Stone features
provide symbolism for Interfaith garden

July 1, 2007
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The George Garvin Brown Garden is the most recent addition to the campus of the Center for Interfaith Relations (CIR). The landscape design includes a variety of stone supplied by Polycor Inc. of Canada and Polycor Georgia Marble.


Natural stone serves as a staple in the design of the new George Garvin Brown Garden in Louisville, KY, which is the latest addition to the campus of the Center for Interfaith Relations (CIR). A team of landscape architects, led by Design Principal JP Shadley, ASLA, and Pamela Shadley, ASLA, Managing Principal, of Shadley Associates, P.C. of Lexington, MA, selected a palette of Georgia marble and Canadian granite for prominent features within the garden, such as a water wall, large fountain, seatwalls, planters and accent pavers.
“Project goals included creating a safe and comfortable setting which is enjoyed by people from all walks of life; a place with wonderful horticultural and 24-hour, multi-season interest, while simultaneously accommodating individual reflection and small performances and events up to 200 attendees,” said JP Shadley. “It also had to be authentically ‘of Louisville,’ and a landmark attraction which invites people to CIR’s doorstep, while not compromising the experience of people who are visiting the garden for its own sake.”
Formerly a 120- x 120-foot asphalt parking lot, the project site borders an emerging office, restaurant and retail district. By combining stone with brick, plants and trees, an attractive and inviting area was created for those passing by. “The use of stone throughout the Garden imparts a sense of timeless permanence, and it is very durable,” said Shadley.

A 9-foot-in-diameter single piece of Laurentian Green granite forms the center of the Origin Fountain. Additionally, the same material was used to create circles within the brick paving.

Stone elements

Polycor Inc. of Québec, Québec, Canada, supplied Laurentian Green granite - a green material with bluish crystals that is quarried in Lac Morin, Québec, Canada - for the garden design. The stone was used for setts within the brick paving. Additionally, a 9-foot-diameter single piece forms the center of the “Origin Fountain” - one of the metaphors reflected in the stonework.
Moreover, the company supplied Caledonia granite - quarried in Rivière-à-Pierre, Québec, Canada - for seatwalls as well as curbs and edgers. The seatwalls were accented by inserts of Cambrian Black granite, which was quarried at Polycor’s site in Saint-Nazaire, Québec, Canada.
According to Project Manager Roch Mathieu-Poulin of Polycor, the seatwalls measured 48 x 20 x 20 inches. “All the benches were radial split, rock-faced and angled out,” he said. “This was very precise workmanship in order for the stones to fit perfectly upon installation.”
The project manager went on to explain that the large size of the Origin Fountain also required some effort. “A special truck was needed to ship the fountain, as well as a special crane on site to unload it,” he said. “Special cutting and workmanship was required to produce the angles and general visual aspect of the design.”
In addition to granite, marble was also featured in the design of the George Garvin Brown Garden. A main focal point of the outdoor space is a curved water wall made from pieces of Georgia marble, which were quarried and fabricated by Polycor Georgia Marble of Tate, GA, and installed in an ashlar pattern. “Seams” of Caledonia granite accent the white marble wall.
“We chose the stones for the garden because of color, fast turnaround time and reasonable cost,” said Pamela Shadley. “We knew from the beginning that we wanted stone because of its durability. For the water wall, we also wanted the design to relate to the historic stone waterfalls in the area.”
According to Pamela Shadley, the design team made the stone selection with little input from its client. “They trusted us to make the right decision,” she said. “We obtained a great number of samples. Because there are four stones, we had to make sure that they looked good together. We laid out a lot of different combinations, and ultimately, chose these.”

The water wall measures over 50 feet long and 15 feet tall, making it a prominent feature in the garden. “Horizontal courses of split-faced stone recall nearby indigenous waterfalls, and the stone’s rough texture animates the falling water,” said JP Shadley.

The water wall

The water wall was designed to draw people into the central plaza, according to JP Shadley. “At over 50 feet long and 15 feet tall, the water wall creates a refreshing microclimate during Louisville’s sweltering summers,” he said. The water cascades from the upper weir to the mid-basin and then to the pool at the bottom where people can sit on the bench wall and touch it.
“Horizontal courses of split-faced stone recall nearby indigenous waterfalls, and the stone’s rough texture animates the falling water,” said JP Shadley. “A dark stone ‘seam’ in the white wall adds to the geological reference and adds seasonal interest.”
At times, the pool is drained and transformed into a performing area for the CIR’s choral group. A temporary wood platform is placed in the pool and becomes a stage for the performers. Moreover, the pool has also been used for baptisms. “The water wall is surprising in beauty,” said Mathieu-Poulin.

According to Project Manager Roch Mathieu-Poulin of Polycor, the large size of the Origin Fountain required some effort. “A special truck was needed to ship the fountain as well as a special crane on site to unload it,” he said. “Special cutting and workmanship was required to produce the angles and general visual aspect of the design.”

The use of metaphor

Founded in 1985, the CIR is comprised of civic leaders representing many religious faiths. Its mission statement is “to develop spiritual, educational and cultural experiences that inspire and foster individual growth, while increasing understanding and harmony among diverse cultures.” The design was born from the inspiration and guidance from the mission statement, according to Shadley Associates.
The landscape design team also realized that the garden could embrace the use of metaphor, which is found in many of the world’s religions. “During the design process, four conceptual themes emerged: water, the history and geology of Louisville, circles and the work of the Center for Interfaith Relations,” said JP Shadley. “Water is the shared metaphor that weaves all of the themes together: we are all made of water; the need for water is shared by every living thing and it sustains all life; water is central to all major religions; and water also gave life to the City of Louisville. Known as ‘River City,’ Louisville was settled along the depositional limestone formations which make up the ‘Falls of the Ohio River,’ where commerce began and grew in response to the need for boats to be raised and lowered over the Falls.”
During the design process, the design team also realized that a circular format was the most practical form for the garden to take. “The garden is small, and the many other forms that were tested were too complicated, static or forced, and less flexible than the circle,” said JP Shadley. “The garden is welcoming and familiar in large part because of its organization. The raised disk of the Origin Fountain is at the garden center, and the walks, planters and main seatwall are all concentric to it.”
According to the design team, the Laurentian Green granite circles placed in the brick paving create an interesting graphic and visual dynamic. “However, for the many garden visitors who are attuned to religious metaphor, the circles can also be an abstraction of water, of the celestial, of people’s experiences and of the CIR’s work,” said JP Shadley. “Like raindrops in still water, each ring is beautiful unto itself, and yet as the circles intersect, they do not reduce or compromise each other; instead, they become more interesting. This is an ideal metaphor for the interactions of people from different cultural and religious backgrounds at CIR.”

“We chose the stones for the garden because of color, fast turnaround time and reasonable cost,” said Pamela Shadley, ASLA, Managing Principal for the George Garvin Brown Garden. “We knew from the beginning that we wanted stone because of its durability. For the water wall, we also wanted the design to relate to the historic stone waterfalls in the area.”

A fast-track schedule

One of the most challenging aspects of the project was maintaining the fast-paced schedule, explained Pamela Shadley. “Construction drawings were finished in May of 2005, and the garden had to be completed by mid-November,” she said. “Stone became a critical element. We had to make sure that all of the pieces fit together, and get the material shipped down from Canada in time.”
Construction of the George Garvin Brown Garden was completed by November 14, 2005, in time for the annual Festival of the Faiths. “The Garden is reflective of the goals for the Center for Interfaith Relations: providing a place where people of different religious backgrounds engage each other in understanding and cooperation,” stated Owsley Brown II, a descendent of George Garvin Brown, at the opening ceremony.
According to Mathieu-Poulin, Polycor was very pleased to be chosen to work with Shadley Associates on this project. “To have a project right downtown is of great satisfaction,” he said. “[Also], the project was a success, as it proved that our small Curbs Division could provide and produce very complex designs in a timely fashion and to the customer’s satisfaction.”
Recently, the project received the 2007 Design Honor Award, which was presented by the Kentucky Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

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