Blending Light With Water

The mixtures of physical elements reaches a real sort of crescendo when we combine the simple concepts of Nighttime and artificial lighting humans install around their various architectural concoctions of water-based landscaping. From tiny doorway ponds, set just beside our front doors to provide the gurgling sounds of Peace and the small lights we install to enhance its nighttime appearance to the massive structures of light and water magic itself in cities like Barcelona, Dubai, Las Vegas and Singapore, our craving for beauty never stops. The fact that these altogether wholesome and wonderful urges get met by designers and inventors with our highest hopes implicit yields the fabulous work we see below.

The illusions Noguchi sought in his “9 Floating Fountains” constructed for the 1970 Osaka Worls’s Fair still glimmer in the Osaka nights, seemingly dumping tons of water from tight square clouds.

What seems most remarkable, in the end, is the role lighting played in this marvelous bit of architectural whimsy. We do also understand that lights combined with water both bend and refract the light rays in incredibly pronounced ways. We see this from far smaller scale water features in lakes, ponds and the more strictly residential and homey edifices we make ourselves.

We are so fortunate, in the end, to have modern specialists who now seemingly routinely embrace the lighting and water phenomenon and who have designed a great series of total wonders as our own eye candy and inner thrills. Light Shows have made not only the lexicon of modern life but also have come to represent many of the highest achievements in architecture.

Barcelona’s Magic Fountain was among the first to accomplish lighting wonders on such a massive scale when they opened in 1929 for the opening of The Barcelona International Exhibition. 


The magnificent urban setting set the standard in the world for what would come next. Other cities proceeded to become equally fountain-famous – Kansas City, New York for the World’s Fair in 1936, Osaka in 1970, leading to the extravagant masterpieces of the casinos in Las Vegas, Macau and Singapore.







Singapore, for instance, new machinery creates a foggy, wet background upon which to display video and laser elements in a near 3D fashion. Their light shows are becoming totally legendary. Here’s a video from a show taken by an individual’s phone:

Making the Unusually Wonderful is getting easier. We can all be glad of this.

Landscaping As Radical Art

The term “radical” stems from the original Latin radicalis - “of roots” and from Latin radix ”root”. Whereas, this term ironically resembles “Conservative”, owing to Conservatism’s high valuation of something’s earned past (especially when confronted with “radical change”), I really like the application of “radical” to art as something very nearly opposite of the spirit of its definition. “Radically opposite”, in fact. The term is loosely applied here, but in the overall “sense of things”, it fully meets the spirit of my claims regarding the stunning evolution of a trade which has seen periods of high fashion – from Ancient Times and Babylon’s Hanging Gardens to Frederick Olmstead’s White City and his incredible collection of urban designing accomplishments. Currently, right now, we see regular people create masterpieces of riveting detail and interest in their own fabulous yards, inspiring more public artists and landscaping specialists in a wider realm. I have always said that the best work I ever ran across were productions made by homeowners in the experimental privacy of their own homes. It also is true.

My current usage of the term “Radical Art” indicates an actual and literal departure from “regular” cosmetics of a trade so long defined as an adjunct to buildings and their grounds – the General Field of Landscaping. It is my conviction that landscaping has evolved into its very own architecture, indeed, outgrowing “Dad” –  into it’s own sort of identity and utility – of Architecture, per se, and has subsequently evolved further into real art. Of course, architectural renderings oversee the more vast properties of our urban environments. They must, actually, owing to simple organizational difficulties in their construction and implementation.


What we now see all around us in growing profusion are swaths of land, of urban and suburban wonders, we can simply no longer take for granted and which rivet our minds and souls in ways by which we find ourselves utterly challenged. Some are larger than others:

This work of art in Australia, known as ‘Mundi Man’ or ‘Eldee Man’ was constructed by noted painter Ando (website here) and is located on Mundi Mundi Plains, NSW. It is the world’s largest art work, covering some 4 million square meters, or 5 million square yards. That’s a lot of “cosmetics”!

Antonio Gaudi may have set the Lunatic Fringe of Radical Art in landscaping with not only his remarkable building designs, but in the incredible complexity and bizarre designs so rife at Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain. His admixture of “primitive” and ultra-modern are well-illustrated in this photo I gathered from this website, dealing with Cruises.

The stunning work of Isamu Noguchi, as offered in the first photograph above, has also offered a primary glimpse of landscaping radicalism for long years prior. Now fully enacted by a fabulously and numerically-rich coterie of building designers, the arresting visual and sensual 360 degrees of 3 dimensionality of landscaping reaches an exemplary peak in his work. Below is his spare, yet incredibly evocative construction of a park erected on the site of a former garbage landfill.

Moerenuma Park, Sapporo, Japan:

My view of these installation includes the packages relative to the advancement of technological breakthroughs in the machinery itself of construction. If Da Vinci could conceive of “lift”, “displacement” and the eventual forms which encourage Mankind to fly, then the wildly impractical new wonders of Drip Irrigation, water pumps and advancements in adhesives have opened an entire realm of gravity-defying work of its own.

Vertical Gardening will produce many Babylons, right before our every eyes:


Even residences will gain from inexpensive-yet colorful profusions of verticality, a technology now just getting underway.


The advent of the Mini-Excavator, in my world of installations, has produced amazing wonders, quickly-accomplished, only requiring an imaginative combination of designers and installers to implement the next wave of the booming field of water features. Note here the incredible handsomeness of the stud at the business end of such a handy little monster of torque:

Fountains, water, radicalism, sound and senses…………………..

(Noguchi again):

Lighting has caused a Mini Sensation and a completely outrageous burst of creativity in the field as well, from simple, well-placed uplights and filters of a smaller but ineffably gorgeous dimension:

To the radical fringe of massive urban production such as this Mall Fountain in Singapore – the world’s largest fountain:

More Radical yet, we have the entire realm of fountains and the myriad new applications of water, beginning, once again, with Noguchi’s completely impractical 9 Floating Fountains at the 1970 Osaka World’s Fair:

My belief is that we are just entering a field which promises a burst of fabulous artwork of increasing meaning and relevance. I honestly believe we are being pushed outdoors, kicking and screaming, as our back yards become “destinations” and extended living rooms, kitchens and dens. Our cities become more vibrant when we supply other “destinations” to please the eyes and senses. The factor of radical art in landscaping may even supply microcosmic pleasure in our very ytensils and those items which we have so long merely taken for granted, such as garden furniture, as Helen Nock (website included)  so brilliantly illustrates:

Walls and fences take on some structural interest when in the hands of Micahel   Eckerman of Santa Cruz, his website here. A surfer and gatherer of native materials, his formations show movement and form which closely resemble the behavior of ocean waves:

The creations we see today raise our vision and stop our wandering eyes so that we can better focus on their message. The “message”, as in all art, is that of celebration of our shared humanity. These spiritual accomplishments encourage us all to be better people, in every way.

I am glad Landscaping enters the realm of art itself. The scope of the trade has no conceivable limit, from the very tiniest of realms to those of massive scale. It is Man tickling Man and the sooner we understand that, the more we can create and enjoy more of the same.


Great Walls

Not of China, although that is sure a great wall.

No, these walls will be of a smaller niche, involving landscaping and the pressing need at times to fit structures into our dwindling resources of available land. More and more impossible building sites are becoming completely practical as we erect structures which can hold back and cut into slopes, rendering them usable, flat and of planes with which we can live.

Some most unusual solutions have arrived which now not only perform the task of extending a building’s footprint but which also extend or reduce an area to be landscaped. They can also end up looking fascinating. This stacked concrete block wall at the University of Oregon’s Athletic Complex is rather ultra-modern in that it replicates the roughness of natural rock in purposefully random ways and yet is engineered on the back side completely perfectly. This look is a bit bizarre, I admit fully, but I enjoy the effort, if nothing else.

The changing levels of a landscape provide an interesting counterpart to the more mundane roads and walks of our lives, offering visual interest as well as often featuring the walls themselves as art.

Traditional dry-stacked native rock walls are a technology as old as society itself. From prehistory until now, gorgeous examples of this technological social skill exist on every continent. Modern landscapers have resurrected this low-tech formula into some really beautiful wall series. Here’s one I took part in. It’s purpose, too, was to extend the landscape out from the home level and then drop the 3-4 feet to another flat plane of lawn and green, lush color in a warm contrast of natural textures.

Other walls made of rock have similar purposes in function but hilariously and rewarding tweaks on the theme. Michael Eckerman of Santa Cruz, California provides scintillating river and coastal rock edifices of breathtaking form and function. A true stone mason unlike myself, Michael has pioneered his own art form in stone in ways which we can only admire.

Michael approaches his walls with a deepest love for the Ocean in mind, being a Santa Cruz surfer boy at heart. His sense of crashing waves and moving surf is evinced in all his work from a certain period and thence morphed into the concept of motion in general, later on.

But I can hear the ocean in his retaining walls built in the hills surrounding Santz Cruz!

A closer look…………

From the sublime to the more normal, we visit a modern development in wall-building which has made life yet easier by substantial degrees. The preformed cement wall block has been engineered to perform incredible feats of retention and grade changing. It is somewhat “plastic” in its ability to meander along the lines of whimsy as well, providing landscapers wonderful opportunities to soften lines and to create more pleasing environments. Below are a couple of angles on a Reno project we did, from the start to a more finished look.

Other cement wall edifices performed other duties, although grade changes were always a primary goal. On the one below, we look down a wall put in more for security purposes than the art. A look at the precipice leading away from the landscape shows its functional safety feature.

This one features 2 Falling Water fountains embedded in the forward wall. This is a Winter Time look back at the fountain as we completed the project. The owner was delighted and he has re-landscaped nearly everything from these basic beginnings. The water is running here in exactly the “sheet” we expected and designed. This was a fascinating gig.

For the longest while, in the early 80s in Vancouver, we were building walls almost exclusively of Railroad Ties – huge, 150 pound creosote-soaked uglies 8 feet long which made the most incredibly sturdy walls of the era. One had to drill holes to pound in the 1/2″ rebar to connect these edifices, complete with “dead men” sent perpendicularly back into the soil in a Tee, for anchoring. But one could also be creative, even here. Note the sets of stairs in the distance in this picture, a system of walls nearly a quarter mile long on two-and three-levels. The use of angled off-shoots to the walls provided an architectural joy for the builders and made them as interesting as they became later as the plantings overtook them.

Wall work has always been challenging and somewhat fun, actually. As permanent structures, their solidity and form provided ample rewards for those who made them the right way.

My Most Influential Music

Quick, dirty and shameless, this ends up being partially autobiographical with the additional opportunity afforded by technology to share art with others. It’s pretty simple in the end.

As a child of the 60′s, having grown up just as Rock and Roll emerged as the social force and general motivator that it did, my musical his-story is studded with some fairly predictable icons. I fully admit that and am delighted, the truth is, that I got to share the experience of this art with so many wonderful friends. The experience of art seems altogether useless at times without including the many shared experiences of appreciating  my many wonderful soul mates who took the journey of these deepest forms of Love beside me, from my family to my friends.

Naturally, I have a few of my very own unique aspects which I tend to view as eccentric enough to present as a sort of rating system with indulgent explanation which might or might not inspire others to continue reading and even to listen, all credit going to Youtube Technology as the greatest enabler of all.

Around the age of 8, I learned to operate the family stereophonic record player which I found allowed me to choose my own music at those times I found myself alone enough, or included enough, to give it a whirl. The large tunes at that time – 1956 – ranged from Bill Haley and the Comets to the birth of that amazing phenomenon of Elvis. To say my sister thought a lot of Elvis would be a gross understatement. Which is another factor in my exposure to all music – I had older siblings.

Nevertheless, I had some tasty favorites among which was this which I would turn up loud as possible when alone – hardly rock and roll, but available at home which made it officially “The World” and still moving to me to this day:

Yes, Sibelius. Later, I moved on, quite farther afield. At the ripe old age of 14, I discovered Bo Diddly. This was not as great a departure as one might think, because I and millions of others have always thought Bo Diddly was one hell of a musician. Somehow, he affected me at the deepest levels, all equal parts hormonal, experimental and eager for life itself. I suspect I only sensed rather dwelt on his innovative playing – I just know I thrived on his sound and the simplicity of his spirit.

I got marginally more sophisticated as time went by. Not a lot. But some. In the 60′s one’s choices of music ranged wider than ever, nearing a critical mass in a resounding explosion of genres and styles at the tail end of the 60′s. Leading up to that period was my own deep love affair with Motown, Stax Records, and the moving and so utterly danceable African American tunes of the day. No song moved me more than this one – it was my Monster:

Then the world changed……………whap!

A monstrously deep drink of all music during such heady times as the 60′s – when anything seemed possible – led to what I perceived as a bizarre “flattening out” of modern pop music, probably beginning with the death of Jimi Hendrix, a complete favorite of mine and an innovator whose death implied a redirection of rock and roll, at least to me.

What it did to me was redirect my interest to an interest in almost strictly experimental music. Having relocated to Vancouver, I found myself in basement Jazz Clubs watching Jazz guys like Ornette Coleman, over at LeChat Noir with Gavin Walker and searching for the “still-newer” music. It became rather rewarding in spades as I nearly completely turned my back on rock and roll and pop and thence found my interest exploding with an entire field of experimentation and novel artists. Sonny Sharrock, Weather Report, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Miles Davis with the electric and controversial fusion creations. blending wild rock and roll principles with Jazz in a movement back toward bass beats, syncopation and outright psychedelic inspiration.

Here is a perfect illustration of my own and other’s fascination with new forms of music:

I also discovered the Lunatic Fringe – at this time Karlheinz Stockhausen, Eric Satie, Philip Glass, John Cage, Edgar Varase – near anti-musical futuristical musicians who redefined everything musical from cadence to melody to a near obscene repitition. I sat listening for hours to these strange compositions. This then led to an abiding interest in some very campy sort of performances, such as Frank Zappa’s or Captain Beefheart’s many surprises on tour, or, eventually, the fascinating Laurie Anderson. ;-)

So my musical search for the fresh and new wild caught many successful experiences which rewarded me greatly. I had the wonderful experience of attempting madly to stay on my generation – and even others’ – “cutting edge”. I led myself to believe I actually encountered the monstrous entirety of music – and then found how wildly small my thinking was as I more fully discovered the entire International realm of stuff. No, I hardly got lost – I got inspired.

World music combinations led to an even greater mystery and even more hilarious adventures, bringing me to this very day. I can’t wait now until we hear from the Planets!

My Lily Haydn in space