Client: Nelda C. and H. J. Lutcher Stark Foundation
Location: Orange, TX, United States
Completion date: 2008
Michel Bernier, Fabricator
Nicolet, Chartrand, Knoll Ltéé
Nicolet, Chartrand, Knoll Ltée
Jeffrey Carbo, FASLA
Jeffrey Carbo Landscape Architects
The 252-acre Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center includes historic and contemporary gardens, boardwalks over wetlands, a bird blind, boating excursions and outdoor classrooms. The competition brief called for four sculptural installations for four garden rooms. Locations were identified in each room and the installations were to represent a design form found in nature : circle, stripe, spiral, branching.
The Center's predominant aim is the exploration of each person's role in the stewardship of nature; it serves primarily as an education facility for local residents as well as visiting tourists. This objective, and the specific planting schemes planned for each room inspired the sculptural concept. After studying the plans I decided to propose a different way of integrating the sculptures. Rather than have each sited in the designated spot I looked at the whole room as a sculptural installation. Each sculptural component is designed to engage both their gardens and visitors, offering a unique experience of space and place. A drawing of a plant detail, cut out of two layers of stainless steel plate, references one of the plants within its room. Benches and screens complete the work, the latter offering students a canvas on which to attach related natural materials in creative ways. As an introduction to collective artwork projects, the installations can teach inventive ways of recycling and an understanding of and respect for nature.
Working in close collaboration with the Louisiana firm Jeffrey Carbo Landscape Architects, the site responsive sculptural installations were developed and incorporated into the four garden rooms, resulting in a seamless integration of art and nature. As with all my public art projects, technical drawings were made and approved by engineers, and I was frequently at Michel Bernier’s studio for each phase of the fabrication.
Opened to the public in spring 2008, the Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center is certified LEED Platinum. Shangri La received an ASLA National Honor Award in 2012, as well as several other awards and honors.