Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 36

SIGNPOST

LONDON: HIGHGATE CEMETERY

LONDON, BELGRAVE SQUARE INSTALLATION DETAIL
ALL PHOTOS © RSE-LANDSCAPE

AT THE FOOT OF HENRY GRAY
There is no better way to depict
Highgate than to describe it as a highly
unstable site, given over to change
and variation as ecological processes
unfold. Maintenance becomes a form
of observation, of respecting the
transformation of a site from a heavily
planned and manicured form, to an
unruly proliferation of expanding plant
cover. While seemingly harnessed
by walls, fences and comfortable
homes, Highgate is not at all bounded,
but is actively being carved by the
flows, dynamics and processes that
are sanctioned within its borders. It
could be called a place in progress, as
John updike so carefully appreciates:
"Intensely green overgrowth narrowed
the paths and all but smothered
the tombs. Some vaults had been
burst open by flourishing saplings;
there was a kind of mews of tombs,
an arcade of green vault doors so
rusted and silted shut no Judgment
Day, one felt, could ever crack them
open, though there were keyholes
and doorknobs and numbers and
knockers, as on any genteel, if shady
street." Although ecology is often
imagined through slow and unhurried
transformation, Highgate reminds us
that the ground beneath our feet is
constantly accumulating, sprouting,
heaving, germinating, cracking and
causing effect on the earth's surface,
as a register of its aliveness. Most
impressively, this disorder is registered
36 LANDSCAPES PAYSAGES

against the order of its original
planning and planting, when trees
were introduced to express a static
description of the freshly laid curves
and paths, or in the case of the great
Cedar (Cedrus libani) of the Circle of
Lebanon, a time when trees were
contained and compressed in their
development. unmanageable nature
emerges from sprouting, reiterating
and seeding, which is a sectional
condition where bodies meet stone,
and stone meets earth and earth
meets the plants that seem to bridge
the elements.
Our approach was steered by the
head gardener, a sympathetic and
young custodian, who had a mental
map of every spontaneous episode,
and led a particular way through the
miasma of plants using tombstones
as markers. "There is a particularly
interesting plant at the foot of Henry
Gray. We'll make our way past on the
way to Dorothy's corner." It became
very clear that any design intention
imagined off-site was being quickly
replaced, superseded by invention. At
Highgate, stones that are lost from
graves, through age, gravity, frost and
thaw, are usually sent cascading several
metres or more due to the topography.
Once displaced, these stones are
rarely retrieved. Such fragments are
termed "orphan stones," no traceable
lineage, but discovered and treasured
nonetheless. And so within these
conditions, the design of displacement

emerged, a practice of collecting
plants found near stone - orphans or
otherwise - to articulate the mixture
of organic materials found underfoot,
a design concept that revealed itself
as the most poignant and stimulating
manner to tell a story about Highgate.
Access in many cases was difficult
or rough, as grasses and groundcovers
materialize where older trees have
fallen, creating a potent dose of
biodiversity and cultural heritage.
Fraxinus excelsior saplings emerge in
sunny spots where an underground
stream is exposed by decades of
erosion. It flows through and across
a host of graves before it finds its
way back underground. In some areas,
ground has accumulated so drastically
that headstones are barely visible,
almost as if buried in snow; they poke
up through the ground. The trees in
particular have taken advantage of
this roll back in maintenance, freely
seeding and sprouting, establishing
new footings in the cracks of stone that
have proliferated almost as quickly.
The varying conditions of site are a
topic for re-consideration in landscape
architecture, as risk, conservation and
ecology offer becoming frameworks
outside the limits of ownership, history
and boundary. If the paradigm has
shifted, and sites are no longer fixed,
and processes are acknowledged
as agents of transformation, then
our own design practices must also
transform to accommodate this



Landscapes - Spring 2015

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Landscapes - Spring 2015

To Being With | Pour Commencer
The New Small | Le Microcosme Réinventé
Paula Meijerink, Guest Editor | Rédactrice invitée
EN_LP+ | Small Matters: Backgrounder
FR_LP+ | Prodigieuse Petitesse
Writers | Collaboratuers
Je Vois Montreal
Upfront | Prologue
Forêt urbaine
Urban Braille
Find Your Pebble
Folly Forest
Parklet Experiment
Klynstra Scholarship
Prix 2014 Schwabenbauer
The Common Sense Curb Cut
Essay | Essai
Doggy Style
Projects in Place: The LA Flash Mob
Tiny Taxonomy
Lying Down in Public
Kelowna asks, "What if,,"
A Non-Urban Approach X3
New Directions | Nouvelles Avenues
Opinion
Critique
The Last Word | Le Mot de la Fin
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - cover1
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - cover2
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 3
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 4
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 5
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 6
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 7
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - FR_LP+ | Prodigieuse Petitesse
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 9
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - Writers | Collaboratuers
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - Je Vois Montreal
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - The Common Sense Curb Cut
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 13
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 14
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 15
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 16
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 17
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 18
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 19
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - Essay | Essai
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 21
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 22
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 23
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - Doggy Style
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 25
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 26
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 27
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 28
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 29
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - Projects in Place: The LA Flash Mob
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 31
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - Tiny Taxonomy
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 33
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 34
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 35
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 36
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 37
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 38
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - Lying Down in Public
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 40
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 41
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - Kelowna asks, "What if,,"
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 43
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 44
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 45
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - A Non-Urban Approach X3
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 47
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 48
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 49
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - New Directions | Nouvelles Avenues
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 51
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 52
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 53
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - Opinion
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 55
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 56
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 57
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - Critique
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 59
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 60
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 61
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 62
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 63
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 64
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - 65
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - The Last Word | Le Mot de la Fin
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - cover3
Landscapes - Spring 2015 - cover4
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