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August 12, 2014

Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage

The Late Artist's Seaside Arcadia is Our Final Great Garden

“Paradise haunts gardens and it haunts mine,” wrote the late painter, filmmaker, theater designer and author Derek Jarman. His vast garden was established in 1986 on the bleak British landscape of Dungeness, Kent around an old tar-painted fisherman’s cottage, neighboring a nuclear power station. “It becomes part of the landscape and the wildness becomes part of the garden,” says the director and narrator of the last in our Great Gardens series, Howard Sooley. A photographer, gardener, and Jarman’s dear friend, Sooley first started visiting Prospect Cottage in the late 1980s. Together, they went on to produce a record of how the garden evolved, Derek Jarman’s Garden—the last book Jarman ever wrote. “My favorite thing that I ever planted there was a perfect circle of foxgloves from scattering seed collected near the power station,” he adds. “But above all I love that, visually, the garden doesn’t end.” The keen plantsman still tends to the garden along with Jarman’s partner Keith Collins, who lives at the cottage. Beauty punctuates the sparseness with sea kale, wild red poppies, and fiendishly blue cornflowers. Beachcombed metal sculptures, stone circles, and wind-twisted wood mark the framework for the various areas, while poet John Donne’s “The Sunne Rising” adorns one of the cottage walls.—Lee C. Wallick 

“The Sunne Rising” (abridged) by John Donne (1633)

Busie old foole, unruly Sunne,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windowes, and through curtains call on us?
Must to thy motion lovers’ seasons run?
Sawcy pedantique wretch, goe chide
Late schoole boyes and sowre prentices,
Goe tell Court-huntsmen, that the King will ride,
Call countrey ants to harvest offices;
Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clyme,
Nor houres, dayes, moneths, which are the rags of time…
Thou sunne art halfe as happy as wee,
In that the world’s contracted thus.
Thine age askes ease, and since thy duties bee
To warme the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy centre is, these walls thy spheare.

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Spotlight

Paul Vanstone: Marble Giant

The British Sculptor Opens the Doors of His London Studio

“Marble has the same qualities as human skin, absorbing and reflecting light,” says British sculptor and Henry Moore Award-winner Paul Vanstone. Playing with scale, texture and traditional marble carving techniques, the former apprentice of Anish Kapoor carves figurative pieces that have exhibited in Tate Modern, British Museum and the V&A. Setting up studio near one of London’s distinguished sculptural landscapes, the 19th-century Kensal Rise Cemetery, the artist’s space captured here by photographer Leon Chew is filled from corner to corner with busts, tools, and unfinished monuments, all coated in a fine layer of marble powder. After graduating from London’s Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Art in 1993, Vanstone made a pilgrimage to Carrara, located in the northernmost hills of Tuscany and veritable home to marble work since the days of antiquity. “Marble has to be worked in such a careful way compared to other stones,” he adds, having spent time with the stonemasons of Rajasthan in North-Western India to hone his medium. “There can be a lot of difference in the feel of the stone across the same block.”

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Spotlight

Light Years

An Exclusive Interview with Richard Meier as He Celebrates Half a Century of Architectural Innovation

Five decades of ambitious work has firmly established Richard Meier as a leading figure of contemporary American design. To celebrate the semi-centennial of the New York-based architect's practice, Taschen is publishing Meier, a comprehensive special edition of the Philip Jodidio-edited monograph that chronicles his entire body of work. Along with Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey, Michael Graves and John Hejdukell, Meier was a member of the ‘New York Five,’ a controversial group of architects who believed in the purity of architectural modernism, as pioneered by the likes of Le Corbusier. He is responsible for such eminent buildings as the sprawling Getty Center in Los Angeles and Rome’s iconic Jubilee Church. His work shows a deep concern for the ways in which light informs space and has won him plaudits from the American Institute of Architects and the prestigious Pritzker Prize. 

How would you say your approach to architecture has changed over the past 50 years?
Richard Meier: The principles that guide the work in our office are rooted in timeless, classical design issues such as context, site, order, and the use of natural light. We are always interested and fascinated by the natural light of every place and how it then translates into light and open buildings.

Looking back on your body of work, do any projects stand out as favorites? Are there any with particular personal significance?
RM: I studied Architecture at Cornell University, and, after working in the offices of Davis Brody, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Marcel Breuer, I started my own practice in my studio apartment in New York City. A year later, in 1967, I received a commission to design the Smith House in Connecticut, a project that marked the beginning of my career. The opportunity to design and build the Smith House clarified my ideas about the making of space, and the house attracted a certain amount of attention that made it possible to take on additional projects.

Tell us about your fascination with the color white.
RM: As far as I am concerned, white is all colors. If I look through my office window, and there is a brightness to the sky, one appreciates the density of that blue sky against the whiteness in my office; one appreciates all the colors of nature more clearly, by looking at the way in which the whiteness sort of bounces that color all around us.

What do you think is most quintessentially American in your designs?
RM: 
Fundamentally, my meditations are on space, form and light. My goal is presence, not illusion. I pursue it with unrelenting vigor and believe that is the heart and soul of architecture. Openness and clarity are characteristics that represent American architecture at its best, and they are the principles that I hope to bring to every design endeavor.

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