Anderson Miller Ltd., a noted local firm specializing in hospitality design, asked if I would be interested in a landscape renovation project for one of their clients-the Four Seasons Hotel in Ireland. How pleased I was to be asked! They were in the process of redesigning the interior spaces of this beautiful old hotel, and were interested in including the landscape as part of the scope of their project.
Moments after saying yes, I was worrying. I know not one thing about horticulture in Ireland, and I certainly was not at all confident that my views about a successful hotel landscape would mean much of anything. But Anderson Miller had very definite ideas about where they wanted to take their project, so I had a welcome set of parameters. They were looking for a very fresh, and contemporary approach that would leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that the only aspect of this hotel that was traditional was its vintage architecture. Pam Anderson was interested in a use of topiary that would have a contemporary and sculptural appeal. And she liked my steel spheres. Make something from these elements, she said.
The hotel surrounds a large courtyard space, open to the sky. A small fountain, backed by a large mirrored wall trellis anchored one end of the space. This look did not seem historically pleasing; it seemed dated. Mature lindens ringed three sides of the space; these I liked. They were the only large scale landscape element, and they were definitely worth keeping. I hope some day to see their canopies pruned into very large spheres.
The opposite end of the space featured a conservatory occupied by a hotel restaurant, a terrace, and some iron garden furniture. Guests of the hotel did not particularly use the space; it did seem sleepy, and not especially inviting.
The other two sides of the courtyard featured a boxwood hedge punctuated by wood benches; I would call this a sideline landscape that was lacking a main event. Good landscapes do engage visitors. This landscape needed not only a reason to encourage visits, but a plan view that was beautiful; each room on the interior of the hotel has a window, with a view to this space. Thus a landscape that was also a sculpture seemed like a good idea.
The center of the space is a giant lawn; this seemed a good place to start. A sculpture which would read from many stories above ground needed to be simple but interesting. It also needed to be large enough for people to interact with it. It will not be easy to read what I have written on the drawings below, which is a good thing. The shapes and spaces are what is important to see here, not the words.
My schematic drawing details an elevated interior garden space, bounded on all sides by curved steel retaining walls, 21″ tall. This elevated garden is accessible on the east and west sides by three widely curved steps. The north side features a curved bench some sixteen feet long with a great view to the fountain. That bench can provide seating for a whole group. The fountain I like; the center sculptural element needs to be something much more interesting. The existing lindens, whose shape is ringed in chartreuse, will have a much more sculptural feeling, set in lawn right up to their trunks. The upper level landscape repeats the curve of the steel retaining with hedges of 36″ diameter boxwoods pruned into spheres. The four large spheres in the drawing-72″ diameter boxwood spheres on standard.
The blue sphere at the south end-a pool of blue tumbled recycled bottle glass set in three or four inches of water, with another large meeting-sized bench. The centerpiece-a six foot diameter strap steel sphere. This color version speaks much to the overall impression of the garden. Big spherically shaped lindens. Medium sized spherical boxwood on standard. Curving shapes of small spherical boxwood that remind me of strings of pearls. The center space would be a beautiful place for a cocktail party, with bar tops scattered around, or set for a dinner on a long series to tables put together for a specific occasion. The steel finished to look like lead will have a beautifully curving and contemporary appearance from the ground level. Two species of plants, lots of lawn on two different levels, and some sculpture. All it will need is some people to be invited to the party. The news I heard today is that Mr. Sharp, the founder of the Four Seasons, and a legend in the hospitality business, likes what he sees here. This has made for a very good design day for me, yes.