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Comune and Civic Canopies

Posted on: Wednesday, July 26, 2006

City by the Sea (fragment) attributed to the Sienese artists Sassetta c.1425 (also attributed to Ambrogio Lorenzetti, c.1340 and Simone Martini, c. 1310)

The idea of the fragmented city and the negotiation of space in the public domain is an activity that fits well with my current investigations of territory, seed conservation, and ecological commerce. Civic spaces typically promote activities that emphasize the collective drive towards financial security, competitive trade, and remuneration of goods and services. Within the subtle infrastructure of this activity is a complex fabric of free-range exchange that ideally involves the bridging of cultural and ecological islands within a community. How might one bring to the forefront the delicate nature of this fragmented fabric and in turn retrofit the blanket of human consumption with practices of common grazing that are sustainable and grounded in diversity?

The expanse of an installed crocheted canopy or hand-knotted net might allow an urban dweller to experience the same topographical vastness or limitless view or catch that a wilderness explorer or deep-sea fisherman might. A hovering, migratory fabric might also shelter us from extreme environmental elements and provide cover or roofing for air loft gardening or seed harvesting. The inevitable cloak of globalization demands that we examine the fringes of zoning, resource management, the changing atmosphere, and quilted urban layers in order to resift our attitudes about survival, spatial utilization, and shared surfaces.

I am specifically interested in using seeds, textiles, and (biodegradable) fiber in conjunction with gardening and civic planning as an opportunity to reorder our consumption practices. I want to better understand how one person’s plot, cultivated civic identity, and connection to seed banking and dissemination might strengthen a weakened social fabric.

Comune, in Italian, refers to a self-governing community, not necessarily in the utopian, isolationist sense of the word, but as a model for wresting power from outside influences to create il buon governo, a mosaic-like garden of civic connectivity. It is this pixilated bricolage of social and ecological zones that makes a community vibrant on multiple levels. A reinvigoration of agrarian practices within the urban arena allows for canopies of new surfaces and individual islands of exposed layers on which we can collectively graft our hopes.

Resuscitating Sacro Bosco

Posted on: Friday, July 14, 2006


Bomarzo, the garden underworld of Duke Vicino Orsini, was created over the course of thirty-five years as a dig to the Renaissance ideals of orderliness, symmetry, and proportion. This extensive landscape folly began (c. 1552) with a conventional grotto, nymphaeum, and theatre complex and quickly deviated into a rambling menagerie of moss and lichen-covered forms shape shifting into allegorical dragons, lions, sleeping nymphs, sphinxes, and even the otherworldly triumvirate of Cerberus, Persephone, and Demeter.

Vicino Orsini was born in 1513 to an ancient noble family with a castle overlooking the village of Bomarzo. As a professional soldier with literary and romantic infatuations, the Duke was compelled to incorporate into his garden’s design violent imagery from his personal life as well as dark interpretations of classical works and poetry. His unorthodox combination of gardening as both catharsis and irreverence makes for an odd mixture of vegetal jeux d’esprit entwined with a nightmarish descent into the terror of nature’s life cycles.

Upon visiting Bomarzo in 1949, Salvador Dali commented that he had found surrealism on a scale he could not have imagined. Sacro Bosco today is a place for unfettered discovery, marvel, and carpeted reflection. One still cannot escape, though, the presence of statuary that appears to be on the brink of historical resuscitation and gaping green revolt.


Sacro Bosco
01020 Bomarzo, Italia
15km from Viterbo, off the A1
Tel. (00 39) 761 924029
Open daily from 8:30a.m. to dusk

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