08 October 2010

Please Don't Trod On the Sod

Not yet, anyway.

Yesterday marked the grand opening of Longwood's new East Conservatory Plaza, a celebration of geology and geometry which provides a spacious plaza for guests to relax, enjoy outdoor performances, as well as a stately new entrance to the Conservatory. Designed by London-based landscape architect Kim Wilkie (who drew the concept sketch on a dinner napkin), the Plaza has been four years in the making and, as Director Paul Redman put it, "...creatively fulfills several fundamental human needs."

Mr. Wilkie was inspired by the extraordinary tradition of landforms in his native UK to design the stair-stepped turf terraces and landscaped slope which conceals domed subterranean restroom facilities modeled after the bath houses at Topapki Palace in Istanbul. The new restrooms lie along an arching corridor featuring the largest green wall in North America. The restrooms are expected to be "destination restrooms"; besides being entirely practical, they're very modern in design yet ancient in concept. By being built into the ground, the earth provides insulation while frosted skylights admit natural lighting - both efficient energy savers. They are also roomy enough to roller skate in! Access to the restrooms is via a lush leafy corridor that envelopes you with plants. Built by Ambius, the plant-covered wall consists of 3,590 stainless steel panels on a stainless steel frame, covers 4,070 square feet of space, and holds enough plant material to produce as much oxygen as 90 tall trees. The conservatory-like glass ceiling overhead admits more natural light.

Today in the first annual Leadership in Landscapes symposium hosted by Longwood, Mr. Wilkie shared with us some of his other projects and their inspirations. Wouldn't you know they're mostly in England. Guess I'll have to go back there and see them for myself! For now, I can't wait for the effects of the recent deluge to dissipate so I can enjoy the grassy steps at Longwood as they were meant to be enjoyed.

Here's a sneak peek at the new East Conservatory Plaza!

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Mr. Wilkie at the Leadership In Landscapes symposium

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The sight line from the Ballroom out to the new East Plaza

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The newly completed East Conservatory Plaza

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The largest green wall in North America!

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I love where I live!!!

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