Day drawing perennials in the battery
The Battery District in Lower Manhattan has tens of thousands of perennials in its gardens, creating a vibrant landscape bursting with color as different plants bloom across the four seasons.
Graduate students in Pratt’s Master of Landscape Architecture program recently visited these gardens as part of Mapping III: Garden Making Studio taught by Marisa Angell, visiting assistant professor in the Graduate Center for Planning and Environment.
A warm, sunny fall afternoon allowed students to stroll through the lush garden, which at 240,000 square feet is the largest perennial garden in North America. They were there to analyze the plants that make up the herbaceous layer in order to better understand the structural planning that goes into large-scale perennial gardens, and to learn how clarity is created in the planting of expansive public spaces.
Students were asked to draw plants in black and white, abandoning their bright colors, to keep the focus entirely on the form. By visiting different parts of the garden, they considered how to achieve consistency of form in the design process. Gaining skill in these structural elements will allow students to better communicate future park plans to contractors, the public, and collaborators.
“As a precursor to their second assignment of the semester, students studied what the plants in this garden look like in both plan and section,” Angell said. “The battery is an excellent example of how design takes into account changing light and usage regimes, and this exercise in particular encouraged students to think beyond flowering colors as a means of developing a planting palette.”
The Master of Landscape Architecture program launched in the fall of 2022 to teach students how to design landscape and land practices that promote environmental and social justice. Angel developed a garden making studio for second-year students to deepen their knowledge of native plants and stimulate creative thinking within the constraints of specific environments.
During the battery visit, students studied and sketched perennials such as palm branch sedge, blue angel hosta, Japanese jungle grass, and rattlesnake.
A follow-up visit will allow students to observe how plants evolve during the changing seasons, interacting with the atmosphere, other species, and the public. These trips are part of a number of field trips planned to study parks of various scales, including Governors Island, Fort Greene Park, Teardrop Park, and other public spaces that feature a rich agricultural palette as a central part of their design. Over the course of the semester, students will think critically about the different design purposes of public parks and how they can foster inclusive communities and advance New York’s ambitious climate goals.
“While developing hand and computer rendering skills is important as part of any landscape architecture program, nothing replaces the impact of seeing how these designs are implemented in the real world, and how other landscape architects and designers are developing ways to implement plants for them,” Angell said. : “Sites in an impactful and readable way.” “What I hope to emphasize to students is that our environment is constantly changing, and how to harness the power of plants to shape space.”