PHYLLIS ODESSEY

We All Have AMNESIA

The Memory of LAND
“When a landscape architect is entrusted with a piece of land, 
regardless of its size…his or her essential obligation is 
to recognize the site’s ideal image by listening to its ‘voice.” 
RYOKO UEMYAMA

New York Botanical Garden
Landscape Design Series

3 projects

Nagasaki Seaside Park

Shiba Satsuma Street

Nagaoka Peace Forest

Ryoko Uemyama’s finished her lecture.  I left with friends. On the way out,  my friend, L said “Uemyama’s talk is especially relevant to you …”after all you work in a public park”.
“Yes, but we have AMNESIA”.

Amnesia could be the furthest thing from Uemyama’s work.  For her the land is filled with layers that hold a thousand memories.  She uncovers these layers by researching the  history of the place and that becomes the starting point of  her landscape architecture.  For example in Siba Street, Uemyama researched 100 colors of gray used in the Edo Period and choose a few of these tones for the park.

“We know the way to the eternal world, when we use the memory” Uemyama

I couldn’t get L’s comment out of my head. What a difference the landscape of my park would have been, if someone had considered the history of the park and transformed that history to a landscape based on the memories of its former uses and peoples.  It is a park that was originally called Minnehanonck by the Indians and received its current name from its owner, Jonathan Randal after the American Revolutionary War.  The island was used for a potter’s field, an almhouse, a reformatory and a hospital. If the layers of history of the island had been considered, I wonder what the current topology of the island would look like.   Uemyama showed us how memory can be a metaphor for design. 

“a garden is not more than 
the character of the gardener.” 
Edo Period

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