactus geometrizans contrast with the orthogonal geometry of the architecture
  4. 4. 18 GARDEN DESIGN JOURNAL www.sgd.org.uk18 GARDEN DESIGN JOURNAL www.sgd.org.uk this horticulturally sympathetic approach were developed in other Moroccan projects including Dar Igdad, which employed a vast meadow of naturalistic appearance composed of species of American agaves, African euphorbias and Saharan grasses. Whilst on a smaller scale at Dar Andrew the same plants were used but laid out in a more mannered style with distinct blocks of the same plants, used to created effects of form and colour, referencing the work of Roberto Burle Marx. Influence of Barragán Their latest endeavour has lead them to Mexico, homeland of another of their longtime design influences, Luis Barragán. Los Garambullos is a 40-hectare project, created between 2011 and 2013, which again features a symbiotic relationship between house and garden. Located 15 km from San Miguel de Allende, it lies 300 miles south of theTropicofCancer,atanaltitudeof1,800min theMexicanaltiplanoregionofGuanajuato.The propertyisinaprotectedarea,recognisingthe importanceoftheabundantnativefloraandfauna. Asaconsequenceitwasnecessarytonotonlycreate adesignfullyintegratedintothewiderlandscape, butalsotoprotecttheplantswithwoodenpalisades whilstthebuildingswereconstructedfromstone extractedfromahillonthesite. The local topography provides a natural steppe environment, with local black soil which is fertile but difficult to work. Consequently the garden’s design marks a distinct development in the designers’ planting style, with a high degree of sensitivity deployed. Whereas their gardens in France and Morocco relied upon the symbolic value of their structure, with the planting supplying a sense of spontaneous artifice, in Mexico the native vegetation on site provides an opportunity to intervene in a much more natural way. As a response the designers have come up with a scheme which suggests a distinctly unique planting paradigm. The rich indigenous flora surrounding the house is composed of various shrubs, mesquite (Prosopis sp) and cacti, mainly Opuntia sp and Myrtillocactus geometrizans (‘garambullos’ in Mexico, hence the name of the property), and grasses (Rhynchelytrum roseum). The designers have subtly accented this with large quantities of other native flora including cacti, agaves, salvias and shrubs, whilst limiting the growth of invasive plants to keep very open areas suitable for bulbous plants. Many of the plants used to augment the scheme have been specifically grown by local nurseries from seeds of wild plants harvested by Maurières and Ossart in the neighbouring regions. The rigid orthogonal formality of the architecture is sharply contrasted against the loose array of planting, accented with strong sculptural form. The design refuses to be confined to polite gesture or floral dominance, but instead appeals to a sense of assumed appropriateness, with the geometric conceit of the house providing a suggestive counterpoint to the organic forms “Los Garambullos features a symbiotic relationship between house and garden” international
  5. 5. Facing Page The house, constructed from stone extracted from the site, subtly embeds itself in the surrounding environment toP The temperate semi-arid climate balances moderate winters with hot rainy summers which bring forth the lush vegetation Bottom Sheltered by the house and planting, the terrace provides an expansive spatial oasis of calm
  6. 6. GARDEN DESIGN JOURNAL www.sgd.org.uk20 which envelope it. The confident nature of the planting doesn’t need to compete with its surrounds, as it already is an integral part the wider environment, and as a consequence this holistic approach denies the possibility of any kind of ecotone demarcating garden and landscape. Embracing existing landscapes A refrained reference to their earlier work is evident in the scattered planting within an internal courtyard, suggestive of their Moroccan home and Arabic courtyard culture. But rather than trying to recreate Paradise, at Los Garambullos they have embraced the one they have found in the existing landscape and selectively enhanced it. The garden marks not only another benchmark in their professional trajectory, but also proffers a blueprint for ecologically sensitive planting design. The local climate is balanced between the summer rainy season, from June to September, during which the semi-arid landscape is transformed into an intense picture of green vegetation, and the winter which is dry and sunny but relatively cold, with occasional drops below freezing to -5°C. The most spectacular season is the end of the rainy season, in late September and October, when all the annuals such as thitonias and cosmos are in bloom. The abundance of summer rain and high humidity means that the plantings are only watered for the first couple of years to acclimatise, before being left to fend for themselves. Working across continents has provided Maurières and Ossart with valuable experiences of both plants and cultures, and a wide perspective which marries the two in innovative ways. The sense of progression within their work reflects an investigative verve that fuels their partnership, one which refuses to be satiated. And as intrepid nomads, they are already in the process of moving on, selling up at Los Garambullos and engaging in creating a veritable garden of botanical delights on the shore of the Chapala Lake, close to Guadanalajara in the Jalisco region. Given the originality of the planting at Los Garambullos, all eyes will be on the pair, charting their next move, as outstanding design pioneers. www.maurieres-ossart.com *Los Garambullos is available for rental, for information go to: worldlocations.com international “The sense of progression within their work reflects an investigative verve that fuels their partnership” top Endemic salvias provide bursts of bright colour bottom Stone steps cantilever out through a meadow of grasses

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