Monday, April 22, 2013

Salzburg, Austria: Maintaining the 'Gartens'

View of Salzburg Suburbs and the Alps
So in the spirit of keeping with our overuse of Roman cliches whilst in Rome (ie. Rome wasn't built in a day, when in Rome...) I thought I would mention that 'the hills are alive with the sound of music.'  Not really, but that is how the song goes, and 'when in Salzburg' (the setting for parts of the Sound of Music) and staying at Villa Trapp (the actual Von Trapp family mansion) the phrase just must be uttered  or each of us...each day.

Salzburg is a smaller Austrian city whose suburbs reach out to the base of the Alps.  As with many of the other places we have visited it has a very interesting 'Old Town' where some historic buildings still remain.  Some buildings have been preserved and used as an educational tourist attraction while others have been rehabilitated and turned into residences, shops, or restaurants.  It is really neat to see modern stores inside a building dating back to the days of Mozart.

On the opposite side of the river from the 'Old Town' lies another gem belonging to this city, Mirabellgarten. Readers who would like to delve more into the history and background of this beautiful garden and the adjacent palace can click HERE; just don't forget to translate the page to your language, unless of course you are fluent in Deutsch.   In addition, according to someone on and confirmed after a search on, this is where Maria and the children sang 'Do-Re-Mi' in The Sound of Music, and you can take that to Jeopardy.

Although the 'garten' is incredibly beautiful and incorporates several styles of design, I chose to focus on this location for one very particular reason:  MAINTENANCE.  As a Landscape Architect I find the amount of maintenance that will be required of a completed project tends to make or break a design even in the very early stages.  In my opinion this happens A LOT more often than it should.

Let me give you an example.  A client hires you to design a park.  You attend the initial meetings, get the idea for what they want, visit the project site, list the opportunities and constraints of said site (blah blah blah).  Anyways, you get to work; pen flying, mouse clicking, you have brilliant ideas and they are flowing from your brain to you fingers to paper.  You come up with a few concepts and take them to the client.  You have A) a basic design that simply covers their needs and nothing more, B) a middle of the road design with a little pizzazz  and C) the 'creme de la creme' your favorite design providing everything they want and a little more in a very unique, elaborate, but not over the top way.  You are excited and really push for design 'C'.  They listen to your whole pitch, but choose design 'A' or if you are lucky design 'B', but with some value engineering of course.  Why did this happen? Money?  Maybe, but more often than not having a project that appears to require more routine maintenance than what a client currently does can make the difference between designing and building another 'park' and a really unique space that has the potential to draw users from all over.

There are many different areas within Mirabellgarten and all require special attention to keep it looking its best.  If you take a look at the map below this gives you an idea of the scale of the garten and diversity (and lavish extent) of styles.  

(courtesy of Google Earth)
The use of materials is simple but incredibly elegant.  There are stone paths directly adjacent to lawn spaces. There is steel edging separating the two materials to create distinct separation and sharp lines.  In the lawn areas, thin 12" flower beds are planted (every year) with annuals.  These beds twist and turn into very ornate designs.  In some smaller featured areas around the fountains steel edging is used again to create designs in different colored stone.  While we were there we saw workers attaching smaller flowers to stakes in order to get them to grow properly.  We also saw workers removing some of the colored stone in certain areas.  They were doing this to place soil and install lawn.  That's right, in the middle of a bed of stone they were introducing lawn.  In the Biz we call that, 'a nightmare.'  All of the workers seemed genuinely happy.  They also seemed passionate about what they were doing.  They could see the end result was a beautiful place that people from all over the world come to enjoy!  Take a look at the pictures below to help illustrate all of this.

One of the Many Entrances to Mirabell
Hohensalzburg Castle in the Background
Intricate Lawn Areas with Ornate Flower Beds
(Beds are Flush with Lawn)
Lawn and Flower Areas
Trimmed Boxwood Garden in Background
Focal Plantings at Sculpture
With Stone and Lawn
Garten Worker Removing Grey Stone to Install Lawn
(He is Smiling I Promise)
Ground Level to Show Steel Edging
(And Happy Worker)
Inner Shape After Removal of Colored Stone
Awaiting Topsoil
Inner Shape After Removal of Colored Stone
Awaiting  Lawn
(Aforementioned Nightmare, but Gosh it Looks Good)
Lawn Area with Multiple Flower Types
Boxwoods, Holly Trees and Annuals in Separate 'Garten' Room
Boxwood Hedges, Lawn and Stone

Another Happy Worker Installing Plant Stakes
No Joke This Guy Was Not Just Smiling for the Photo

Parting Shot of the Lawn and Flowers

Please don't get me wrong, not all projects get squashed due to maintenance concerns.  However, I do believe that with the right amount of education and the selection of the right people for the job maintenance may not be an issue.  To return to the example I gave before it's not all about the client.  Yes, it is about what they want in the park, and of course its about whether the funds are in place to construct such a place.  However, if the people who will be in charge of maintaining the park do not care about the park, do not have a desire to be educated about how to care for some of the new features in the park, are overwhelmed with the current amount of work to be done, are downright lazy, or any combination thereof, the park will not work.  It will be a beautiful work of art on paper, and will look great for about one week after construction.  Great places take a lot to keep them that way, but to me the return is obviously worth it.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Intermission: Coffee in Italy


So here we are, we have passed the halfway point by over two weeks now!  That is said with quite a bit of sadness as the time has been flying by and the places we visit just keep getting better and better.  All of the pieces of the puzzle have been sliding into place as we fill in those blanks that before we left sounded like, 

“Well we arrive into Rome and then we have seven weeks to get to Istanbul, probably by train and bus mostly.”  Now our story sounds more like this.  “Well we flew into Rome for three nights, and then we made some great new friends in Sacile (pronounced ‘Sah-Cheel-Eh) who then drove us down to Venice.   We spent two nights in luxury on the Grand Canal in Venice before taking a bus and then a train to Salzburg where we will spend three nights before heading to Neuhofen to stay with someone we met along the way for two nights.  She offered to drive us to Vienna where we will stay for three nights before heading to Prague for four nights.  After that we will fly back to Rome to meet Andrea’s parents for two more nights before heading out on an 11-night eastern Mediterranean cruise together.”  

There is more, but you get the point, the four month unplanned adventure is filling up with plans!  In the past 2.5 months we have had a lot of experiences, every minute of every day is something different.  This whole experience started as a dream in Andrea’s mind.  I have to give her 98% of the credit.  I get 2% because it took A LOT to convince me that this was remotely feasible before I was 100% on board.  However, here we are after years of plans, changing of plans, and saving, two and a half months into this great adventure.   

When we began to plan this out we realized (as I mentioned much earlier in my blog) that we would need to cut back in a lot of areas to be able to save enough to enjoy this trip.  For me that meant my Blu-Ray movie acquisition would have to slow way down.  It actually came to a screeching halt, and I missed it a lot less than I thought.  For Andrea, less caramel macchiatos at Starbucks.  Together we made fewer purchases, and cut way back on our dinners and drinks out.  Whenever I was visibly annoyed at Andrea saying maybe we shouldn’t buy this, go here, or eat that she would say, “that could be a coffee in Italy.”  Well it kind of stuck and that was our little “thing” as we saved.  No Starbucks now meant a “coffee in Italy.”  No dinner out on a certain night meant several “coffees in Italy.”  I am sure you get the picture.  Well my friends, I have had “coffee in Italy” several times, and even two in one sitting once.  All I have to say is it was delicious and totally worth the sacrifices and wait.  Every single thing we have done has been amazing, and I can’t help but smile thinking about what we have packed in so far and what is coming up!

So as I sit here on the OBB Train from Villach to Salzburg, Austria after a 2.5 hour bus ride from Venice, sipping my vino rosso in a juice box, listening to The Lumineers as we wind through the Alps, I cannot help but smile.  


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hendaye, France: A Small Town with a Big Waterfront

I figure now, now that we have moved on from San Sebastian to Bilbao, back to Madrid and are gearing up to depart Rome (for the first of our 3 times here on our trip), would be a good time to publish this post about a little side trip we took from San Sebastian.

After a four hour bus ride from Barcelona to San Sebastian, Spain, a 15 minute train ride and a 30 minute walk we arrived in Hendaye, France.  In our original plans we were not planning on making it to France but as our three weeks in Spain led us to within minutes of the border, we couldn't pass up the opportunity.  Hendaye is a small town on the Bay of Biscay in Atlantic Ocean in south western France.  There are equal parts German and Spanish architectural influence with a smidgen of English and French style thrown in as well.  In addition, being so close to the Spanish border we heard more people speaking Spanish than French.  I didn't know what to expect in this town, but as I studied French for 5 years in Middle School and High School I was excited to visit France for the first time. 

After walking around for a while it was evident that this seasonal town capitalized, incredibly nicely, on their waterfront.  As you can see in the map below, there is a large bay housing a marina leading to the canal which ultimately leads out to the ocean.  There is a pedestrian walkway along the bay and a separate lane which is only for bicycle use.  This has been something I have seen a lot of, that not only is there a heavy focus on pedestrian traffic but there are usually separate lanes for walkers and bikers.  The route along the bay is very nice, but the oceanfront promenade was the highlight of the town for me.

Map of Hendaye, France
Bay Boardwalk 1 
Bay Boardwalk 2
The route along the bay is very nice, but the oceanfront promenade was the highlight of the town for me, well besides the cappuccino and crepes with chocolate.  Between the hotels, shops and other buildings and the ocean there is about 60’.  Which is a rough estimate as I didn’t bring my 100’ measuring tape on this 4 month adventure.  40’ of this overall 60’ width is dedicated to pedestrians.  The day we visited Hendaye was quite overcast, and there were still loads of people surfing and using the promenade.  There were plenty of places to sit and watch the ocean, many bicycle racks to accommodate the even greater summer population and a central plaza with wide stairs leading down to the beach.

In this promenade alone there was a wide range of materials used.  There was sandstone in the wall directly along the beach.  There was exposed aggregate in the 20’ pedestrian walkway, and gravel beneath the brushed aluminum bicycle racks. The materials chosen for this space added to its how unique it is.  The benches of brushed aluminum with wood slats for the seats were set on rectangular areas of composite wood decking.  The bicycle lane was colored concrete and separated from the road by a simple but very nice granite block curb planter. 

You find many seaside towns using boardwalks, walkways or path system along their waterfront but the overall scale of the space and the materials selected make the difference between a good walkway and a great boardwalk.  Take a look at the photos below and see what you think about the spatial layout and the materials selected for this oceanfront promenade.

Looking West
(Rt-Lft 6' Sidewalk, 20' Parking/ Travel, 2' Curb and Planter 8' Bike Lane,
8' Tree Lawn/Bench Pad/ Bike Rack/ Gravel Pad,
20' Pedestrian Walk, 2' Wall, Beach)

Close Up Looking West

Sculptural Concrete Seating

View Looking East
(Notice the Steel Vehicle Stoppers to Compliment
the Metal Used in the Other Elements)
Open 'Plaza' Area an Steps to the Beach
Wide View of Street, Promenade, and Ocean