Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Dumbarton Oaks

I had long heard of Beatrix Farrand and Dumbarton Oaks, but never seen the work in person. Until three weeks ago. Dumbarton Oaks is a residence, turned research institution, garden, and park in Washington DC. The Dumbarton Oaks site is steeply sloped and Farrand, the landscape architect, sculpted the land at the rear of the house into a series of terraced, walled rooms. Each room is very specific and I marveled at the details. Farrand worked this land between the 1920's and 1940's, a time I might describe as a zone between early century neo-classicism and mid-century modernism. Each room is like an outsized NYC backyard in their rectilinear, walled fashion. As you step away from the rear of the house, the design opens up to the natural contours of the landscape, and then eventually into a woodsy ravine.

The orangerie


The mossy steps


My favorite part, Farrand's amphitheater converted
by landscape architect Ruth Havey into a reflecting
pool. Notice the curving allee of trees sweeping down
the hillside. A real folly.


Beech roots, grass, and spring bulbs


Terracotta wall detail and WinterJasmine


Pruned Wisteria on many walls


The rose garden, one of the larger rooms


The details in a brick staircase


The forced perspective lawn (to make it look longer than it is)


What you can hardly see are the steps in the lawn as this space is terraced


Strange gutter around an empty walled garden
which I presumed was for growing vegetables.
I think the gutter was to catch runoff from the
hillside so that the planting field would not
become too soggy at seeding time.

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