Since the beginning of the pandemic, many of our relationships with spaces, like houses or the city, took a new value. The landscape stands out, since it is the opposite of the natural captivity state that ruled our lives for the past months. In this session of Arca Talks, the topics of wild gardens and the delicate bond between architecture and nature were addressed.
Tonatiuh Martínez is a self-taught landscaper and founder of Entorno Taller de Paisaje. Alejandro Sánchez is the founder of Taller 6A, a firm whose work is proof of the sensitivity for the indoor/outdoor balance. Both have collaborated together in several projects, which has allowed them to see the impact design has on the landscape at different scales. Learning from Alejandro’s and Tonatiuh’s experience can give us the key on how to understand the landscape and its relationship with architecture.
About more natural gardens
Landscaping and garden design have evolved in the past years, going from very controlled designs to those who imitate nature. Tonatiuh and Alejandro talked about the advantages of learning how to look at the surrounding environment and take the necessary information from it to recreate biological processes in an artificial landscape.
Alejandro speaks from the exterior of his house, among the foliage and large leaves that seem to have been taken from the jungle. It is a project created by both of them and it blends in a timely manner with the interesting chat between the two creative men.
TM: Watching the development that a space you intervened has had is such a pleasure, along with the changes it experiences with time. This evolution is one of the most important things in a collaboration, it is proof of the adaptation process between spaces and users.
AS: I find this garden here, in our house, which you helped me create, fascinating. It used to be a little rigid, shy, garden and you transformed it and now it has become an oasis, and it is such a privilege during the pandemic. Watching the vegetation consolidate, how the species you chose have transformed and adapted has been fascinating, because they are constantly changing.
TM: For us, it is important that these spaces incite and provoke, for you to be at your home or apartment and have an atmosphere that takes you to a whole different and natural environment, and that it does not seem to be part of a built process, but instead, a place that has always been there.
I consider that it is more important to see how nature works than natural processes, in order to have a garden with all these qualities and to promote biological processes we find in nature. It is so easy to achieve this inclusion within the landscape; I believe it is our priority and getting there is so satisfying.
“I am not really creating a garden, but mimicking nature on what has to be done”. - Tonatiuh Martínez
AS: A cut out and formal garden does not look natural, it feels artificial. The interesting thing about our collaboration is how stimulating a space becomes in all senses. This is better than something controlled and which communicates nothing, and requires constant maintenance, like mowing, watering, cutting. I believe the gardens you create have that self-maintenance aspect implicit in them.
About the contributions landscaping has made to architecture
Alejandro and Tonatiuh are clear on one thing: their collaboration increases the quality of their projects. The atmospheres created through the harmonious combination of interior and exterior spaces is the result of this understanding. An example they offer is the Tornel 38 apartment building, where the landscaping gesture that divides the volume consolidates the architectural and dynamic performance of the houses.
TM: In our space-creating task, something important for the architect who practices actual architecture, as well as those who create landscapes, is having that relationship and dialogues, and acknowledging mutual importance. Having the chance to access a terrace from an apartment building, even if it is small, provides a whole lot to the space.
AS: The garden dividing the meeting point between both apartment volumes in the Tornel building provided privacy and helped build an atmosphere. Today you drive pass it and it is not only an indoor gesture.
“Every intervention scale, up to where we have witnessed, produces different stimuli”. - Alejandro Sánchez
About context understanding
Both for landscaping and for architectural design, observation of the context is important in order to guarantee harmony in design. Guests spoke about the sensitivity required to value the qualitative contribution of exterior spaces and to understand them as an integral part of a project.
“That first bond where you acknowledge the context is the cue to walk across the place and to know what to offer”. - Tonatiuh Martínez
TM: The San Luis Art Center (Centro de las Artes de San Luis) is one of the places that reconverted the space and we were very interested in exchanging ideas on what was happening in San Luis Potosí, due to the wealth of the state regarding the gardens you can see. The intention when you manage to link the space with the outdoors clarifies the link between architecture and nature.
AS: For the contest, the landscape project was fully part of the architectural proposal. That was made clear the second we decided that the cracks would liberate into the gardens and the cell walls would be disjoint, it is the opposite expression of the original use of a cell, liberated for artistic activities. Unfortunately, there are times when government organizations cannot manage to understand the scope of landscaping projects.
About the wilderness in the landscape
These are some of the questions made by the audience:
How to achieve more natural spaces and gardens?
TM: The answer is very simple: you have to go through an observation process.
It is important to acknowledge the importance of the endemic nature we observe, and to implement it in spite of the preconceived ideas of what an open space should be; what we consider to be a “wild” garden and it is necessary to carry out a process in order to recognize these places.
AS: The work is there to make clients acknowledge species and these landscapes not as plagues, but as the correct elements to be put in a garden. Like tepozán, which grows anywhere: on a rooftop, the drain, on the sidewalk. We have to promote the Mexican vegetal palette, leave ficus sculptures behind and create a nice garden with the Mexican palette, which has more than enough to offer.
How do we change the preconception a client has on how gardens must look like?
TM: We have to show them this catalogue, so they can acknowledge it and become familiar with it. Conceiving an exchange of ideas to convince them on how nature works.
Like pre-Hispanic gardens, where the variety of herbal and medicinal plants did not alter the ecology of the place and they were able to relate adequately with every space. We have lost this landscaping culture. We have to look at the way in which ecologic processes work and understand them to be able to use them in gardens.
AS: Vegetation, plants and the landscape are living beings, and we shall be in contact with them.
The relationship between architecture and landscape is so much more complex than a garden; however, the balance between these elements is key to quality of life. This balance between environmental manipulation and its quietude offers unique and timeless spaces, like the ones we see in collaborations between Taller 6Z and Taller de Entorno y Paisaje. It is no coincidence that in this dialogue between architect and landscaper the necessary components for the creation of integral projects, acknowledging the context, its ecological processes, and complementarity between spaces, are mentioned.