Marpa builds gardens that are entire in themselves; they may even tell a story or create a journey in their making, but in the end unerringly become complete experiences.
Sure, there is water, water everywhere, yet not a drop of it is real! This was the best solution that Marpa Landscape Design Studio could offer in response to the conflict between the owners of the 1970’s style house which had a weedy lawn, a rotting deck, overgrown junipers, and no means of circulating around the outside of their own house.
The landscape needed to be renovated desperately and Marpa Landscape Design Studio was summoned. There was but one problem; the lady of the house wanted the clarity, freshness, and the soothing sound of water and the husband most definitely did not.
Marpa’s version of the garden was the resolution to the conflict: though the main metaphor of the front garden is water and its energy and feel, there is not a drop of actual water to be found. Using Coreten steel to mark graphic shapes, the firm created a playful array of polygons in the front yard and alternately filled them with ice plant and blue recycled glass chips which simulated the look of water.
The firm’s stylistic approach is underpinned by exceptional craftsmanship as was seen in the design solution which involved playing with the movement of light, the shimmering effect of recycled coloured glass, and the juxtaposition of textures and colours in order to bring this garden to life.
Marpa Landscape Design Studio based in Boulder, Colorado designs and builds extraordinary landscapes for residences, estates, resorts, monasteries and retreat centres, and other public spaces.
This is how the firm feels about its practice, “Our emphasis is on creating ‘sacred spaces’ with living art. We all know that there are sacred mountains, waterfalls, lakes, etc., but not everyone realises that the same experience of the sacred can be created in a garden. Marpa actualises these special environments.”
Their current work includes parks in Tucson, Arizona and one in New York. These are designed with the Canyon Ranch Institute and are intended to create wellness and a certain spiritual uplift.
Last year Marpa’s principal, Martin Mosko, joined a group designing the gardens surrounding the ‘MatriMandir’ in Auroville, India. This year he will return to Auroville to design the Savitri Bhavan park.
Of the garden under consideration Martin Mosko the principal designer and founder of Marpa throws some more light, “Formal paths and geometric shapes were surrounded by rings of xeric plants to soften the edges and contain the whole. We used grasses, yuccas, black-eyed Susans, and Russian sage plants to create a dreamy feel that nevertheless pops with colour.”
Never short on superlative techniques the firm’s artistic and out-of-the-box approach helped solve another problem of this site; at one corner of the property loomed a giant metal tower supporting high-voltage electrical lines. The beautiful geometric configuration of plants anchored the vision to the ground in any case and to further lessen the ugly impact of the tower, they created a slope down to a lower grade where it stood and surrounded its feet with scrub oak and plum trees. This very simple under-planting did not distract the eye from the more colourful plants along the cement paths and steps leading to the front door. “Rather than try to block the tower altogether with big plants or boulders, we simply made it unimportant, and gave the viewer much more to see,” explains Martin.
“Our gardens are entire in themselves: they may tell a story or create a journey, but they are always complete experiences. We do not try to do city planning or to decorate architecture. Instead, we create and build remarkable gardens that uplift and inspire, which set you loose from the mundane into magic!” Say the principals that drive the firm’s work.
Text By Mala Bajaj
Photographs Courtesy Marpa Landscape Design Studio