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As a landscape designer, I often take scent into consideration in planning a garden. When designing scented cues, the emotional response to the visual stimuli is enhanced. Scent can make the experience more meaningful and memorable for the garden’s owner and guests, when used properly.

Scent is a very powerful tool. It serves as a means of communication in so many ways. An attraction between individuals. A memory. A way to manipulate consumers, as stores pump Oxytocin into ventilation systems to increase spending. Scent is not something we think about all the time but our subconscious minds are always aware of it.

The New York Times recently covered a symposium on scent as design.  It’s interesting to see what the scent experts are up to.

A Parsons Symposium on Scent as Design

By JOYCE WADLER                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Photo: Robert Wright for The New York Times
WE arrived late for “Headspace: On Scent as Design,” a symposium held March 26 in the auditorium at Parsons the New School for Design, and so missed the smell of birth being spritzed into the room.

Happily, we had another opportunity, because that scent, along with several others — including “being a baby,” “puberty,” “partnership,” “empty nest,” “sex” and “death” — were available for inhalation at a table outside the auditorium, most of them embedded in small plastic beads that visitors were invited to take.

“No one likes puberty,” Kim Fisher, the young woman at the table, said. “Everyone likes sex, but there are no beads for it.”

Being not quite product-ready is not uncommon when things are brainy and theoretical, and at Headspace — a conference presented by Parsons and the Museum of Modern Art, in partnership with International Flavors and Fragrances Inc., Coty and Seed magazine — they were extremely cerebral. Does your head ache after that list of sponsors? Imagine how you would have felt in the auditorium, where designers, perfumers and industry experts talked about “co-creation” and “facilitating dialogue with the consumer.”

“I see design going through filtering, clarifying, making things visible — how does that go towards defining your work as a designer?” a moderator asked in a morning session, making us ache for the scent “coffee.” Also, the auditorium was freezing.

Why is it so cold? we asked Jamer Hunt, the director of the new graduate program in transdisciplinary design at Parsons and one of the people who dreamed up the symposium, after we beat it to the outside foyer.

“There’s a special technology for diffusing,” Mr. Hunt said. “We need the back doors of the auditorium to be open so the scent flows through to everybody.”

For Headspace, Mr. Hunt explained, designers and architects like Toshiko Mori had been paired with perfumers to “design using scent — not just a fragrance, but something that would affect our everyday lives.”

Ms. Mori had been involved in creating a scent called “anti-gravity.” Marije Vogelzang, a Dutch designer, had made eating utensils imbued with the smells of foods that might be harmful to consume but are still nice to sniff. The urban designer Majora Carter had worked on scents that could be diffused through the ventilation system of an apartment complex in her neighborhood in the South Bronx.

Mr. Hunt also seemed proud of a student project called “Scent Clock,” a piece of cardboard listing six times of day. “If you scratch at each hour, there is a different smell associated with a different time of day,” he said. “Scratch the shiny spot.”

The reporter scratched an orange rectangle labeled “10 wake up” and smelled not much of anything.

“We wanted to make it a challenge and didn’t want it to be easy,” Mr. Hunt said. “It’s a combination of toothpaste and an alarm clock.”

The reporter inhaled again, smelling mint. That explained the toothpaste, but where was the alarm clock?

“There should be a slightly more plastic smell to it,” Mr. Hunt said. “Part of the challenge is what does an alarm clock smell like? I think it smells like electronics, which is a certain kind of burning smell, but there is also the metaphysical. An alarm clock wakes you up, so you want a smell that is very bright.”

The reporter moved on to the scent made by Ayse Birsel, who has designed pots and pans for Target and toilet seats for Toto. Ms. Birsel and her colleague Yoko Hiroshi, working with perfumers Celine Barel and Laurent Le Guernec, created a birth through death line. As Ms. Birsel conceived it, each scent would be contained in a large, smooth stone that would symbolize that moment in life. Since there was no time to imbue the stones with the scent, they were presented separately.

Ms. Birsel, who wore a black stone-like Japanese gourd around her neck and black fishnet stockings, had a half-dozen stones with her.

“What we wanted to do was give form and scent to threshold in life,” she said. “We wanted to create a very intimate form. The form of the pebble as something you can hold in your hand would symbolize a moment in your life, like a birth or a partnership.”

So those two halves of a stone that fit smoothly together — is that one “partnership”?

“This is sex, actually, the pebble as yin and yang, two perfect pieces that come together,” Ms. Birsel said. “Partnership is the whole stone. We decided puberty is about dichotomy, you have multiple personalities and a piece missing because you are not totally whole.”

What about the scent?

“We asked them to create a scent that is unbalanced, with too many hormones,” Ms. Birsel said. “We had them imbued in the little plastic pearls, because in the time frame we had we couldn’t inject them in the forms.”

We heard nobody likes the puberty scent, we told her.

“Well, nobody likes puberty, so it’s a successful smell,” she said. “That was the intention.”

Click for the original article.


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Planted containers and decorative urns add scale and visual points of interest to a landscape. Some gardens confined to tight boundaries, might consist of only container plants. The plants residing inside a container can be upright, structural or soft and colourful.  It’s just a matter of setting and how much visual attention you want them to attract.

Recently, cubed planters in a range of materials, from zinc to polished concrete have grown in popularity. So have monochromatic textural plants. Shades of green foliage and shrubbery have become a dominant trend in upscale container planting.

Many garden trends start with London’s annual Chelsea Flower Show.  Zinc containers  became big with Chelsea show gardens about five years ago. As a result, they have become a standard for contemporary container flare.  Zinc works well in both contemporary and many traditional landscape settings. Although design trends come and go, metal is here to stay.

SimplyPlanters

Terrace Gardener

For container garden design, visit Watercolour Gardens.

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Many city dwellers look at their 10×10 square patch of lawn with a sense of disappointment. In cities like Chicago, it’s a common sight from back door to garage. Dull as white plastic patio chairs.

A lot of magic can happen in the smallest of urban plots. It just takes a little imagination and purposeful planning. It’s important to think of your yard as an outdoor living room. It could be creatively paved, have a teak table with an umbrella and lounge chairs. Along with furnishings, it could have a container garden or raised beds of textured architectural foliage. The purpose is to maximize space that can serve many functions. It could be a relaxing urban oasis. An inviting room to enjoy a warm summer evening with friends. There are endless options.

A garden designer can help you plan and build it.

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Back when I was doing my Postgrad in landscape design and architecture, I had several lectures on natural swimming pools.  I found the idea incredibly interesting in that, they self-clean.  No need for chemicals.  The pH balance is controlled by the pool having half it’s surface/subsurface covered in vegetation. In turn, that plant material helps to clean the water.  There are several other technical aspects which include layers of gravel and stones to help with filtration.

What I find so wonderful about the natural swimming pool, it blends right into a finely designed landscape, just as a pond would. Many traditional swimming pools can detract from a landscape and become the only focal point. The natural pools also require very little maintenance once they have been built, when balanced by the right percentage of vegetation. They really do begin to self regulate, without nasty chemicals.  One consideration, you have to be comfortable with cold water or at least without temperature regulation. Space is also a consideration.  You really need a fairly large piece of property or be willing to have it as a dominating feature in a larger urban lot.

It’s a trend that started in Europe, with a large number initially being built in Germany, Holland and Belgium. The first one I saw built was as a landscape design student in Oxford. It was an incredibly attractive pool and blended into the surrounding landscape brilliantly. It was impressive from an eco and aesthetic perspective. It blended completely with the woodland behind it and  the contemporary outdoor room that surrounded it.

The more I read, it appears the trend has just begun to catch on in North America. Green by Design wrote a nice blog post, showing how they look and a basic diagram of the mechanics.

If there is interest in the Chicago area for having one built, I have detailed plans and could provide a European trained contractor to build it.  For more info, visit Watercolour Gardens.

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The 2010 Chicago Flower & Garden Show will take place at Navy Pier from March 6th to 14th, 2010. Monday-Saturday: 10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m. & Sunday: 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. Check the official site for admission and parking details.

For further questions, call 773.868.3010 or email: flowershow@chicagoevents.com

The official event site, www.chicagoflower.com

Watercolour Gardens | Chicago’s Premier Garden Design Service.

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Interesting article posted by re-nest abundant design for green homes.  I could see exceptional growth potential with this type of architecture considering the cost of scrap materials.  I’d find it satisfying to design a rather complimentary garden and outdoor room for such a property.

Ever wonder how container architecture works? Where do the containers come from, how are they modified and exactly how much do they cost? Well, we’re hoping to do a container house at our architecture firm, so earlier this week we headed to the south side of Chicago to Vaccaro Trucking, Inc., a container shipping, storage and modification company.


The company I visited, Vaccaro Trucking, Inc. is an ISO shipping container shipping, storage and modification company. They have tons of shipping containers stored on site: all sizes, new, used and some with minor modifications (e.g. construction site offices). His company was a great resource to gain a better understanding of what options are available, how modification works and generally how much it costs (not very much). At the warehouse Vaccaro can do all raw cuts, metal work and window and door installation and they currently modifying a container to use as demonstration and marketing for container architecture (also known as containerization).

Shipping containers are designed to withstand some of the most extreme conditions and carry large loads and as such are some of the most durable structures. They are manufactured to international standards and modular sizes; can be moved across water, rail and highways; and can even be stacked inside one another. However good this may be, because the cost of shipping empty containers is so high, they are collecting and sitting unused all over the world, particularly in the US and China. All of these things make containers ideal for a second life as housing, offices, dorm rooms, and disaster shelters – pretty much any type of structure you can think of. And for cheap.

Shipping Container Specifications:

  • The common ISO Shipping container is 20’0″ or 40’0″ long; 8’0″ wide and 8’6″ tall. A taller version is available at 9’6″ tall and is known as a ‘High-Cube'(HQ) container. Long containers are also available in 45’0, 48’0″ and 53’0″ lengths and are HQ standard.
  • The containers are manufactured using a steel tube frame and corrugated Corten steel skin, which makes them not only very strong but also holds up very well to the elements.
  • The floors are made of a very strong and durable 1 1/8″ thick plywood. Some older models even have a finished quality wood plank flooring that most people would be big money to have in their house.
  • The nature of the shipping container materials and construction makes the units essentially weather tight, immune to mold, rodents, bugs and vandals
  • Some units are refrigerated (or heated), and theoretically may not need any additional insulation.
  • A typical shipping container costs around $1500; a 45’0″ long used container is about $1800; 48’0″-53’0″ long container is about $2400.


Containerization & Construction Methods:

At a plant such as Vaccaro’s, all rough modifications are made at the warehouse, including cleaning, prep work, any cuts and welding for doors and windows, actual door and window insulation and any necessary wall or ceiling openings.

  • The openings are reinforced with 3x3x1/8″ steel tubing, and larger members may be needed when cutting entire sides off containers and when merging two containers together. Windows and doors can be inserted very similar to standard door and window installation. Doors can be maintained as-is, insulated or welded shut. Additionally the handles can be shifted for easier handling at grade.
  • Entire sides and tops can be removed, containers can be cut down to size, and can conversely the can be attached together for additional length. For residential use it would be ideal to use a 40’0″ long (or longer) HQ container for the higher interior ceiling height. The containers are so strong that they can also be stacked vertically up to 9-12 units high.
  • Basic modification takes about two weeks, but the time frame depends on the complexity of the design.
  • Once the rough modifications have been made the container is shipped to it’s home site and place on any necessary foundations.
  • The level of finish is up to the owner, however a general technique would be frame out the interior sides of the corrugated walls with either wood or steel members at 16″ on-center, insulate the interior with closed cell spray foam insulation (or your choice ofeco-friendly insulation) and then finish with a layer of drywall. The exterior can be left as is if you are going for the industrial look, or it too can be framed, insulated and sheathed, though this would require addition costs, energy and material. Framing, insulation and drywall will reduce the interior width by approximately 6″ overall and 3″ in height.
  • Installation of all electrical and mechanical work also occurs at the property site.


Containerization Cons:

As with all new and ‘radical’ construction techniques, one of the biggest barriers is getting not only contractors and builders on board with construction methods, but also even convincing city officials that shipping containers are a good idea. The hurdle we are currently facing in Chicago, a city that burnt to the ground, is getting the proper fire rating for container homes. Even though shipping containers have demonstrated high durability and fire resistant materials, because there is no technical UL listing for this specific type of construction, they will not allow it for residential use within city limits.

One or more of these containers would make a super inexpensive, durable and modular housing unit. Because of the modularity they could be easily modified to grow or change form as a family’s needs evolve. While many of the impressive container projects we’ve seen so far are for a normal family residence, we see good prospects for these to be used as artist studios, backyard sheds, vacation homes, low-income housing and temporary and permanent disaster relief housing. Even China is currently fabricating ready-to-live containers with all the plumbing fixtures, furniture, etc. already to use in the container – how great would it be to have these in Haiti right now?

Hopefully we’ll be able actually get one of these built, Chicago or elsewhere, and we’ll let you know how it goes in one of our next installments!

Related Containerization Posts:

• Green Style: Adam Kalkin’s Shipping Container Home
• Green Style: Shipping Container Homes by Infiniski
• A Warm Shipping Container House
• Recycled Container Community
• Container House by Leger Wanaselja Architecture
• Hot or Not? Shipping Container Getaway
(Images: Top:Shipping Container Homes by Infiniski; All others by Rachel Wray)

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hild1003

Are you looking to have a landscape to relax and entertain friends in?  Watercolour Gardens provides landscape design services to match many budgets. Whether it’s a small city garden or a large suburban property, we offer the design experience to make the most of your outdoor living space.

We design small city gardens, container gardens, decks, terraces, stonework, perennial gardens, rooftop gardens and  large north shore landscapes. Gardens can take on so many functions and the combinations are endless.  We help you prioritize, then plan and build accordingly.

While based in Chicago, Watercolour Gardens has created landscapes in both Europe and North America.  For more information about setting up a consultation, visit Watercolour Gardens.

For information about natural swimming pools, see article.

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