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Garden Designers Roundtable – Inspiration: This Guy Is A GENIUS. No, REALLY. HE’s a GENIUS!

by germinatrix | December 7th, 2010

I know a genius.

meet Jorge Pardo.

He’s an artist, and an old friend. We met when my husband was writing an essay about Jorge for a catalog for one of his many many MANY shows, and we hit it off like gangbusters. I think it’s cultural – we both have the hot blood of the Caribbean flowing through our veins, and we are both fire signs (he’s an Aries, I’m a Sagittarius – you really shouldn’t even TRY to get a word in edgewise when we’re around). Jorge’s work is pretty controversial. I’ll try not to over-simplify it – his work balances on a sharp edge between art and design, something that alot of people have a big problem with. Some people think it’s too easy. Well, check out his work.

the library of the old DIA in Chelsea, NYC

a pier in Germany

droolworthy art

Jorge is really well known for his lamps. What is it about a lamp that qualifies it as art? … Jorge Pardo made them and gave them a big dose of complexity.

I think there might have been 100 lamps in this room

check this one out

Jorge built a house when I first met him, and some of the money came from the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art – in return the house was an exhibit space before he officially moved in. (People in LA got their panties in SUCH a wad over this – the rumor is STILL that Jorge hoodwinked the museum into paying for his house. Not true, but whatever – it makes for a great legend). When I first toured the empty house, it was an enigmatic horseshoe with no streetside fenestration at all, but when you walked into the interior courtyard there were floor to ceiling windows surrounding what was obviously the perfect space for a jewel-box of a garden. I remember being totally jealous of whoever it was that was going to get to create that garden.

Hahaha – yes, Jorge asked ME to design the garden, and this is the garden that changed my life.

a sunken "conversation" pit matches the one Jorge designed in the living room

the view from the bedroom

monster garden

As Jorge and I talked about what the garden would be, as we discussed plants, architecture and abandoned places, as I walked the site, explored the house  and learned more about my new friend’s process I realized that I was feeling something very different than the regular old excitement of a fun project.  There was something else happening. Problems were something to embrace and exploit rather than something to “solve”. This project was about more than making a “pretty” landscape that could set the house off to its best advantage – it was about making something complicated and interesting. The old way of doing things clearly didn’t apply. This man was reckless (in the best sense of the word – in fact, he was possibly a little bit of a MANIAC!). His thinking was so expansive, and there was no fear to try things; I wanted this space to reflect that spirit. It couldn’t hold back – it had to throw itself at you in a big, all encompassing way. The garden had to be bad. It had to risk not working. It had to teeter on the edge of being a hodge-podge of epic proportions. Gardeners are supposed to follow rules, and here I was, chomping at the bit to make a completely rule breaking garden. We wanted too many plants for the space. AWESOME – let’s DO IT! We wanted plants that were too big for the space – WHATEVER – they’re PLANTS! Let’s PLAY! We wanted a prehistoric monster of a garden – agaves and Floss Silks trees and bananas with red splotches on the leaves! Yuccas and opunitas and roses! We wanted plants that made no sense together to mash up happily. I took a deep breath and jumped in with both feet. The result is a space that literally engulfs you with plant madness – it takes your breath away.

The architecture of the house was the template for the garden spaces. Every room has its corresponding outdoor doppelganger. But the plants carry the day; they practically assault you when you walk into the garden. (And I mean literally! Jorge ripped out an aloe when it attacked him one day as he got out of his car. Well, he ASKED for a monster garden!) They stop you in your tracks and demand attention. A branch of a Euphorbia ingens went rogue, crested, and decided to aggressively insert itself right in front of the kitchen door. You literally had to acknowledge it, check out the strange formation, and then step around it to get inside. Most clients would have chopped off such a demanding plant, but Jorge loved it, bragged about it, and made people bend and twist around it to enter his home. The complication of it was central to his enjoyment of it.

Not everybody can have a garden like this, and I do realize that. But since working on this project, my ideas about plants, design and designing with plants has changed. Every garden I do has a little bit of Jorge’s garden in it. I bring a bit of recklessness into my process, while trying to balance the needs of the space and the demands of the plants. I try and get my clients as eager to play garden design with me as Jorge was…

…and is! I’m currently working on a HUGE garden with him in the Yucatan – you can see some of the pre-planted site here and here. And yes, this artist and friend really IS a genius. Certified. Jorge was one of the recipients of the 2010 MacArthur Genius Grants.

I told him I’m going to start stitching everything he says on pillows. I think it’s a BRILLIANT idea. He’ll probably use it. So if you all see a big mountain of pillows at the next Pardo show with outrageous Jorge-isms embroidered on them, remember that you read about  it here first.

Inspiration ABOUNDS!!!

How do my colleagues get inspired? What have they to say about “Inspiration”? Whatever it is, you KNOW it’s good! Kick back and get ready to learn something as you follow the links that make up this month’s Garden Designers Roundtable.

XOXO Your Germinatrix

Now go get some MORE inspiration from my fellow Roundtablers! You can start your trip around the country by following these links:

Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA

Carolyn Gail Choi : Sweet Home and Garden Chicago : Chicago, IL

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In the Garden : Los Altos, CA

Rochelle Greayer : Studio G : Boston, MA

Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ

Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA

14 Responses to “Garden Designers Roundtable – Inspiration: This Guy Is A GENIUS. No, REALLY. HE’s a GENIUS!”

  1. Ivette, you lucky girl, you! You achieved design nirvana with the perfect storm of great site, great client, and great creative mojo. Rock on!

  2. Germi, your posts are always full of energy, and I am inspired reading each one, but this one really tops them all. How I’d love to visit the monster garden and see it for myself! My only quibble, dear Germi, is that while your ideas are so big, your pictures are so small! My poor old 43-year-old eyes are taxed! Love your post though. Lucky Jorge to have you as his designer!

  3. Awesome how Jorge’s kind of in-your-face style got reflected in your garden design! And I was going to say how fortunate that he allowed you to do that–but of course he would! My guess is that he wouldn’t have been content otherwise. Great post, Ivette!

  4. Oh Pam – I KNOW!!! The photos are really a shame, but getting recent photos of the garden itself was a bit of a problem. I’ll get some bigger images scanned in and add them to the post! I’m super happy you liked it otherwise. It is embarrassing for me – YOU are the Queen of the gorgeous blog images!

    Jocelyn – you described it PERFECTLY!!! It was a crazy, perfect storm!

    Jenny! OMG – Jorge pushes ME! That is why I chose to do this post on Inspiration about him – he is one of those people that demands that you go big or go home. It can be scary, but in the end – amazing! I’m so glad you liked the post!

  5. Love that pier and Love the idea of recklessness
    You are right that clients may limit this.
    So when like you, lucky girl, we get the chance we must go for it!

  6. Ivette – I must say that YOU are truly inspirational. Your writing, your humor, your style… Thanks for this beautiful post and for sharing such an incredibly special garden with us! XXOO

  7. So FLIPPING COOL, I!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    So cool, I just don’t even know where to begin! I was all “YES!” at this: “It had to teeter on the edge of being a hodge-podge of epic proportions.” Isn’t it true that so often the most well designed gardens do?! As a plant nut, I think that’s one of my greatest design challenges, the compromise between plantman’s hodge-podge and designer’s harmony.

    We need to arrange for me to get my hands on some bigger pics of Jorge’s garden. Heading to look at the Yucatan pics now. You rock, and I loved this post.

  8. Wow, wow and more wow. This is the stuff of designer dreams…someone who wants us to push the envelope and who has the wisdom to stand in back of us and push us further. You lucky lucky girl!

  9. What an enviable project!!!…so completely cool…I have always wanted one of those life changing clients to enter into my life…. someday…
    um, and your writing is killing me…”enigmatic horseshoe with no streetside fenestration” yes, I admit, I had to look up fenestration….great post!!!

  10. Beautiful sunken garden design. A real inspiration for anyone who loves good landscape design

  11. I’m glad the Garden Designers Roundtable isn’t a contest, because this post would win for sure! You’re already the funniest person on Facebook; do you have to have the most amazing design stories as well? You know what I love? You didn’t just tell us HOW you were inspired, you showed us what it drove you to create.

    And yes, please to bigger pictures!

    Your adoring fan, SuMo

  12. i love the challenge to be reckless in the garden. no fear! jorge rocks!

  13. I absolutely remember seeing this garden featured in Garden Design mag and LOVING all that you did. Wonderful creativity! At the time I was blown away by the plants (yes, I’m a plant nerd). Now I love hearing the inspiration process behind the design. What a dream client and kudos to you!

  14. May I arrive very belatedly at this feature on Jorge,
    to say how inspired I am by your recounting of working with, and creating his garden!
    The only gardens I create are my own, but ART is a force that drives me in every aspect of my life. How exciting to learn about this brilliant guy, and my savvy, luminous friend, Ivette’s work to design a unique green space: A monster space that has pulled me in with its rogue Euphorbia ingens – shades of Lotusland!!!, cresting! & aggressive – I want one to ” insert itself right in front of MY kitchen door.
    Germi… surely you can look forward to a bright, captivating 2011 filled with love and good stuff.
    I’m sending some xoxo love your way,