Creative Work: Competitions

Gowanus Hanging Gardens
16 May 2000

The garden has long been a source of sustenance and refuge, of pleasure and allegory, of life and death. It is essential to the spirit of humankind and takes form here in the shadow of the previous motorway. The Gowanus travel routes have been moved immediately below grade and now have a series of hanging gardens spanning their width.


The vacancy of the Elevated Gowanus Expressway opens the Third Avenue corridor to the sky and fresh air. Space left vacant becomes a Mosaic of public places; gardens, plazas, and buildings. The 58′ wide ribbon of public spaces gesture to the harbor and archipelago in motif and activity. The fluid gestures and interpretive buildings refer to the water through form and activity.


The Gowanus Hanging Gardens are common ground for the neighboring industrial and residential communities. People will interact in the gardens removed from the adjacent traffic by a lane of parking (each adjacent lane to the garden will become a three foot border sidewalk and nine foot parallel parking zone).


The gardens come together in a series of pleasure and productive landscapes including – urban agriculture for the residents to cultivate vegetables, fruit, and fiber (and to provide vigilance for the landscape and neighbors); an assortment of water gardens for visual pleasure and childlike play; gardens with reference to islands and to the woods; open lawn and plaza areas for gathering and display; and a market space for exchange of goods.

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Lewis and Clark Botanic Garden, Missoula, Montana. 31 August 1998.

The Lewis and Clark garden is a metaphorical representation of the expedition. It is a reflection of some of the events, the symbols, the activities, the forms of the landscape, and Jefferson’s motive (interest) in understanding and measuring the west.

This parti is ordered on the cardinal directions much as the ordinance survey of the United States. At its center the garden reflects on the regional and expedition landscape. Three conical hills rise out of a forest of Ponderosa Pine – a gridded forest one acre in dimension referring to the Lodgepole plantations of Rattlesnake Gulch nearby (and the dimension units of the ordinance survey). The largest hill of the three provides a vista of the surrounding land at the top of a spiral ramp and stairway. These three pure cones are representative of the Rockies rising out of the plains.

On either side of the hills, drainage runnels in walkways reflect the mapping of the west and the river courses the expedition followed. The runnels act as storm drainage channels for the garden. The dendritic pattern can also be found in the veins of leaf structure.

Plant species are placed in geometric garden rooms, each surrounded by a hedge wall to a height slightly above eye level effectively creating the sensation of a maze as one moves through the garden. The spirit of the adventure may be sensed in the movement through the rooms. Within each of the rooms plants discovered by Lewis and Clark are showcased among several other plants of the same family. The categorized chart-like organization recalls the scientific and technical intent of the expedition.

Along the East West axis of the garden a series of spaces denoting events of the journey relate to important issues other than the botanical ones that the Lewis and Clark expedition contributed. The spaces include one that acknowledges the native American relationships, one that is a fire pit reminiscent of the camp, a keelboat pond with miniature boats, a star gazing chamber, and a toad pond that enlightens about the many important animal discoveries of Lewis and Clark.

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