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  garden on the move  
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« You know, life on earth went through five - at minimum - massive extinctions of species’ numbers, five gaps since the beginning of life. I think that we are going out of a summit of diversity and that diversity is going backwards. It seems obvious that we are walking rapidly towards a sixth extinction, the origins of which are, as usual new ones. The main and new origin of this phenomenon is, I think, the global exchange based on human movement. But this exchange, on various forms, ever existed...

Bacteria’s, fungus, pollen, seeds, birds, various animals always circulated and met at the surface of the globe, following sea currents, winds, migrations…New species evolved from this exchange – with the essential role of isolated zones, that are, as we know, at the origin of many novelties. » That was the answer of Gilles Clément to an interview of magazine « Clés » about biological diversity.

changing the town

Photo Jacques de Givry

In 1997, the people living in and visiting Lausanne discovered forgotten sites with a new eye. Among the thirty or so gardens thus achieved, the trench of the metro has acquired a new appearance of joy and celebration, the appearance of a meadow thanks to the intervention of Gilles Clément. The twine or “Ficelle”, as the inhabitants of Lausanne like to call their metro , dialogues since then with the invention of the “gardener”, a garden on the move.

One of the main slogans of the sixties was « to change life ». It has been necessary to wait at least another two decades to start seeing big cities really take in account the reality of urban ecology, in other words the need “to change the town”. Lorette Coen, curator of the operation Lausanne Gardens97, talks of « restoring together the beauty of the buildings and surrounding nature ». In this perspective, she proposed, following a competition inaugurated in 1996, a requalifying route inscribing itself in the reality of a city which had overlooked certain areas though they were popular with the inhabitants. It has therefore been a real work on the town itself. Work consisting in analysing its continuities and discontinuities, and in convincing the local authorities and the elected representatives as well as the business partners and all the inhabitants. The men and the women who daily take care of the urban vegetation actively took part in the project.

Metro of Lausanne. Photo Jacques de Givry

a dialogue with nature

Metro of Lausanne. Photo Jacques de Givry

The trench of the “Ficelle”, the Lausanne metro, climbs up a stiff slope from the lake to the heights of the station and town centre. In its continuous to and fro movement between the rows of buildings, the metro has found its own and necessary serving for eternity, so much so that its passengers seem to have forgotten that along its upper part – rose bushes and magnolias have tried to life up for some years now – used to grow vineyards and grazing meadows as is still the case today for the fields situated at the same level above the lake and outside the town. When entrusting this area to Gilles Clément, the people in charge of Lausanne Gardens97 had measured the risks they were taking: erasing the banality of reassuring habits and replacing them with the irruption of “weeds” that worry because irreverent. But the objective is to signify that the biological order can dialogue with the architectural order and that man can learn once again to dialogue himself with nature instead of looking it up in stereotypes of gardened urban sites.

follow the movement

Metro of Lausanne. Photo Jacques de Givry

First phase : create a flowering inspired by meadows and resting on the dynamic of gardens on the move. This means to work on the groups of flower pink, yellow and white in sequences, using essentially messicolous plants (plants of the fields) and ruderalous plants (from ruins and places inhabited by man), annual or biennial or vivacious plants. For the truly structured elements, reimplant other magnolias and introduce bamboo, to play with box trees.

Second phase : mowing, sometimes pulling out, sometimes sowing, but in any case being guided by the evolution of the biotope, by the dispersing of the seeds, by the specific phytosociology of that environment, by the way the plants live together, help each other, keep apart or irrevocably exclude each other.

“What is said with the fallow resumes the whole problematic of garden and landscape: the movement. To ignore this movement is not only to consider plants like a limited object but it is also isolating it historically and biologically from the context which brought it to life ».

The real message of the Lausanne metro garden does lay partly in the daily shift of perception it induces for the inhabitants. But it rests mainly in the permanent crossing of time and space frontiers. Plants are constantly on the move. They bring the city-dweller out of the isolation where mankind’s historical urban heritage keeps him locked up. They also give us the opportunity to dream a new organisation of nature, but a dream which has its strict rules: the biological reign is a reign of constant dynamics where power only very briefly passes through the hands of man and only if he accepts to question the notions of classification, hierarchy and natural state he has learnt from History.

Between the construction that retrieves and life that adds, the planetary gardener must choose to rely on nature’s invention. He thus learns to dialogue with evolution.

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