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Posts Tagged ‘The Trustees of Reservations’

Don’t you love this photo? Toby Wolf took it at the Crane Reservation in Ipswich, a property of The Trustees of Reservations. He said that for him it has the quality of an oil painting; I agree completely. It has that same dark/light/dark sequence, that same frame/focal point/background flavor as a painting by an Italian Renaissance painter.

At the Crane Reservation, Toby writes, “It looks like The Trustees have deliberately maintained the opening to the view, and that the late-afternoon light, raking across the marshes and the bark of the trees, is what makes it work. I like the light on the ground-layer plants.”

The whole ravishing photo.

Here’s an example of landscape management supporting a design intention. Sometimes we design places with stone, wood, earth, metal, and plants; sometimes we design views, and tweak a visitor’s perception of a place by what we leave in, what we remove, and how we frame and focus what they see. Obviously, a photograph can be manipulated to do these things, but sometimes a photograph simply records a perception that has been shaped by others, as The Trustees have apparently shaped the Crane Reservation view.

A view framed by dark elements, a view into a light space, a view toward water, a view toward curves — what a pleasing combination. I want to take a bite out of this photo.

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What do we see if we look at one place through a particular lens? Last week I was out at Naumkeag in Stockbridge, MA, and found myself appreciating the wide vocabulary of ways that Fletcher Steele used to get garden guests up and down the slopes. Here’s a partial list:

Brick and brownstone steps from the upper lawn terrace down onto the walkway above the peony terraces.  It's unlikely you'd see anything this idiosyncratic (narrow, curves with almost no tangents on the treads, funky riser/tread ratios) built today.

Brick and brownstone steps from the upper lawn terrace down onto the walkway above the peony terraces. It's unlikely you'd see anything this idiosyncratic (narrow, curves with almost no tangents on the treads, funky riser/tread ratios) built today.


Two steps down a grass ramp to a grass landing.  How do you navigate your wheelbarrow up and down the steps?  Use the wheelbarrow ramp, of course.

Two steps down a grass ramp to a grass landing. How do you navigate your wheelbarrow up and down the steps? Use the wheelbarrow ramp, of course.


Grass steps with stone risers welcome visitors coming in from the Lych Gate on the right  This stairway is really a series of little terraces that tame the slopes converging in that corner of the South Lawn.

Grass steps with stone risers welcome visitors coming in from the Lych Gate on the right This stairway is really a series of little terraces that tame the slopes converging in that corner of the South Lawn.


It's a stair, a ramp, a runnel, a runway. It shows you where to go, and incidentally holds level the top edge of the South Lawn and Oak Terrace.

It's a stair, a ramp, a runnel, a runway. It shows you where to go, and incidentally holds level the top edge of the South Lawn and Oak Terrace.


And, of course, can't leave out the Blue Steps, Mabel Choate's path down to her cutting garden.  Riser/tread ratios change with each step; high risers and short treads at the top of each run graduate into low risers and long treads by the bottom, so that each white stair rail above the step noses scribes a parabola in the air, rather than a straight line.

And, of course, can't leave out the Blue Steps, Mabel Choate's path down to her cutting garden. Riser/tread ratios change with each step; high risers and short treads at the top of each run graduate into low risers and long treads by the bottom, so that each white stair rail above the step noses scribes a parabola in the air, rather than a straight line.

Naumkeag, the Choate family estate now owned by The Trustees of Reservations

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