Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of the Friends A Landscape of Remembrance and Reflection - Page 9

sweet auburn | 2020 volume i Beginning the Landscape Design Landscapes are tethered to the particulars of site, bearing interesting prospects and challenging truths. The past is bound to the present, so understanding existing conditions is critical to finding a solution that will endure the test of time. The Hazel Path project begins at the bottom of Myrtle Path, makes a sharp turn where it intersects with existing Hazel Path, passes through the Cemetery’s historic center (where Lots 1 to 4, the first gravesites sold, are situated), and ends at the edges of Mountain Avenue, the cemetery’s highest spot, where Washington Tower rises 100 feet above the main entrance. As found, Hazel Path was a stiff climb, but the payoff was a spectacular view of Harvard University’s spires and domes set among billowy trees, all backed by the crisp skyline of downtown Boston. At twenty feet high, the two Fuller obelisks of Lot 1 Hazel Path grandly framed the view but felt intimidating. The topography was dizzying, dropping straight down and rising sharply uphill on either side, hindering important connections and potentially harboring a threat of slope instability. The “woodland” already partially existed below a soft canopy of Oak, Maple, and Elm, intermingled at its edges with the trees of the Dell. Along Myrtle Path, a hillside of ‘Gro-low’ Sumac, added for slope stabilization, did little for horticultural character. The most important discovery on-site was the remnants of an original Hazel Path, confirmed on historic maps. Long buried and masked by Forsythia and Juniper, the path had once been blended into the hillside and swung out and around at a more comfortable slope. It was a reminder that Hazel Path was once part of the larger composition. The felt experience of a site is crucial but ephemeral; it speaks to a landscape’s potential. Most of Mount Auburn is wonderfully immersed in nature but as Hazel Path rises and overlooks the surroundings, the big sky inverts the larger experience of the Cemetery, replacing canopy with clouds and sun. Light, wind, temperature, sound, and color are magnified but there is also a hushed tranquility, occasionally disrupted by the echo of people’s nearby voices as they spiral up inside Washington Tower to reach the panoramic views. The mind easily wanders in this place, prompted by something the environmental psychologists Rachel and Steven Kaplan called “soft fascinations” that draw on the endlessly interesting complexity of nature. Their research established the idea that exposure to nature gives people a mental break from daily matters; this feeling contributes to a general sense of wellbeing that allows them to return to their lives refreshed. We felt that this kind of relief would be especially important in a cemetery, so the idea of holding onto and enhancing that effect became an important driver for our design. 7