Tag Archives: fountains

Hofstra University: a Space for all the Senses

TS writes: Just back from the Berkshire Conference at Hofstra University, NY. The sessions – feminist, theorised, activist – were wonderful, but one of the real stars of the show was the glorious campus landscape, which greeted delegates with all possible shades of green and the heavy scents of jasmine and conifers as we emerged from the chill of air-conditioned rooms into what for New York was moderate heat and humidity. Hofstra is best known for its spring tulip festival, a nod to its Dutch heritage, but by early June these had long bloomed and been cleared away by the friendly and efficient grounds staff.

Exploring the campus with a Visitor’s Guide, it was a treat instead to find a small Sensory Garden tucked behind one of the large buildings, marked out with a polygonal trellis fence and featuring raised beds planted with an array of species to smell and touch.

At the centre of this cool, shady space (in the morning, at least) was a fountain, its gentle splashing providing a backdrop to the birdsong all around.

Exploring further, I wandered through the cathedral-like Pinetum, featuring over 110 varieties of coniferous trees reaching up and providing another sanctuary from the sun for those seeking it.

Beyond the green space, the campus also boasted a paved labyrinth, a replica of that at Chartres cathedral in France. Enclosed on three sides by buildings, the 40-foot-wide labyrinth encourages you to walk to its centre and ‘filter out the external world’ before working your way back out ‘with a better understanding of your own internal identity’. I found myself wishing that Hofstra’s version wasn’t quite so exposed: it’s hard to filter out the external world when the world insists on crossing the square straight through the marked-out paving maze. As the HC team has always suspected, an enclosed garden is a much better way to zone out…



Guest post – Pleasure in the Garden (1677)

HC is delighted to welcome a guest post from Dr Emily Cock, currently scoping some early modern gardening texts for us:
An alternative source of ‘pleasure’ in the garden popped up this week in the form of trick fountains in John Worlidge’s Systema Horti-Culturæ, or, The Art of Gardening in Three Books. This was first published 1669, and grew between editions from a straightforward husbandry manual to an extensive treatise on elaborate gardening.
In the 1677 edition, Worlidge provides ideas for a range of visual and aural tricks using “Water-works” and fountains, by which the garden owner could amuse himself and guests. Some used water pressure to make balls appear to hover in the air, or run over pipes to imitate a nightingale’s song. One set, however, with a Carry On-style sense of humour, is designed to startle ladies wandering through the gardens. In one trick, “Secret pipes may be under the Ground, the ends not appearing above it, that when any Ladies unawares or casually walk or stand over them by the turning of a stop-cock you may force the Water upright under their Coats to their sudden surprize” (sig. E5r). Another, which is illustrated below, features “A Statue of a Woman, that at the turning of a private Cock, shall cast Water out her Nipples into the Spectators Faces” (sig. E3r). While this may have amused the host, it is unlikely that the lady pictured felt similar pleasure!