PHYLLIS ODESSEY

Mangled & Bruised Landscapes: Patrick Chasse

Image from http://www.boston.com
patrick chasse

CHOICES:   

Honoring, Restoring and Adapting Historic Landscapes
Garden Conservancy

Thursday, June 3

“Historic landscapes are like plastic surgery.”  Scalpel in hand, Patrick Chasse, the grand master of garden preservation, sliced and diced his way through The Olmsted Brothers, Beatrix Farrand and Jens Jensen.

Chasse is a well-kept secret in the garden preservation world.  He has never sought celebrity status, although he has worked for well-known individuals.  The hallmarks of his preservation work: seeing the landscape as a medium of human expression.  He sorts out how to put back what has been taken apart or fallen apart.  How to return historic landscapes to the private Edens they once were.

On a practical and philosophic level these are interesting questions.  Chasse has devoted himself to finding solutions…bringing back personal visions and recognizing the needs of current clients.  In recreating these historic landscapes, Chasse has had to be brutal at times.  Shrubs are overgrown, trees larger then originally conceived, plants no longer thriving due to climate change, etc.  They need to be replaced, not revered.  One needs to go back to the original plans or drawings and look at the core of the original idea.

Near the end of his talk, Chasse reflected on the entire nature of historic preservation and gardens, in particular.  “We don’t have faith in the future anymore.”  What are the implications of this statement.  Houses and gardens were once built to last and be passed onto generations in the same family.  Due to a changing culture, familial dissolution and maintenance concerns, these historic properties are rarely kept in tact.  They are sold and reconfigured.   Where does that leave the garden conservancy movement?

Chasse showed us the graphic score for a dance.

Can landscapes be recorded in some way similar to dance choreography?  These are questions, I never think about. Can social networking sites, like Facebook, which share billions of pieces of information, be applied to sharing information about gardens?  I am about to spend 10 weeks in the UK, visiting lots of great gardens, a country known for preservation, I might consider whether insuring that gardens last forever, is important.

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