Landezine
International
Landscape
Award
Straub Thurmayr Landscape Architects

HUMBLE PROJECT THINKING

Our work reflects the reality that projects do not need to have millions of dollars or use vast amount of resources. Low budgets are normally a challenge for the composition and selection of materials, but our projects provide a pioneering approach with regard to budget, execution and outcome proving exemplary value.

Reclaiming the concepts of Arte Povera and Bricolage and their ecological application in the design process plays a major role in this. The controlled re-use, upgrading and transformation of materials into a new context is the key to some of our ‘little paradises’. Building materials utilized are leftovers that the city produces and throws out each day. The worth of the worthless achieves an important role and enriches a discussion on the state of urban nature for children, adults and butterflies.

Processes of aging and decay, speculative projections, uncertainties, and the deliberate integration of the uncontrolled are crucial to us. Gardens have always been experimental grounds for innovation and improvisation. We highlight gardens and open spaces as an archetypal conception of humans trying to coexist with nature and thus create a platform for the “post-boom generation” in search of moments of happiness. The golden rule is to find beauty in spontaneity and imperfection.

We integrate design experiments and interdisciplinary innovation into our landscape architecture practice to inform new methods and engage the public. The results are spatial experiences that employ alternative design and building techniques and open up new perspectives in the process of the making. As a form of ‘hands on architecture’ it encourages interested people to get involved without losing the integrity of the umbrella design.

Our work does not aim to make a spectacle of itself, but simply strives to give everyday spaces their own energy by injecting a sensual feel. None of these humble projects will rescue the world. The dimensions are lowly and the means are simple, but the design considerations are surprisingly complex and the realized spatial transformations are bloody cheap but sexy!

THIS IS HOW WE WORK:

Drawing an Idea

Instead of a flood of images containing promises that are hard to keep, we push ourselves to concentrate firmly on an original idea in the form of a drawing or graphic.

Treating Existing Features with Respect

All creative concepts are oriented towards what is already present. New developments are carefully and respectfully integrated into the existing structures and into people’s lives.

Employing Risk over Routine

We perceive design as an evolving situation between clients and designers, in which we are united by curiosity, inquisitiveness and the willingness to take a risk.

Keeping Critical Distance and Good Humour

Sometimes we need to take a break from investigating the soul of architectural design and discuss the soul of a good glass of wine among friends instead. It is important to maintain some distance from our work in order to ensure we do not lose ourselves in it.

Reaching Discovery, Invention and Controlled Madness

There will always be conflicting urges between the imagination that we try to bring under control and the discipline that we strive to set free. A productive balance can therefore be found between spontaneous innocence, naïve optimism and the healthy scepticism that tempers any excess.

 

ROOTED IN CLAY _ WY Garden Winnipeg

Rooted in Clay, based upon fluvial sediments, plants, light and recycled materials proves that ‘pleasant landscapes’ do not need vast resources. This small-scale project works towards a new ecological aesthetic and has the potential to initiate paradigm shifts in design, social behavior and ecology on a larger scale.

Seasonal changing levels, annual floods, ongoing erosion and high concentrations of red sediment, the Red River in Winnipeg is a highly dynamic, urban water body. How do we deal with this energy on a beautifully situated river plot? Our design for the WY Garden is a sensitive response to this topological context.

We planted a ‘forest of roots’. The planting design is considered to be a friendly assault on the Canadian lawn and follows a particular botanical choreography created to protect the land from erosion and to provide habitats for all living things. It bypasses the city bylaw that insists on a maximum height of six inches for grass. The community bylaw inspectors are perplexed by our atypical garden. The grass cannot be decreed a neglected lawn. No rule is broken. No ticket issued.

The WY Garden is an adventurous experiment in conformance with place, time, climate, plants, materials, soil, light, water, and budget. ‘Building materials’ were leftovers that the city produced and threw out. By the way, not a single nail or screw was used. Only gravity joins beams and boulders, roots and clay.

 

FOLLY FOREST _ A Dance Floor for 100 Trees

Rust. Cracks. Leftovers. These are the building blocks of the Folly Forest, located in one of Winnipeg’s underprivileged districts. The concept of perforating the existing asphalt showcases how a simple measure can take ecological and esthetical effects and turn them into the formative element of design. The star shaped fugues create free spaces for trees, water infiltration, soil organisms, plant communities, insect habitats, and all of this on the ground where people go by foot, by bike or by car. According to this principle the fugues became a composed piece of everyday ecology and biodiversity.

The first question we are often asked is about the rusty pieces: what are they for? Our whimsical response is that they are look-out towers for earthworms. These producers of fertile soil need something to climb on to overview their flat landscape. But that is not the only purpose of the towers. The rusty bits could also be breeding places for dinosaurs! The material captures the sun, the heat incubates the eggs and the imagination does the rest…

Although there is no evidence that earthworms have ever been on the look-out towers, perhaps someday scientific evidence will come to light. In the meantime, the children will make their own stories, and the trees will mature, their root suckers cracking the asphalt from below like vegetative anarchists. The resulting cracks, gaps and fugues will create more and more freedom for unexpected life.

 

ZAUBERGARTEN IN AN URBAN CLEARING

Kita Robert Heger Strasse, Munich

The impetus for this project was the renovation and expansion of a 1970’s Munich childcare centre, in which a single-storey building was renovated and enlarged by one floor. Trees and bushes planted around the building in the 1970s had fully matured and evolved into a thick canopy which had caused poor light conditions over time. The childcare users missed sun, warmth and light on the site. The existing lawn and sand areas did not dry out well and were cold in summer, so their use as play spaces was limited.

In the garden informally arranged islands are situated amid grassy spaces around a plain of sand. They provide gentle undulations that help divide the site into zones, forming a micro-landscape of spaces and interludes. The islands are small archipelagos in the landscape of movement that provide places to aim for and escape to.

The delicately sculpted modelling of the earth makes the garden into a remarkable spatial experience. The minimalist elements of this ‘eventful’ framework invite a broad range of interpretations and interests. Materials such as stone, sand, gravel, all-weather tracks, lawns and water offer a variety of evocative charms.

Our hope was to design a garden for children and plants, clothed in its urban suit, which could be used intensively at all times of the day. It is a good place for tactile experiential learning, and a sustainable space that places the highest priority on children and nature.

 

VIBRANT DARING EPHEMERAL WILD

Casa Montessori & Orff School, Winnipeg

A prairie school in Winnipeg, Manitoba, following Maria Montessori’s inclusive teachings is a home for families of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds including recent immigrants. Children of this school, ages 2-12, learn to expect that equal opportunities and treatment, irrespective of ethnic origin, skin color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or nationality, are based on democratic principles and tolerance.

The physical transformation of the Montessori’s outdoor play space is built on the belief in childish experimentation and creativity. Materials and spaces are activated and deactivated by the children, fluctuating freely between permanence, messiness, and a sense of the temporary. Texturing the land with uneven terrain, tall grasses, and diverse loose materials provided beauty and learning through the life and health of a ‘non-domesticated’ environment. The golden rule is finding beauty in spontaneity and imperfection.

The new playground proves that a ‘wild’ environment increases creativity, co-operative play, and provides a stage for Radical Play and sustainable learning. In light of current global challenges, the school has become an important meeting point for the families and a place of tolerance and autonomy.

 

INSTANT GARDEN

A young family has just moved into their new home. It is already spring. Almost too late to start a garden project! One possible solution: INSTANT GARDEN.

Winnipeg is a city with annual periodic flood issues. Sandbagging is a part of people’s common memory. Every year walls of white sandbags are all over the place during the snowmelt. Sandbags can be reused if they are not contaminated.

The body of the garden is composed of these white sandbags and eatable greenery. The whole garden is like a reservoir for the rain runoffs of the surrounding areas. A sprinkler provides a cooling experience at times, with the overall result being a vegetable garden, a giant sand field or a private beach, depending on your viewpoint and interests!

The touchable surface of this garden is intentional: a tender semipermeable skin showing irritations, folds, color, aging, emotions and sunburn. We knew about the half-life of the material and we didn’t want to operate with creams. The skin fought the weeds back without any chemistry.

Stuffed in bags the sand becomes mixed with the in-situ soil. That’s a simple method for soil stabilization and a measure to create an airy soil with high oxygen content, well drained and a pleasure to work with. A lush garden will grow the following spring. We are looking forward to a new dance of chlorophyll, kids and butterflies.

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