(ii) The Middleground:
The central section of the garden is also the narrowest due to the curvature of the copper-clad wall of the ‘drum’. The textures of the garden were chosen to work together as a whole, but also to compliment the warm play of light of the wall to the right. As the garden wraps itself around the base of the copper wall, it is both anchored by and liberated by the wall surface. The arc of the wall gives play and reason to the sinuous stream that rushes down from the background section of the garden. This section of the garden contains the other principle symbolic motif, the River Shannon.
The ‘real’ Shannon runs a few hundred metres from the building. It’s presence has been instrumental in the situating and the design of the building itself. Pedestrians arriving at the building may have just crossed the Living Bridge. Entering the building one brings something of the river with one, even just a memory. A river which is constantly renewing itself carries not just water, but also within its currents runs threads of history, and profound cultural and spiritual traditions.
In the garden the river is composed of several interconnected sections. Beginning from the ‘sea’, a series of flat, plate-like stones laid overlapping one another constitute the point where the energy of the river is emptied into the sea. The river runs broad, deep and apparently slowly. Situated just above the estuarine motif is a broad flat-topped stone, which momentarily holds back the onrushing waters of the upper stream. This is a Stone of Transition, which marks the evolution of character of an upland and lowland river. Above this stone the body of the river is depicted by the close set small pieces of black and white pebbles. Each of these pieces was set individually. Looked at in detail the texture that results imitates the onward rush of water. The surface being constantly broken by cross-currents, eddies and backwaters, the flow splitting and rejoining, thousands of elements coming together as one body. The banks of the stream are composed of large glaciated cobblestones. With their soft, rounded forms they contrast well with the angularity of ‘river’ stones.
Beyond either bank thick, impenetrable, foliage crowds down to the river’s guarded flanks. The landscape through which the river runs enfolds itself about the ribbon of water, they dance about one another. In the garden the foliage is mostly composed of clipped evergreen azalea bushes creating billowing forms of smooth, light green texture. If the viewer calls up the memory of a tree-smothered hillside seen from afar, then this too is a similar texture. In this section of the garden composition, the visual plane is tilted toward the horizon in order to create a sense of distance to be travelled, of time passing. The landscape through which the river travels is soft and undulating. In Chinese terms this would be considered a yin section of the overall composition. The foreground, in contrast, has the prominent stone triad and the sculpted tree, both strongly accented on the rising, vertical, line, which gives that section a yang flavour. Thus rhythm is generated within the overall composition.
There seems to exist several parallels between garden making and music, in that both employ rhythm, light and shade, texture, harmony in construction and crafted structures that give shape to a whole. Beyond this the listener or viewer is invited to make the music their own, and in doing so the music becomes alive and meaningful. It is a similar process with a garden that seeks to express narrative as a component of its being reaches out to the viewer. It’s a curiosity, that whereas music is apparently all movement and no outward physical form; the garden usually considered just the opposite.