Rethinking the American front yard: a workshop

Photo of Levittown, with front yards
It is high time we rethought the front yard space

If you are interested in both the history and evolution of the American front yard and rethinking how we design and use this historically purely aesthetic space, please join us for an interactive and collaborative workshop on April 20 @ 1:00 p.m. at the machinaloci space in South Berkeley. Co-led by James Rojas of Place It!, Trena Noval and Ann Wettrich of Fieldworks Collaborative, and Carol Mancke of machinaloci.

To RSVP, click here.

Weekend Viewing

We wrote about the work of street artist YZ a semi-long while back when she did an installation in the crumbling former nightclub Les Bains in Paris before the whole building was renovated and made sleek and glossy in the way that so much is in our cities of now. What drew us to her work in the first place was its haunting quality, one that was decidedly without sound but somehow resonant at the same time, that spoke to the inevitability of cities crumbling, decaying, and changing, that temporarily froze that space in time before it became something else – something probably altogether less nuanced and textured than what it had been.

In between now and then her career has taken off exponentially, and she was recently chosen to paint the newest version of the French Marianne, which, for the uninitiated, is a national symbol of the French Republic and who personifies both liberty and reason. The image of the Marianne has indeed evolved over the years, and this time is no exception, as now she appears on the entire side of an apartment building in Toulon. Click on the video above to watch the project unfold.

An endless passing of time


Temporary installation by YZ

Can you think of a point in time in the city you live and/or love that you wish could have been frozen, there, so that it would stay that way for eternity? People talk endlessly of the good old days in cities, especially in the world’s larger ones, whose rates of change are ever-increasing and whose endless waves of new residents plant roots there and then consider that point in time, that point of settling in, the moment when it became their city, and those years that come thenceforth and how the city evolves will pale in comparison to that time when it was suddenly your city. As we know, cities are in a constant state of flux and evolution, much of it out of our immediate control, some of it not. We can wish that blissful pinpoint moment when we decided the city was ours will remain, but it never does.

The artwork featured in the Artist-in-Residence series Les Bains is a testament to this endless evolution of cities in all their ups and downs and highs and lows. The building housing these works was once a bathhouse, then a famed nightclub, and soon a (sigh) boutique hotel. In the interim, its crumbling glory will enshroud and host the works of many a street artist featured in the exhibition. For more photos, click here.

Of rain, rabbits, and gold


Gloriosa daisies (Rudbeckia hirta) in a PRAIRIEFORM landscape

The element of change and surprise is something we try to infuse into every landscape we create, so that at any given point during the year one can discover something new within it. The same is true for how a landscape evolves across the years. While we can to a certain extent plan this evolution into a landscape, there are wildcard factors such as temperature and precipitation that can radically alter the landscape from year to year. Take, for example, gloriosa daisies (Rudbeckia hirta), whose shots of deep gold and burnt orange can be profuse or sparse depending on what has gone on that year. What went on last year was bunnies, and lots of them. What also went on was not much rain. Thus, any irrigated to semi-irrigated landscape area was an endless dinner of uber-washed field greens for bunnies, with gloriosa daisies being a food of choice for them. The result was a virtual absence of the deep golds and oranges that we are now seeing this year in the landscape, as, this year, we have seen much rain, and a profusion of clover and other greens that bunnies seem to love. As a result, they are not tempted to move their way into more cultivated environs and mow down our labors of botanical love. What we enjoy vis-a-vis this phenomenon is not so much that we have more gloriosa daisies (among other plants) to stare at this year, but that it is a reminder that designers may have some control over the landscape, but not complete control. A nice humbling lesson for a profession that frequently gets all too caught up in its own myth-making. So, go out and enjoy the golds of this summer and know that they might be rabbit food next summer, which makes them all the more precious.