Ken Smith

Ken Smith has a new book, published by Monacelli Press, and he was giving this talk in conjunction with selling and signing his wonderful book. I required my class to attend this presentation because he is the ‘designer du jour’ here in NYC and his ideas ‘push the envelope’ and are perfectly suited to the 21st century urban milieu…(uh oh! I am letting some designer jargon creep in here….note to me: watch those french words and cliche descriptors)Smith also spoke about his famous Museum of Modern Art Roof Garden:

no soil, no weight, no plants, no people

Smith accomplished the goal of creating lightweight faux garden at MOMA..plastic rocks, styrofoam edging, phony boxwood…185 crushed recycled rocks + 7 tons crushed glass + 4 tons rubber mulch + 560 artificial boxwoods.It is visible only to people who live above the Museum of Modern Art – no visitors allowed.He told us he based the garden layout on a camouflage pattern – he likened modern landscape architects to ‘camofleurs’ (uh oh, French word, again…). He said many times we are asked to screen this, hide that…so true.As you can imagine, this ‘ersatz’ approach has engendered its own critics (now I am lapsing into German words – stop it, now!)Here is what Mason White wrote in archinet in ‘Faking It For Real’:“Smith’s pop garden perched atop the venerable MoMA offers itself as a mirage or oasis of artificiality. Unwavering in its denial of seasonal change, and uninterested in the fact that it presents itself as hyper-real. This landscape is the perfect manicured zen lawn. …”

Oh Yeah! Finally the no-watering solution! (No carbon dioxide/oxygen exchange, either, but who needs fresh air?)I was disappointed he didn’t share his residential gardens which are stunning– like my favorite, the urban viewing garden at 40 Central Park South.By the way,  *Howard Roark, architect, was the empire building, main character in Ayn Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead’.

THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART ROOF GARDEN, 2009 ASLA HONOUR AWARD

EAST RIVER WATERFRONT, NEW YORK

SANTA FE RAILYARD PARK

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