If there could possibly have been a childhood garden activity more exciting than burning stuff, it was going to the dump.
Stuff you couldn’t burn, or fit in the bin, you simply took somewhere else and chucked away. Easy!
I’m pretty sure there was a voyeuristic aspect at play - look what those people are throwing away – but the whole spectacle was intriguing.
Most amazing, I think, were the flocks of seagulls wheeling overhead, their graceful snowy whiteness undone by the eardrum-piercing vocal protest.
It was as if every bird had been denied a chance at the last hot chip on the beach and would not rest in letting the world know of its displeasure.
The seagulls at Tel Aviv’s Hiriya landfill didn’t stop at mere squawking: their afternoon flashmobs regularly closed down nearby Ben-Gurion Airport.
When it closed in 1988 around 16 million cubic metres of Tel Aviv’s discards had been entombed in a junk mountain 80 metres high and 800 metres long.
Sixteen years later Latz & Partner won an international design competition to imagine a new future for the landfill and arrest the flow of contaminants into the adjacent waterways. The resulting Ariel Sharon Park opened last year.
When not giving interviews or winning his own competitions, the High Line’s landscape architect James Corner is also chipping away at a landfill project.
When completed Freshkills Park will be the largest new park in New York since the 19th century, and make the green giant that is Central Park seem like a little itty-bitty thing.
Let’s say you’re not prepared to take the long view and set up a private landfill in your back yard, heave anything in to it you can lay your hands on, wait fifty years for it to grow and become a considerable environmental nuisance, and then embark on a costly rehabilitation process.
How else might you engage with junk in a way that contributes to the neighbourhood?
Well, you could strap on the goggles, fire up the oxyacetylene torch and start festooning your backyard with intricate and complex structures like these:
Sam Rodia was not a man to spend his weekends lying on the couch watching footy. No siree. Instead, over three decades he filled his Los Angeles backyard with filigree spires reaching 30 metres into the air.
After he died a fire destroyed his tiny house and the local council ordered the property demolished. Instead, Sam’s neighbour rallied and it was preserved and opened to the public.
Still not feeling this is right for your place? No worries.
Here are a couple of examples from recent projects.
This was the microscopic entry courtyard outside Landscapology HQ.
Was it dank, poorly draining and ugly as a robber’s dog? Tick, tick, tick.
This is it now.
The existing brick pavers were pulled up so the levels could be lowered and the vertical sieve that called itself a downpipe, replaced. The pavers were then cleaned and used to form the new entry steps.
The stone steppers had been lying in a heap around the back of the building for years, so they were yanked from retirement and pressed into service.
The brick mulch came from a flat in the building. The owner was removing an internal wall and so we kept all the bricks and smashed them up over the course of several weekends. The beautiful 1920s bricks now bring warmth and texture to the entry, and the colour works well against the planting.
Having developed the aggression-taming smashed brick technique we then used it on another project, this time in a vertical screen.
Our client wanted to feel protected from people walking along her back lane and peering into the garden, but town planning regulations didn’t allow for a tall fence.
In response we created a gabion screen inside the garden. A simple wire cage was filled with smashed-up brick pavers salvaged from under her house. Here the warm colours work with both the decomposed granite and tumbled sandstone in the garden, and the red roof and chimney of the house across the road.
So...the next time someone tells you there’s no place for junk in design, tell them they’re talking rubbish.