Boston Botany Bay: The Naked Garden as Spectacle of Plant Psycho-Geography

\”Gardeners are not only botanists, but also painters and philosophers\”William Chambers: A dissertation on oriental gardening (London, 1772)\”What seems to me the highest and the most difficult achievement in art is not to make us laugh or cry, or to rouse our lust or our anger, but to do as nature does – that is to fill us with wonderment\”Gustave Flaubert: Correspondence Series, 1850-4 \”There are enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method\”Herman Melville: Moby DickABSTRACTThe Boston Botany Bay studio will re-define the concept of the botanical garden for the 21st century. The archipelago of islands in the Boston Harbor will become the field of experiment and a testing ground for new and stimulating ideas of how to celebrate, utilise and research the wonders of plants. Nature activation, instead of nature conservation, will be focus of the studio. Nature is to be considered the raw material; both a resource and a product of new bioengineered technologies, endless modifications and stimulating hybridisations between organic and inorganic matter. How can the botanic garden of the 21st century contribute towards new economical, environmental, aesthetic and scientific demand? Can the botanic garden, the metropolis of plants, become a pretext for future urbanisation? BACKGROUND\”For those who are neither botanist nor avid admirers of horticulture, plants and flowers, the topic of the botanical garden in the context of our media-saturated twenty first century might at first seem a little antiquated- more a specialist subject for eccentric gardeners and historians perhaps. Conjuring up a medley of exotic images -endless parterres with strange Latin names, shapely colonial lawns wit ubiquitous white structures, colourful summertime flower displays, tropical glasshouses and unusual specimens, each carefully labeled with imprinted metal tags or bronze plaques – botanical gardens are today mostly tourist curiosities and emblems of bygone empires. Whereas many contemporary botanical gardens around the world are today striving to find renewed vitality through conservation, education and scientific research programs, visitor-ship and revenue continues to decline in most cases. Is the botanical garden as a significant cultural place today obsolete, or at least outmoded in the face of modern science, technology, media and globalization? Or is there scope for reinvention of the botanical garden as a cultural type, a type somehow newly poplar and relevant for the 21st Century imagination?\”James Corner Botanical Urbanism – A new project for the Botanical Garden at the University of Puerto Rico.SITE OVERVIEWThe city of Boston is a landscape transformed. Since filling the harbor and the brackish Back Bay started in 1790 until its present day Big Dig, the city of Boston\’s metabolism – from landfill to sewage outfall- shows all the symptoms of compulsive bulimia. In this context of mud and tidal flux Frederick Law Olmsted masterly reconciled Boston with its natural floodplain by creating a living landscape machine recreating nature as an interactive wetland tissue absorbing, buffering, filtering, stitching… During this heroic period of early \”landscape-urbanism\” there was a remarkable dialogue between landscape architecture, botany, horticulture and forestry as exemplified by Garden and Forest: A Journal of Horticulture, Landscape Art, and Forestry. This Journal was the journalistic inspiration of Charles Spraque Sargent the founding director of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University (1872). It was the first American journal to address the rise of the emerging fields related to the world of plants before they diverged into specialities. Sargent worked in close collaboration with Olmsted in the lay-out of the Arnold Arboretum which forms an integral part of the Emerald Necklace.