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Wednesday, 31 July, 2002, 13:14 GMT 14:14 UK
Kathryn Gustafson: Art of landscape
Pedestrian bridge in Costa Mesa, California
Her footbridge in California includes rows of plants
United States landscape artist Kathryn Gustafson has been awarded the contract to create the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial fountain in Hyde Park, London.

Harmony is the key to Kathryn Gustafson's work.

It is about harmony between the land and the mind, body and soul, she says, and harmony between the site's past and how it can be adapted for the future.

Kathryn Gustafson
Gustafson draws on the history of a site
She also says she tries to create spaces where people can shelter from the incessant barrage of information that fills their daily lives - to create places of serenity and clarity.

Or "a space to ride the waves of a diverse world", as her partner, the architect Neil Porter, describes the memorial to Diana, Princess of Wales.

Open in new window : Diana's memorial
Click here for an enlarged image of the design

Gustafson combines these factors with a contemporary style and sensuous, artistic signature.

Among her past works are stylish new designs for electricity pylons for a French electricity company, a courtyard in Whitehall and the Garden of Forgiveness in Beirut.

She has designed gardens for the French headquarters of petrol companies Esso and Shell, giving the latter a view of a flower garden shaped like a question mark.

Arthur Ross Terrace, American Museum of Natural History
She designed a space at the American Museum of Natural History
Her pedestrian bridge in Costa Mesa, California, has a flank of bougainvillea running along the walkway in mid-air, with posts jutting out to symbolise birds in flight.

She is also planning a cultural park on contaminated ground inside an old gasworks in Amsterdam, and designed the interior of the Great Glasshouse, the centrepiece of the new National Botanic Gardens of Wales.

'Imaginary gardens'

In the medieval town of Terrasson, France, her gardens on a steep hillside next to a 15th Century abbey were dubbed "imaginary gardens" because of features like rushing streams that would appear in the open and then quickly be hidden again.

She says she studies the sociology, light and history of sites before coming up with designs that will complement all three.

"Her designs can be interpreted as surgical acts of healing, where the land is skilfully draped and sown as if to hide past torments," one commentator said.

Gustafson's Terrason Fountains in France
Gustafson's Terrason Fountains in France
Her 20 years of experience in landscape art followed an earlier career as a fashion and fabrics designer in New York and Paris.

Although she grew up in Washington state, she based herself in France after changing direction and taking a landscape architecture course in Versailles.

As she was finding her style, she worked with the renowned architect Jacques Sgard, sculptor Igor Mitoraj and the Pompidou Centre's structural engineer Peter Rice.

Many of her projects were in France until she set up offices in Seattle and London in 1997.

She has now become one of the world's best-known landscape artists, winning a prestigious Chrysler Award in 2001.

She has also been made an honorary fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architecture, and won the Jane Drew architecture prize in 1998.

"I'm very connected to the land," she says. "I can feel it physically inside me."

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16 Jul 02 | UK
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