gardeners and landscape designers: the eclectic genius of gilles clément
You may have heard of the French contemporary landscape designer and philosopher, Gilles Clément (1943): a real eclectic explorer gardener, agricultural engineer, designer of famous parks and gardens, man of science, writer and popularizer of the most followed in Europe.
Professor at the École Nationale Supérieure du Paysage of Versailles, is known as theorist of the Garden in Motion, the Planetary Garden, and for the sensational Manifesto of the Third Landscape (Jardin en Mouvement, Jardin Planetaire, Tiers Paysage): three concepts of great philosophical and policy substance, considered essential for the renewal of the international culture of landscape design, developed by trial and by travels through the writings and applied to the realization of parks and gardens.
After a decade spent in designing small gardens for private individuals, lectures, travels dedicated to the study and discover of flora and fauna of different bio-climates , in 1984 he founds Atelier Acanthe in Paris, starting to work in projects of urban regeneration and recovery of historic gardens for public assignors.
The Park André Citroën in Paris dates to this period (13 acres recovered on the banks of the Seine planning in collaboration with Patrick Berger, Jean Paul Viguier, Alain Provost and Jean François Jodry) which is the first public realization of a “Jardin en Mouvement”.
Starting from this project, with the realization of the gardens de La Défense, of the garden of the Musée du Quai Branly from Jean Nouvel, of the park Matisse a Lilla, of the exhibition Le Jardin Planétaire a la Villette, and the publishing of several essays and novels among which “Thomas et le voyageur” (1997), “Le jardin planétaire” (1999), “La Sagesse du jardinier” (2004)and “Manifeste pour le Tiers-paysage” (2005), Gilles Clément becomes famous even to the general public..
“Faire le plus possibile avec, et le moins possibile contre”: Do as much as possible “with” and as little as possible “against”, it is his saying
Clément affirms the necessity of a new ecological relationship of exchange between garden and nature, in a always lesser anthropocentric environment, where it can be possible to harmonize with the evolving life forms rather than to fight them.
In essays and novels, he turns to those who are the principal interlocutors of landscape: he talk to the varied audience gardeners, lovers of gardening, keen readers of books about gardens from which, he notices, have been unfairly excluded the animal and vegetable species in motion , that instead of being involved in a naturally collaborative environment, they often result as object of a real “war of the gardener”.
The domesticated uncultivated
In the gardens of Gilles Clément nature thrives without apparent constraint and teaching, while no chemicals are used for the most common treatments but only natural agents, which, mutually balance by interacting one with the other; here it is forbidden the elimination of harmful plants and animals. Clément goes beyond the formal garden with the “domesticated uncultivated”, he considers recycling as an indispensable source of new energy to survive in a finished place, where still “the obscure veils of aesthetics and morality hit rubbish and the compost has been relegated to the bottom of the garden while it should be placed in the middle” (cit.)
He considers the figure of the gardener as irreconcilable with that of the planner designer, who is too much tied to the aesthetic constrains of the “art of gardens” (ideological daughter of power) guilty to introduce in the landscape decorative elements opposite to the natural evolution of nature. A new aesthetic of “resistance” should be based on directions from scientists rather than those from artists.
The garden cannot be drawn on paper, because it is not a collection of objects but of living beings, a dynamic reality in motion. For this reason Clément works together with scientists, educators and philosophers, the only ones able to spread the knowledge and to get us closer to the true knowledge of nature laws.
The gardener must be able to enter on tiptoe in the network of relations and exchanges between human beings, animals and plants , from roots to leaves; he has to be able to observe the adaptive mechanisms already present in nature, worldwide (for this reason he is exploring gardener) and to be inspired by the best of them. He has «To do as much as possible with , and as little as possible against the energy involved in a particular place».
Giardino in Movimento, Giardino Planetario, Terzo Paesaggio e biodiversità
His idea starts from the awareness of the finiteness of an Earth with limited resources , where “The Nature, entangled in the ideological network which belongs to each culture, pays a toll as much heavier as the cultural system makes the Man the Master of the Cosmos” Gardening as expression of cultural diversity can therefore threaten or protect the bio-diversity, according to how it is developed: the planet is like a big finished garden and the man who does not change his approach by exhausting the natural resources in which he is immersed in the biosphere contributes to his own destruction. After the experience of the Garden in Motion, the place where man and nature work together to protect the biological diversity, the Planetary Garden is the solution which “values the diversity without destroying; it is the idea which represents a political project of humanistic ecology“.
With the Manifesto of the third Landscape Clément closes the circle: inspired by the “friche”, the fallow, he talks about urban areas, which are uncultivated and taken away from human intervention, about vital interstice, big and small spontaneous green places, like real bio-diversity reserves. As the shelter, in which the species are free of growing and spreading, as they are no longer chained to the programmatic use and to the human control tools.
The Third Landscape has a political value as it includes abandoned urban and agricultural areas, which do not express submission to the dominant power. Third Landscape as ecological transposition of the Third State of Seyès (1798): “What is the Third State ? Everything. What has it done so far? Nothing. What does it inspire to become? Somehting“.
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