Posts tagged Jardin du Luxembourg

All Photos Courtesy of AHBE Landscape Architects

The sharp ting! from my phone penetrated the silence of the early morning. I was expecting news any day but was not prepared when it finally arrived. Kiku Kurahashi, my friend and colleague, succumbed to cancer and passed away on July 19. She was 57 years old.

Kiku’s sister, Aki, requested a selection of pictures for her memorial service. Kiku started with AHBE in 1999, a year after I joined. So I had nearly two decades of photos to sort through in my own and the firm’s archives.

I experienced an avalanche of emotions at first as I observed her life captured in so many moments. The search turned into a healing process for me. Kiku and I spent a lot of time together over the years – during working hours and at occasional social events, garden tours, and other gatherings. I found comfort in reminiscing about her and feel lucky to have known her.

Team AHBE spells K-I-K-U after a game.

When news of Kiku’s passing spread, many people who knew her expressed their sorrow over the loss of this gentle soul and talented designer. They also shared their stories about how she touched their lives in positive ways.

I end my tribute with a special story Aki shared about her sister. It says so much about Kiku’s passion for our profession and her stand in the world. During a 1989 trip to Paris, Aki and Kiku visited the Luxembourg Gardens and stayed for hours. The visit was a breakthrough for Kiku and, according to Aki, her baptism into landscape architecture. While they sat on a bench in the garden, Kiku said to her :

“This is what I want to create for the rest of my life. A garden that lasts forever for people.”

Arigato, my friend. Rest in peace.

Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

 

Jardin du Luxembourg in spring. All photos by Jennifer Salazar.

Ask me which garden in the world is my favorite and I won’t hesitate to reply, “The  Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris!” Also known as the Luxembourg Gardens. the park and garden is renowned for its beautiful long rows of large shade trees, array of individual chairs visitors are welcome to move around, its collection of formal fountains, and the network of golden paths of decomposed granite. This public space is as comfortable as it is beautiful – my definition of excellence in design.

Well, during another trip to Paris I may have discovered another fave: Jardin du Palais Royal, aka Palais Royal.

I had heard about this place before, but missed it during previous trips. I was reminded of it again recently while watching the movie Charade (1963) with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant – a movie with a climax staged amongst the arcade columns of the Jardin du Palais Royal at night. I was also reminded of the park by Lauren Elkin’s newly released book, Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London. In her book dedicated to the “determined, resourceful individual keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city and the liberating possibilities of a good walk,” she cites the Palais Royal as one of her favorite destinations to walk in Paris.

The Jardin de Palais Royal – like the Luxembourg – also includes rows of large shade trees, but has fixed benches, and is surrounded by a tall arcade supported by columns. This structure provides shelter for walking and window shopping along the adjacent high end stores, while also covering outdoor diners at the adjacent cafés.

During a beautiful spring afternoon I observed people picnicking in the open area. Some were playing a wood bowling game of sorts. It was such a great outdoor communal space for relaxing and people watching.

Attached to the Jardin is a smaller courtyard to the south with a reflective ball sculpture at the center of a fountain. Another more interesting courtyard is further south, one that contains Daniel Buren’s 1986 installation,  “Les Colonnes de Buren.” Buren placed 260 black and white vertically striped columns in a grid varying in height. Though formal in their layout, these columns in their unique material and heights allow for a more playful and fun take on the very regimented and formal spacing and material of the 17th century columns that surround the courtyards. These Buren columns prove to be very attractive for climbers of all ages!

I am grateful that these Parisian gardens, designed and built hundreds of years ago, are maintained to retain their beauty. They continue to be enjoyed by so many visitors many years after their creation, the sign of great landscape design.

I find the allure of the Luxembourg Gardens is its incredible beauty that the Parisian people share and use as a community. I love the Garden’s elegance revealed in the sum of its details: long rows of large, mature Horse Chestnut Trees with high, shady canopies overhead; large expanses of decomposed granite in a gold color or expanses of green turf (this is NOT Southern California of course) on the ground plane; and the multitude of iconic mobile chairs that are beautiful and comfortable. There are simple, yet stunning water fountains that are both sculptural and areas of play.

Boats at Luxembourg gardens

The Garden’s large expanses allow visitors to enjoy their park as they like, and this openness provides a framework for various activities. Young people dash around large tree trunks, while children sail toy sailboats in the large fountain during the summer. Groups and couples can gather chairs together to enjoy the park and socialize, while lone visitors are left to read a book or enjoy the sunshine in solitude. There are areas of deep shade, full sun, and every sun exposure in between to enjoy.

Details add to the beauty: the very low foot rest that encircles the lawn areas; the wood box containers for the trees; and the lovely edges of the water fountains as the water spills off into the basin below.

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We may not be able to build high maintenance, high water use public spaces such as those found within the Jardin du Luxembourg here in Southern California, but the beauty of its design can certainly inspire our work as designers, even on the smallest scale.