STUDENT PROJECT | Landscape as Laboratory: Umbrellas | Taylor Becker

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Biannually, the Evergreen Museum and Library in Baltimore hosts “Sculpture at Evergreen,” an outdoor exhibit that grants local artists the opportunity to display their work on the grounds of the museum, creating a seasonal sculpture park for everyone to enjoy.

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For the seventh Sculpture at Evergreen, which was to be exhibited May-October 2012, James Abbott, the museum director, invited University of Maryland Associate Professor Jack Sullivan to be the Guest Curator. He awarded a $55,000 grant to complete the project, which was subsequently entitled “Landscape as Laboratory”. As an assignment in his fall 2011 Graphic Communication and Design Studio, eighteen second-year undergraduate students in the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) program each proposed distinctive landscape installations that were designed specifically for Evergreen’s 26-acre garden. Of these, ten landscape sculptures were chosen for further development, fabrication, and installation. Throughout the spring semester of 2012, the students who created the winning ideas became the project managers, enlisting the help of undergraduate and graduate students in the Landscape Architecture and Landscape Management programs. Together they refined the sculptures as they further defined materials, worked with suppliers and outside fabricators, and met the challenge of staying within the budget. Opening day was May 13, 2012 and, although the exhibit was only to run through the following September, the Museum decided to make one of the installations a permanent feature of the garden.

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My concept, Umbrellas, was the one chosen to become a permanent part of the Evergreen campus.  There were two factors that inspired my design. One was the desire to integrate architectural elements from the museum into the museum’s grounds. Majority of the museum’s windows have beautiful and intricate cast iron decorations filling their frames.  Though serving a practical purpose, the iron work also adds an aesthetic element to the room.  With the help of the sun, these window grills shed their designs on the walls throughout the museum. I was intrigued by this effect and noted it as an element I wanted to try to embody in my design.  The other defining factor of the design was location.  On the grounds directly behind the museum lies The Wedding Garden.  The Wedding Garden is home to many wedding ceremonies, parties, and other catered events.  One thing I noticed about this area is the absence of shade.  With the need for shade and the want to incorporate architectural elements from the museum, I developed the concept Umbrellas.  Though the name of the exhibit was not as whimsical as the others on display, the name is as practical as the structures purpose.  The purpose is to provide shade for those using the space. To add another dimension to the display, I developed two different canopy designs. The umbrellas cast intricate shadows on the ground beneath them like the cast iron grills on museum’s walls. Though the umbrella canopies do not provide full shade because of their designs, I planted jasmine beneath each umbrella with the intent that in a few years the jasmine would reach the canopies and fill their gaps.  The jasmine also adds seasonal interest with blossoms in the spring and green foliage throughout the year.  Each umbrella also has a table attached to their post.  The table’s height can be adjusted, so one can either sit or stand underneath the umbrellas and have a place to rest their refreshment or snack.

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Each student was in charge of their project’s completion for the grand opening of the park.  If not for the guidance of my professor, Jack Sullivan, the professional welding work by Plasma Tech Customs, and the helping hands of my peers, I would not have been able to finish.  Everyone’s input and critiques provided me with ideas and inspiration for the concept.  I thank all those who helped my design move from drawing board to completion.  I also owe gratitude to the Evergreen Museum and Library community for the opportunity and the funds to complete the project.

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STUDENT PROJECT | Landscape as Laboratory: Umbrellas | Taylor Becker

Location | Evergreen Museum and Library, Baltimore, Maryland

Designer | Taylor Becker.  A collaboration between Evergreen Museum and Library and the University of Maryland Landscape Architecture Program, 2011-2012

Image Credit |  Taylor Becker