Since mid-May 2020, the NAC outside territory has started to reshape itself. Among other works in progress, the first steps were implemented to develop a garden –– two gardens, actually. One is designed for wild plants, bushes, and trees that grow in the Curonian Spit National Park; the other part consists of all types of productive plants brought to NAC in exchange or as presents by NAC neighbours, guests, local inhabitants, and extended families as a continuous process.
The goal of reshaping the outside territory around NAC (which currently can be described as an indifferent and anonymous parking lot) is to materialise and reflect in areal design the processes that take place inside of the institution: research, production, and education within the fields of visual arts, architecture, design, and culture as well as humanities and social sciences. As a public space, the new design should be insightful and smart in terms of sustainability of concept, materials used, and plants selected, but also comfortable and pleasant as surroundings. Wild perennial garden design has a positive effect on biodiversity by restoring links between organisms –– sustainability becomes the starting point for assessing the perception of our living environment.
The use of local resources has been a central element of this process. The general strategy for reorganisation of the green areas of the outside territory of NAC was developed and designed by landscape architect Povilas Marozas in close collaboration with NAC director Egija Inzule. Custom seeded flat lawn areas were partly lifted, introducing a relief to the territory. To support the relief, obsolete benches previously used in the Nida town public space were acquired by Komunalninkas (the municipality organisation responsible for designing and upkeeping public spaces in Nida) and reused, applying the same stability system as in Robert Smithson’s artwork Mirrors and Shelly Sand (1969-1970). Already rotten, these benches will disappear over the course of time, while plants will take over the structure and continue forming it themselves. Povilas Marozas sculpted the garden, having in mind compositions and formations he had observed in the Curonian Spit forests, especially paying attention to the moments when the artificial upkeeping of the forests by the Curonian Spit National Park interacts with the existing structure and is made visible.
The composition of local wild plants was defined by the ecological landscape designer and botanist Vilma Gudynienė. The selection was previously discussed and advised with botanists Raimonda Ilginė from the Curonian Spit National Park and Asta Klimienė, director of Botanical Garden of Klaipeda University. Under supervision of the Curonian Spit National Park botanists, the plants were carefully dug out at especially designated locations. Local grasses (šepetukas and šluotsmilgė), mosses, and lichen, wild heather and viola among others were replanted in the NAC backyard. Soil preparation works, gathering, and planting were done in a 7-day joint work action by the NAC team and a group of volunteers: residents at NAC, friends, and supporters as well as Povilas Marozas and Vilma Gudynienė themselves, with their partners and children.
As Vilma Gudynienė says, it will take a while for the plants to accommodate themselves in their new surroundings after this type of “surgery”. The general idea is to let the wild plants design and form this new habitat to make it their own by using time as the main element in forming the garden. The garden will always stay a work in progress, a continuity, and it gives NAC a structure for the possibility to trace back, layer, make visible, and materialise time. This garden is a tool for storytelling of various kinds and a catalyst for historical, geographical, political, folkloristic, and fictional gatherings. Artists and dear friends throughout history are in our minds –– those who have worked on gardens as integral parts of their works, with their monographs to be found over the course of time at the NAC library.
Here, to name one of them, is a poem by the artist Florine Stettheimer, who loved to paint her garden in the 1920s in New York:
Have at last a raison d’etre
Seen in color and design
It amuses me
To recreate them
To paint them.
— Florine Stettheimer, Crystal Flowers, 1949.
Vilma Gudynienė is an ecological landscape designer and botanist. Her practice is based on the usage of local (wild) plants, which works as both the means to preserve and shape the identity of the particular landscape and a way to enrich biodiversity in the urban areas. As a natural scientist, Gudynienė evaluates and faces ongoing changes in the wild. She actively applies and implements her professional knowledge in various fields, such as strategic assessment of greenery ecosystems and biodiversity, general and dendrological analysis of greenery, the providing of recommendations for the management of urban green spaces.
Povilas Marozas is a landscape architect, Chartered Member of the Landscape Institute (CMLI), and certified as Greenery Project Manager in Lithuania. He studied architecture at Vilnius Gediminas Technical University and architectural history at Bartlett School of Architecture (University College London) in London. Marozas started his career in landscape architecture in London, where he spent over 8 years working for numerous international landscape practices, such as Vogt Landscape, Djao-Rakitine, and Periscope. Throughout this period he developed high profile public realm and landscape projects in the UK, Europe, Russia, and Middle East.
NAC would like to thank the Kuršių Nerija National Park team and director Aušra Feser, the Neringos Komunalininkas team and director Danguolė Šešelskytė, Asta Klimienė and Raimonda Ilginė for their advice and support.
Thanks to residents at NAC for their restless work and energy: Milda Zabarauskaitė and Robertas Narkus, Jurga Daubaraitė and Jonas Žukauskas, Lina Lapelytė and Mantas Petraitis, Kamilė Levulė and Rudolfas Levulis; thanks to Aistė Balčaitė, Donatas Baltrušaitis, Agnė Dailidaitė, Indrė Dikavičiūtė, Sandra Dumčiūtė, Gerda G. Šeirė, Daura Polonskytė and the team of Zuikio daržas.
NAC would like to especially thank Žilvinas Landzbergas for his strategic support and for inviting Povilas Marozas and Vilma Gudynienė to this project.
The project is co-funded by Lithuanian Council for Culture, NERINGA Lithuanian Capital of Culture 2021 and Neringa Municipality.