Garden Geometries: The Spiral / by Nicole Bemboom

By Vera Gates

The spiral is one of the most amazing geometric design forms to work with, in all dimensions. It’s a mesmerizing and endlessly variable form. It is always so fun to stand at the eye of the spiral and comprehend the form, and for that moment, the magic. You can feel the generative movement of the shape.

Conceptual Sketch by Arterra Landscape Architects

In The Power of Limits, György Doczi introduced me to the spiral and to its naturally evolving, generative form. He talks of Dinergy as the pattern-forming process of the union of complimentary opposites and explores spiral patterning in depth.

Conceptual Plan by Arterra Landscape Architects

In our garden design, we have proposed many spiral forms over the years, but built only a few. It’s a challenging form to work with, certainly, and in combination with the typical rectilinear architecture, it can be very hard to imagine such an organic form so near our homes.

But we come back to the spiral, again and again.

Plan by Arterra Landscape Architects

Floating Plans by Arterra Landscape Architects

Photo by Michele Lee Willson

Menlo Park Family Home by Arterra Landscape Architects Photo by Michele Lee Willson

Menlo Park Family Home by Arterra Landscape Architects

Photo by Michele Lee Willson

Often we combine the spiral with other forms, finding that these combinations make for some fascinating design forms. Straight lines, radiating out from the center of the spiral allow us to intercept, bisect and offset the spiral, effectively jogging it around site constraints. This creates a wonderful rhythm and playful tension that is comprehensible, engaging and interesting.

Master Plan by Arterra Landscape Architects

Alternately we work in combination with an arcing form, as it emerges from the spiral. This opens the form up and expands its reach. The effect is very much of an enfolding form, like the opening of a flower petal.

Sketch by Vera Gates

Sketch by Vera Gates

Plan by Vera Gates

We often use the spiral as the basis of a design, without actually ever inscribing it on the site. It is there as an ordering principle, invisible but perceptible.

The Furl Planter by Arterra-Art

Photo by Michele Lee Willson