From the Rethinking the Front Yard event

Participants marking their chosen locations from an outdoor sensory/site-exploration exercise on a map of the block
Participants marking their chosen locations from an outdoor sensory/site-exploration exercise

This past Saturday, we held an interactive workshop on rethinking the American front yard at the machinaloci space in South Berkeley. Weaving in elements of model-building, site exploration, storytelling, and memory, the workshop took a hands-on – as opposed to a simply talking-based – approach to rethinking what is a ubiquitous part of the American urban and suburban landscape but one that needs a rethink, given the growing and pressing realities of climate change, water, housing shortages, and an increasing turn towards our smart phones and away from face-to-face interaction. We had a fantastic turnout and heard and saw many amazing stories and ideas. Stay tuned for part 2, in which we will be working in teams to redesign a space that includes not simply the front yard, but also the sidewalk, parkway, and street. What could be a new interplay of all of these elements?

John Kamp

Tragic Topiary: Then and Now

People constantly wonder what those stars of yore – Kate Bush, Corey Feldman, Pauly Shore, the entire band Cinderella – now look like (Have they aged well? Gracefully? Tragically?). So it should come as no surprise that the more botanically minded of you out there have also asked and wondered how the tragic topiary of yore has aged through the years, including during times of drought. Well, we recently had a chance to revisit some of our favorite tragic topiary, and our answer: quite well. In fact, the topiary has neither grown nor evolved, its signs of aging wholly imperceptible. Let us start with the Cousin It Topes from sunny Alhambra, CA:

Tragic topiary from 2009 taken by John Kamp of Prairieform, in Alhambra, California

Cousin It topes from 2015, taken by John Kamp of Prairieform, in Alhambra, CA

Graceful aging at its finest, and not a tuft out of place.

Stay tuned for more.

John Kamp

Topiary taken to the next level


A snapshot of some of the fantastical tope-scapes of Pearl Fryar

The intricate, otherworldly and meticulous tope-scapes of Pearl Fryar are an amalgamation of greenery to be poured over and marveled at. They are also a good end-point for the nearly year-long endeavor of highlighting the most tragic of topiary in and around the urban landscapes of Los Angeles and Minneapolis. In the pre-blogging days tragic topiary would have filled a coffee table book of a finite number of pages. You’d flip through it, maybe go back to the ones you most liked, and it would be done. In the day and age of blogs, variations on a theme – in our case, topiary – are almost expected to persist endlessly, regardless of whether they have run their course. While we have loved ferreting out and highlighting some of the ugliest, most ridiculous topes ever to have been created, we do feel that it has run its course and that it’s time for PRAIRIEFORM to come up with a new weekly endeavor full of just the right amount of kitsch, zest, and contemporary relevance that makes you want to come back for more. We will hint that it will involve cute but nuisance bunnies, and the contemporary city, and it will be in Swedish and in English, but we will say no more until the endeavor has been fully launched. Stay tuned for details.

Thanks to Jorgecito for the Pearl Fryar link