Monday, August 17, 2009

Extending Architecture Into the Landscape

Many of my clients are familiar with the name Longshadow Classic Garden Ornaments, Ltd. Longshadow makes outdoor planters specified on a number of projects by Michael Knorr & Associates. On a recent road trip through the Midwest, I had an opportunity to visit Longshadow at their manufacturing facility near Pomona, Illinois. More on that in a moment. First, a description of what drew me to Longshadow in the first place and why we like to specify their product:

Architecture looks best when it connects to the landscape around it. Though architects usually aren’t directly involved in landscape design, the points of connection between building and landscape can reinforce an architectural theme. When architecture is extended into gardens, patios, terraces, and balconies, it becomes anchored to the earth. One way to accomplish this is by providing places for planters as illustrated in the two projects below.
Longshadow produces garden ornaments that lend themselves to this ethos. Their products are architectonic in design and scale. This means they almost look like part of the building. This is partly due to the manufacturing process, dry cast limestone – a method that goes back to structures in ancient Rome. It is also due to the care invested in the design of these products. Longshadow’s traditional designs use “ancient motifs of protection, life, and regeneration…. a symbolic language that has been shared for thousands of years about the fears and aspirations of all humans.” (Quotation from the Longshadow catalog.)
Longshadow also has an extensive Prairie School line which takes inspiration from the work of American architects such as Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Walter Burley Griffin.
We have found that in both contemporary and traditional architecture, products like this anchor our buildings not only to the ground, but also to history. They imbue architecture with a timeless quality.

Longshadow is located well off the beaten path in the verdant hills near Pomona, Illinois. You might expect to find a business like this housed in a hulking industrial plant. What one actually encounters is an idyllic hundred-acre farm. Instead of grey smokestacks, there are tree-lined allees. Instead of a confined factory there is a plein-air environment with peacocks, dogs, and kittens roaming freely. Owners Charlotte Peters and Daniel Ward grew Longshadow as an artistic enterprise. With about twenty employees they have created a successful business that reflects high ideals; they clearly love what they do. Because of their efforts, we get to select from quality products that amplify architecture. An array of planters, urns, fountains, birdbaths, and other garden ornaments are reminiscent of an era when architecture worked with all arts in a collaborative way. It is good to know that such opportunities are still available.
Longshadow Classic Garden Ornaments, Ltd. is certainly not the only producer of quality architectural products, but they are definitely one of the best. That is why it was a pleasure to visit the facility and meet Charlotte and Daniel.

To quote philanthropist Bill Daniels (out of context), “The best is good enough for me.” That’s the way I feel when Longshadow’s products show up on my buildings.

Credits: Top photo by Rob Munger; all others by MJK.

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