What contributes to building's a sense of place? That was the question posed by the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study when they commissioned landscape architect Chris Reed to design an outdoor installation for their 10th anniversary celebration.
Stock-Pile features a landscape of 10 conical piles of stone, aggregate, sand and soil on a diamond-shaped grid in a former parking lot on the Radcliffe campus. Two of the piles are planted with ancient ferns. The zen-like installation, which is left to gently degrade over time, succeeds in marking the passage of time and suggesting the rapidity of change.
But it's easy to miss. Situated in the former staging area for Radcliffe's prior renovations, the installation could easily be mistaken for the raw materials of a future landscaping project. That may be precisely Reed's point. In the shadow of Harvard, Radcliffe has been quickly and quietly evolving into one of the world's premiere institutes for advanced study with a mission of fostering transformative work in the humanities, arts, and social sciences. In this sense, the installation invites us to stop and take a closer look. All around us, subtle transformations are constantly taking place, and what was once familiar can be new again.
Chris Reed is the principal and founder of Stoss Landscape Urbanism and a Design Critic at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.