I would personally like to thank the University of B.C. SALA Garden Design Lecture committee — Ron Rule, Daniel Roehr and Jane Durante — for bringing some of the world’s leading landscape architects to Vancouver to share their concepts of design.
Last week, world renowned landscape designer Teresa Moller captured the attention of B.C.’s landscape architects and students of landscape architecture. I was inspired by her presentation.
Like a breath of fresh air, Moller shared her vision of design which embodies a deeper connection to nature than most of us ever imagined. In any landscape design, the natural setting is critical to the essence of the finished project, but to Moller truly understanding its “soul” is the key to any great design.
Born and raised in Chile, as a young child Moller loved to explore the unique beauty of this long, narrow country, with the Andes Mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Chile’s terrain changes from deserts in the north to tropical rainforests in the south.
All this diversity left a deep impression on Moller. Although beginning her career in the health care industry, she quickly discovered this path was not her passion.
Because of her love for nature and its many elements, Moller took landscape courses which led her to training at New York Botanical Garden. Moving into the field of design, she worked with a landscape architectural firm, but realized early on that she had a more singular vision of design and the need to align it more closely with nature.
How did Moller make that often difficult transition of striking out on her own?
“I was just lucky. People seemed to like my work and come to me,” she said.
Moller offered a new approach that was quite distinctive. The cornerstone of her work is her understanding of and ability to capture the many intricacies of nature.
“Our world is nature, and humans are just a part of it. We think we can control nature, but the reality is it is far more powerful than we can ever imagine.”
Moller approaches nature with great humility and attempts to understand the key elements of each site — the ground, the sky, the trees and its special characteristics.
Because nature is in a constant state of change, she tries to learn the history of the location and she tries to envision what the future might look like. By embracing the light and the shadows, the exposure, the wind and so much more, she attempts to comprehend the site’s true “soul.”
“A lot of this is just plain common sense. It’s about ‘being in the place’ and understanding what the place is about. We all need to be more aware of what nature is telling us, and appreciate what it is giving to us.”
Moller’s genius is the ability to connect, with environmentally light footsteps, each site to human habitation. She creates this intervention with poetry and balance. Telling a story is part of the process of making a landscape both accessible and habitable.
Moller is not a big fan of “pretty” gardens that mix a lot of unnatural colour which does not fit the natural landscape. Once she understands each site’s character, she then creates her designs using plants that add value to this “naturescape”.
She explains that when you carefully observe trees in a forest and come to appreciate the feelings they give you, then the plants and elements of your design must evoke those same feelings.
Moller’s designs all express a passionate feeling for nature and the stirring emotions of connectivity. Although the process can be complex, the ultimate expression of any great artist is one of simplicity.
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