April 15, 2009
By Welwyn Wong
Principal designer, Welwyn Wong Landscape Design

As with the Ottawa chapter’s previous high-calibre public presentations, audiences were not disappointed with our choice of guest speaker Julie Moir Messervy. The lecture took place on Feb. 25 at Centrepointe Theatre in Ottawa.

Both her seminar and half-day workshop were made possible by the generous combined efforts of LO’s Ottawa chapter, the Ottawa Botanical Garden Society and sponsors. Moir Messervy captured her audience’s attention with pictures of her experiences both growing up and studying in Japan. The audience oohed and aahed over some of the wonderful spaces she has created within her clients’ landscapes, as well as her explanation of the J.S. Bach-inspired Toronto Music Garden.

Attendees Barbara and her friend Linda noted that the pictures of Moir Messervy’s work were the highlights of their evening. She effortlessly simplified garden design into ‘pleasure principles’ intuitively used by designers, explaining how and why using these principles works within a landscape. Those in attendance learned about emotional-spatial relationships, dividing them into seven different categories: sea, cave, harbour, promontory, island, mountain and sky. She said that the garden reflects our own life’s journey: as we mature along from infancy to wizened old age, we progress through each of these special experiences as comforting places to experience.

Moir Messervy’s workshop the next day expanded on these archetypes and much more. Design professionals, landscape trades people, and regular homeowners attended. They completed a multiple-choice quiz, based on the Meyers-Briggs personality test, in order to discover each person’s ‘inward garden’ style and ‘aesthetic preferences.’ The fun-filled group activity, arranging objects on the circular tables, was a useful tool to abstract the garden components into shapes, colours, and topographical relationships, using any found objects in the room and on our person. Many of the exercises are explained in her new book, Home Outside, which is available online now and will soon also be available in local bookstores.

We thank her for coming to speak at both events, and for making the elusive world of landscape design make sense to the general public. As Tony DiGiovanni expressed at the close of the evening event, “We are all inspired by your lessons.” We designers may “hear the stream with open eyes,” but now the rest of the world gets it.