As the brilliant fall foliage fades, I find myself thinking more and more about larger themes in the natural world and how they directly inform my own landscape design work. Response to concerns about the health of our planet and its inhabitants have designers in all disciplines embracing sustainable practices and hailing biomimicry as the next design paradigm. I have always looked for inspiration from the natural environment (among many other things), so this week I stopped at Craftsman Farms which is close to where I live in New Jersey
Originally more than 600 acres, the now 30 acre property is a National Historic Site. Deservedly so, it is one of the most significant examples of American Arts and Crafts architecture. Craftsman Farms also illustrates visually how the landscape can inform all types of design.
Gustav Stickley, the visionary behind it, is most famous now for his now highly collectible ‘Craftsman’ style furniture. Craftsman Farms is an outgrowth of his particular aesthetic, philosophical and social ideas. Stickley built the compound almost 100 years ago as a model for sustainability. The main house, which Stickley had planned as the center piece of a farm school for boys, has been painstakingly restored but the garden areas have not.
It is a place inspired by its sense of place, much like gardens can be.
The idea that we as designers are a part of a larger natural system and need to be nourished and inspired by that system is best summed up in Stickley’s own words–“We need to go often to the treasury of Nature that we may restore, renew the magnetic force that makes us valuable to ourselves, to others. Nature gives so generously to those who go to her….She heals and enriches, never drains or impoverishes, and is always trustworthy, reliable.”
Note: A short companion video can be viewed by clicking here.