" To plant trees is to give body and life to one's dreams of a better world " Russell Page

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"Laissez moi cultiver mon jardin"

                                                        Maze at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire

With these words of Voltaire, Franco Maria Ricci announced 2004 that he quitted his life long oeuvre as an editor of the supremely exquisite FRM magazine and publishing house in order to build the largest maze in the world! Yes, a maze as an coronation of a dream.
Ricci played with the  idea of creating a maze ever since he met the philosopher Luis Borges and he published the lavish book called "the Garden of Polifilo". The philosophical and psychological aspects of creating a labyrinth fascinated him, but it was not until 2004 that he started to give his idea a true body. Hence, the project started to grow with the aid of the architects Davide Dutto and Pier Carlo Bontempi in charge of the buildings which will host Franco Maria Ricci's art collection.
The garden is due to open in 2013 year of the bicentenary of Gianbattista Bodoni - the typographer and inventor of the well known typefaces, who influenced Ricci, at Fontanellato near Parma in Italy.

                                                            Villard de Honcourt, XIII, Ed. Imperiale Paris 1858
                                           (at Biblioteca Escola Tecnica Superior d'Arquitectura, Barcelona, Spain)

                                                                                       Roman Mosaique

A refined aesthete, Ricci has drawn his inspiration from two Roman mosaiques in the Museo del Bardo at Tunis and at the Kunsthistorishes Museum in Viena. The shape is a superposition of two squares of 300 metres each  remembering the plans of the ideal cities of the Renaissance and summs 3 kilometres of alleys.

View of the Maze before the constructions were completed

 Plan of the Maze

                                                                View of the maze with the completed buildings

The planting scheme however is quite surprising for a classical maze. The box and yews typical for all topiaries and plant constructions, have been replaced by fast growing bamboos. 
Before starting this project, Ricci fell under the spell of the Asian grasses and started to grow them on his property near Parma, in order to learn the differences between the various species. The Bambouseraie de Prafrance at Anduze in France (http://www.bambouseraie.com) supplied most of the plants but some were imported directly from China.
After testing several varieties, the P. Bossetii was chosen to form the dense walls of greenery which now romp up to 5 m hight! The effect is beautiful indeed and the oriental note of the delicate leaves is most pleasing.

Rests to know how they will keep the vigour of the bamboo at stake without letting it overgrow and invade the alleys?

And what better tribute could one of the most refined publishers ever bring to Bodoni who inspired his entire career? 
Now Mr Franco Maria Ricci has planted his garden indeed and by doing so, has given "body and life to a dream of a better world" as Russel Page used to say.

                                                                              Phyllostachys Bossetii

                                                                              View of the bamboo alleys

In conclusion we can only salute the creation of such an ambitious and poetic landscape project and look forward to its opening next year!                                   

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