As architects, we learn how to do functional landscaping – trees for shading, and plantings as living entourage for our buildings. And this is typically the extent of our understanding and landscaping capabilities.
Yet there is a much deeper metaphysical aspect to the landscape – plants and trees help us mark the passage of time and seasons. And until recently, I had no idea of just how fine-grained the temporal capabilities of plants really are.
While the architect’s design brief seldom includes ‘give residents a soulful place to reflect on the infinite passage of time’ it is none the less one of the joys of living somewhere for an extended period of the. The landscape is ‘known to you’ and it becomes.. a living clock.
On a macro scale, deciduous trees are particularly good at marking time. Brightly colored trees like the Japanese Maple, the Eastern Redbud, or the snow white blossoms of the Cherry Tree. The color-intensity of their foliage is like the chiming of a grandfather clock.
Fig 1- 3D Model of the Eastern Redbud on FormFonts. Artist Alan Fraser.
But trees as seasonal-sentinals was the extent of my appreciation for plant-intelligence. Until a few years ago- when I discovered this (for me) amazing ‘flower clock’ in Newsweek Magazine called “Telling Floral Time”.
Fig 2- ‘Telling Floral Time’ – Flowers have adapted to different times of day (photoperiodism). Flowering plants have cellular receptors that sense seasonal changes in night length which times the flowering seasonally and throughout the day.
This graphic instantly took me back to my childhood. Morning glories grew on iron railings above our basement steps, and I sometimes caught them opening and closing as I came and went to play in the backyard.
The Morning Glory is a riot of textures.. satiny trumpet petals. Hundreds of neon-green tubules winding around the iron rods… the crepe-paper like outer-flower that folded the trumpet into an alien twizz-knot when closed.
These forgotten memories and the Newsweek graphic commingled explosively in my head. For the first time I began to appreciate that plants, like animals, had evolved to take advantage of different dayparts, solar exposures, and insect populations.
This Flor’winian temporal evolution amazed me. How could I have not seen this before? All-at-once I got it. Those flower-crazy relatives always dragging me to arboretums and botanical gardens on vacations. They simply wanted to share their plant-love with me.
Fig 2 – The Flower Clock – 3D Model by Alan Fraser, available on FormFonts 3D.
Suddenly all those ‘Flower Clocks’ in those humid botanical gardens potentially had new meaning. It seemed likely they were really making a much deeper statement about natural environment than I could have imagined.
The ‘Flower Clock’ was first hypothesized by Carolus Linnaeus, as a conceptual garden plan in 1751. It would take advantage of several plants that open or close their flowers at particular times of the day to accurately predict the time. [wikipedia]
The concept of the ‘Flower Clock’ and photoperiodism has recetly been updated in a beautiful kinematic light fixture titled “Bloom”. The lamp was created by prolific French designer Patrick Jouin for rapid prototyping software company MGX.
Fig 3 – The ‘Bloom’ lamp by French Designer Patrick Jouin, for MGX. This kinematic lighting sculpture is ‘photoperiodism’ an obtuse architect can understand.
Like a flower responding to its environment, the lamp can be opened or closed to adjust the ambient light level. Currently the opening and closing of the lamp are done by hand, but perhaps we’ll be able to 3D print with meta-materials in the future – automating the “Bloom”.
In short – The temporal efflorescence of plants and trees is now an accessible joy for this architect. As the timekeepers say, better late than never.
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Living Entourage – Papyrus: Tall Grass On Trend – FormFonts 3D
Patrick Jouin’s 3D-Printed Bloom Table Lamp Opens Like a Flower | Inhabitat
Patrick Jouin’s Website
MGX 3D Printed Lighting