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Patricia Johanson

Beyond Choreography: Shifting Experience in Uncivilized Gardens
Patricia Johanson

Gardens have always been choreographed with paths that establish a pattern of movement through space, whereas my own sculpture is simply meant to lure people into the landscape, from the flow of nature, and bring them into contact with the profuse phenomena of the natural world. I want the visitor to pause and consider ecological minutiae, as well as the intricate and constantly changing networks of living relationships, and see himself as part of that process.

In Cyrus Field (1970), each person is left to his own devices within a landscape that has a life of its own. There are no paths, views, goals or arrival points in Cyrus Field. A continuous line of marble, redwood, and cement block creates patterns interwoven with forests that have continued to grow and evolve. People make their way through the landscape in whatever way they choose, often arriving at personal discoveries unrelated to the formal design.

At Fair Park Lagoon in Dallas (1981), Endangered Garden in San Francisco (1988), and Park for the Amazon Rainforest (1992), large-scale structures are modeled on life forms that actually inhabit each particular place, stimulating resonance in the landscape and the brain. These monumental constructions frame functioning ecosystems, leading visitors into direct engagement with wind, waves, weather, shifting color, light, seasons, and migratory cycles, and the individual lives of countless plants and animals. Visitors may follow the curves and rhythms of the biological forms or select their own route from among many interwoven choices, but the key is physical and mental exploration of uncharted territory. Eventually most visitors arrive at a pause and find personal meaning within landscapes that celebrate individual wanderings, and perpetuate the infinite detail and continuous fluctuations of ecological nature.

Patricia Johanson has, for more than thirty years, created multidisciplinary designs combining art, ecology, landscaping, and infrastructure. In 1969 she designed 150 gardens for House & Garden and worked as site planner for Mitchell-Giurgola Architects. She graduated from Bennington College (1962), Hunter College (M.A., 1964), and City College of New York, School of Architecture (B.Arch., 1977), and received an honorary doctorate from the Massachusetts College of Art (1995).

In 1981 Johanson designed Fair Park Lagoon, Dallas, one of the earliest ecological artworks. Endangered Garden, San Francisco (1988) incorporates tidal sculpture and habitat restoration into a one-third-mile bay walk that coincides with the roof of a sewer. Park for the Amazon Rainforest (1992) reveals forest stratification, and Nairobi River Park, Kenya (1995) features sculpture that filters polluted river water. Ulsan Dragon Park in Korea (1996) and The Rocky Marciano Trail in Massachusetts (1997) combine parks and playgrounds with flood control and restored wetlands. Johanson’s work has been seen in more than 150 exhibits worldwide.

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