There is a long history of philanthropic and/or paternalistic industrialists providing recreational and garden space for their employers. We’ve all heard of Bourneville, Port Sunlight and Saltaire, while Helena Chance’s recent book ‘The Factory in a Garden’. (2017) gives a comprehensive overview of such schemes in both Britain and the United States if you want to know more.
However research, including by of all people, the American Space Agency [NASA] over the past 50 years or so clearly shows that it’s not just plants outside but those inside that are beneficial so houseplants are more than just green ornaments, they are good for your health too.
A 1989 NASA report concluded : “If man is to move into closed environments, on Earth or in space, he must take along nature’s life support system.” That’s because plants essentially do the opposite of what humans do when they breathe. They absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, and in the process refresh the air, and remove toxins. Other research shows that indoor plants reduce stress levels, make people feel good, promote concentration and as those earlier industrialists knew only too well, they help create a more contented workforce and increase productivity.
Today’s post is about a new post-industrial workspace packed with over 40,000 plants from all over the world in a group of three connected glass buildings which opened last year, and which I was lucky enough to be able to visit last weekend. You might be able to guess from the typeface and logo where I was and whose workforce this was designed for.
One subject that always seems to raise a lot of interest on the courses I run about the history of gardens is the mediaeval garden. Although most of us will have a vague picture of what we think they were like, the quest for the reality of mediaeval gardens and green open spaces is tantalising.
When I ask what might be the best source for finding out about them given that unsurprisingly, there are no actual mediaeval gardens left, most people say illuminated manuscripts. Unfortunately these really only begin to show details of daily life such as gardens from the late 14thc onwards. Next on the suggestion list is archaeology which is increasingly sophisticated and these days can indeed reveal all sorts of things that would never be recorded by documentary sources. Analysis of the contents of rubbish pits and sewers, pollen and soil samples add a huge amount of detail to the physical remains of buildings and hard landscaping. Other options offered are literature, poetry, account books and even evidence from the countryside where many mediaeval practices were perpetuated long after the end of the Middle Ages, and can still be identified.
The one thing nobody has ever replied is a drainage plan. Yet today’s post is about just that.
Last week’s introductory post about Percy Cane – An Unsung Hero? – looked at his work pre-war, while today’s is going to discuss some of his later commissions. Like much of the architecture and most of the designed landscapes and gardens of the second half of the 20thc these have not always been well recorded. I’m pleased to say that attitudes are beginning to change in part at least thanks to an initiative by the Gardens Trust and supported by Historic England: Compiling the Record. Although many of Cane’s designs (including the three covered in today’s post) are obviously appreciated and well-cared for, others are not, and have suffered from ignorance and neglect and his involvement in their design is often not even mentioned in associated websites.
No… it’s not an old English dialect swear word, or a disease of sheep or anything remotely similar, instead Sneferu was an early Egyptian pharaoh who ruled around 4500 years ago. Like Ozymandias he would have been long forgotten but for the fact that he left behind an extraordinary funeral monument or two.
When we think of the pyramids I’m sure everyone thinks of the famous ones at Giza which were built by Sneferu’s sons and grandsons. In fact they were based on a new architectural form which Sneferu had pioneered and almost perfected.
But this a blog about the history of gardens and designed landscapes so why am I waffling is on about the evolution of pyramids in Egypt? It’s because archeology has now shown that Sneferu’s pyramids were not designed in isolation and in fact sat in the middle of a complex of buildings and gardens which is [I think] the earliest known example of large-scale landscape design.