Perspective Manipulation and the Cross-Section

10/13/2009 Uncategorized

Although I have driven by the entrance to the Crane Estate hundreds of times on the way to the beach, I had never visited the gardens of the house until yesterday afternoon.  The best discovery was the axial lawn (the Grand Alleé) that runs from the garden side of the house out to the horizon line of the Atlantic Ocean.  The landscape and its effect were designed by landscape architect Arthur Shurcliff in 1914-1915.

Rather than create an illusion of a flat lawn that, through tricks of perspective, disguises hidden outdoor rooms and water features like Versailles, the view from the Crane Estate accentuates the roller-coaster-like rolling hills that are captured between the space-defining spruce trees.

The first slope of lawn terminates at a balustrade that provides an overlook to a formal open ended court below.  This hidden-drop off also disguises the entrance drive that moves right-to-left through the space.  The second dip in the lawn, closer to the water, hides a gravel service road and the final lawn edge, as it meets the water, is just a few feet from a perilous drop through dense shrubs down to the beach. 

While probably considered a cliché by our landscape architecture friends, the Crane Estate seems like the perfect site for introductory design students (both architects and landscape architects) to analyze in order to understand the relationship between the cross-section and perceptual effects.