”I believe that the artist must achieve creative control over the whole of his environment.”- Herbert Bayer : New York Times, October 21, 1984
The mountainous landscape of Aspen, Co, was choosen as the ideal setting for a complex of modernist buildings destined to host the campus of the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies. Wooden and stone German Bauhaus constructions constellate the site, the central gathering place being Eero Saarinen’s Big Tent.
Without the need for a masterplan, Herbert Bayer and Fritz Benedict as associate architect designed and built between 1953 and 1964, a series of flat-roofed buildings destined to serve the three main areas of the campus: housing for guests, institute administration and activities, and affiliated institutes.
A little less known but much more interesting appears the architects’ landscape intervention: 1954 Earth Mound and 1955 Marble Garden, two sculptures which formed the precedent for the earthworks art movement that emerged a full decade later.
The Earth Mound is a 42-foot-diameter berm encircling a grass area containing a hill, a shallow depression and a white rock. An opening in the ridge allows visitor to enter. Virginia Dwan included a photograph in her 1968 “Earthworks” exhibition, letting the work to spread among the world of numerous artists working in the landscape in the 1960’s. Jan van der Marck in his book, Herbert Bayer: from Type to Landscape, dubbed this work “the first instance on record of landscape as sculpture.”
The Marble Garden is a sculpture constisting in a marble platform with a small central pond and many blocks of different shape and height. The shadow and light effects are enhanced by the composition and free arrangement of these block, letting the observer discover ever different scenarios.
In 1973, Bayer worked with earth again, creating the Aspen’s Anderson Park, which borrowed elements from both the Marble Garden and the Earth Mound in order to create paths around geometric grassy berms, divots and rings.
Images via / Related texts:
L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui #26 April 1960 (Art and Architecture)
Aspen Modern: Marble Sculpture Garden