Piet Oudolf in Detroit Update #4
A UMich professor's take on Piet Oudolf
We are thrilled with the progress we’ve made to secure Piet Oudolf’s services to design a garden in Detroit on Belle Isle. As you know commissioning Piet is just the beginning – next, once we have all the permissions and next steps in order, we will need to raise the money and support to install and maintain his garden.
We’ve been asking Piet’s local fans why his work matters and what his gardens can do for the places and people where he works. One of the most eloquent and heart-warming responses came from University of Michigan associate professor and Detroit native MaryCarol Hunter, who wrote...
“For the past 5 years I’ve been teaching the principles of Oudolf-style garden design in a planting design studio for grad students of landscape architecture at the University of Michigan, a program founded in ecological design. This component of the studio course is much anticipated and appreciated because the dazzle of Piet Oudolf’s urban designs is already well known to students before they arrive. Beyond the dazzle, there is substance to his design approach, which gives equal respect to aesthetic impact, sustainability, and plant developmental biology. In short, Piet Oudolf combines matrices of functionally cooperative plants whose beauty unfolds year round. The creative integration has several features.
The plant palettes provide ever-changing beauty, in part because the majority of the selections have a strong structural and textural presence year round. Bloom color and flower form, often the focus in garden design, are fully present but constitute only a part of the changing tapestry of an Oudolf design. Other features of engagement play out as well - foliage color as it changes from new spring color through winter bleaching, the color and texture of stems, buds and seed heads, and the visible architecture of interspersed species, each one a good ecological match to the other.
But it’s not just about looking good. The planting design is place-based meaning that local ecology, landform, and culture are given their due. Plants are specifically vetted so that nearby neighbors are well matched in ability to share common resources…politely, and to support one another structurally. This capacity for coexistence makes the original design sustainable and reduces the maintenance requirements. While the design is well-orchestrated, the aesthetic has the exhilarating impact of a wilder nature at its best. Interestingly, the designs do not emulate a natural habitat, although they have a natural feel. This is particularly valuable in cities where the urban ecosystem has opportunities and limitations of its own.
Bringing the art of Piet Oudolf to the Detroit landscape is undeniably exciting for Detroit as a place of cultural and ecological resilience. This new public garden will add to the growing list of reasons to experience the city more fully, as a resident or a visitor.”
Together, we can and will bring the art of Piet Oudolf to Detroit!
Thanks for your support,
-Piet’s Detroit Team