Landscape Designer Dan Pearson in conversation with Alice Rawsthorn
Last night 'By Design' Season Two in partnership with Sir John Soane’s Museum began with a conversation between landscape designer Dan Pearson and art critic and writer Alice Rawsthorn.
In this series a broad range of leading designers from various disciplines are invited to describe a treasured item whether an item they have collected, a building which has inspired them or an piece of everyday design they couldn’t live without. These conversations invite masters of trade and craft to consider the outlandish, the brilliant and the mundane designs that inspire, reflect and pioneer their own practice.
The first speaker of the series this year was Dan Person.
Dan Pearson is a British landscape designer, horticulturalist, writer and gardener. His work is characterised by an innate sensitivity to place, an intuitive and light-handed approach to design, bold and painterly naturalistic plantings and deep-rooted horticultural knowledge.
Dan trained in horticulture at RHS Gardens’ Wisley, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Jerusalem Botanical Gardens and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Dan has designed a number of award-winning show gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show. His 2015 show garden for Chatsworth and Laurent Perrier was awarded a Gold Medal and Best Show Garden.
Last night Dan Pearson was in conversation with Alice Rawsthorn. Alice is an award-winning design critic and the author. Her weekly design column for The New York Times was syndicated worldwide for over a decade. Born in Manchester and based in London, Alice is chair of the boards of trustees of The Hepworth Wakefield art gallery in Yorkshire.
The object Dan brought to discuss was ceramic sake vessel, known as a tokkuri. This vessel was drunk from during a lunch with a long term collaborator and her family. Dan remarked on its beauty. He particularly admired its imperfections as the flask had a mend at its neck. Mending is part of a long held Japanese tradition around maintaining items and celebrating the imperfections of objects. This view of the world, rejoicing in the perfect imperfections, taught Dan how to look and value the spaces between things and to look beyond the immediate. At the end of the lunch Dan was given the vessel as a gift and it has become a treasured possession.
The relationship with this collaborator led to the large scale project the Tokachi Millennium Forest.
The conversation was wide ranging and explored the inspiration behind Dan’s practice. Much of Dan’s design aesthetic is about ‘revealing the hidden’, creating environments in which people can ‘take a journey, however big or small’ and discover something new.
Dan discussed how his own practice was heavily influenced by his childhood home. A restoration project on an epic scale both inside and out, his family took on a house that was almost derelict and restored both the house itself and the gardens. Dan described the four year process of revealing the garden that has been subsumed over 50 yrs and the sense of excitement revealing what was hidden that inspired his move into landscape gardening.
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