American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2006 Student Awards
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Introductory Graphic-Full Bloom
Context Plan-Scale 1:6000 (A-2 Sheet Size)
Light Garden Site Plan-Scale 1:1000 (A-2 Sheet Size)
Section A / Perspective Graphics-Scale Of Section 1:250 (A-2 Sheet Size)
Section B / Site Photos / Sketches-Scale Of Section 1:250 (A-2 Sheet Size)
Section C / Site Photos / Text Re: Experience Of Garden -Scale Of Section 1:250 (A-2 Sheet Size)

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Full Bloom
Alison Scott, Student ASLA
University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Faculty Advisor(s): Dr. Marcella Eaton, Dr. Richard Perron, Karen Wilson-Baptist, and Rob Crosby

"Amazing proposition--an event that is brilliantly poetic, imaginative, and whimsical. It's refreshing to see this."

— 2006 Student Awards Jury Comments

Narrative Summary:  Without revealing the identity of the school or the student(s) or faculty advisor(s) contributing to this project, please describe:

  • project location;
  • project scope and size;
  • site and context investigation;
  • design program;
  • design intent;
  • environmental impact and concerns; and
  • design challenges/significant issues addressed.
  • Plant list may be submitted as an additional page in the entry binder


The site is located on cultivated agricultural land straddling Highway 16, east of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (Canada).


The project covers a total area of 1.2 km2 (0.45 mi2). The main focus of the work is a highway light garden (0.15 km2/0.06 mi2), which has been placed within a secondary context of a series of strip plot plantings running north and south, in opposition to the prevailing winds. These plots are intended to extend the opportunities for interacting with the work - the texture and scale are perceivable at a distance of a kilometre or more for the visitor traveling past; on the ground, the scent and colour of the plantings, the sculptural possibilities they present for drifting snow, add another experiential layer. 


An investigation of context was conducted through primary and secondary research on a regional scale. The intent was to question my preconceptions about a very familiar (native) landscape in order to discover ways in which the garden could evolve in this context. Primary research included: a series of interviews with private gardeners, both urban and rural, about their own gardens; experiential analysis of local landscapes on road trips between towns, documented in photographs, sketches and notes; once the site was chosen, analysis of existing infrastructure (including highway, railway, agriculture, utilities, etc.), wild and cultivated vegetation, climatic conditions, water, wind, and topography; and photographic experiments with coloured Christmas lights which would become the catalyst for the final design work. Secondary research included an historical investigation of the garden in Saskatchewan, with a particular focus on the railway station garden and the role it played in the settlement of the West; an application of key themes found in the primary research to the international garden theory of John Dixon Hunt and others - specifically the notion of first, second and third nature - as a way of situating the Saskatchewan garden in a greater context; and an investigation of the play theory of Hans Georg Gadamer and James Hans which provided a set of principles to guide the project. 


The design program was to create a garden which embodied a spirit of play; which reflected its Saskatchewan prairie context but also introduced difference into that pre-existing structure and, as such, allowed for the evolution of the idea of the garden on the Saskatchewan prairie. The physical program for the light garden was to create the opportunity to interact -- in winter and summer, day or night -- with what is often a hostile and uninviting landscape. The physical reality of the rural prairie is that, despite all this space, there is little opportunity to just 'be' here -- to walk, to wander, to explore. Its vastness, extremes of temperature and an ever-present wind conspire to keep people indoors and in their cars. The garden will serve as a point of access, and offer enclosure and exposure, light and darkness, recreation and contemplation for those who accept its invitation to play. 


The work has to do with the ubiquity of power poles, Christmas lights, the horizon, the sky - with imagining what might happen to the grey flat prairie when it is plugged into the grid for the first time. Light, energy, maybe power. It has to do, too, with infusing our comfortable second nature (productive) landscape with third nature (the garden), with colouring outside the lines.

Tommy Douglas was the Premier of Saskatchewan from 1944-60, and is widely credited with being the father of Medicare in Canada. But he is also responsible for the Rural Electrification Act of 1949, which brought electricity to farms and ".every incorporated village in Saskatchewan." (Richards & Fung 1969) within the decade. And it was electricity, not Medicare, which Tommy Douglas himself considered to be his greatest contribution (

The prairie landscape can be both utterly captivating and desperately bland, but most of the time it just is; not even a stage set but wallpaper, two-dimensional. It is a place to pass through on your way to somewhere. This garden is intended to celebrate what has become ubiquitous, to refigure it in the landscape so that we might see it again. The box of lights in every prairie basement strung together across the fields, the ditches, the miles of dark, straight highway between small towns. Best in winter, best, of course, after dark. And powered by the relentless prairie wind. It is a garden that can be read from a plane, from a car on the highway, or experienced up close, on foot or skis or sled. It illuminates the landscape and becomes a volume itself, a destination.


The existing condition of the site is agro-industrial, and its essential character would remain unchanged, although the work aims to facilitate the movement and exchange of natural process on as many levels as possible: by connecting human-made ditches with naturally occurring sloughs, by introducing vegetated corridors to reduce wind erosion and increase the comfort level for visitors (human and other), by using wind power to illuminate the garden, by inviting people to stop their vehicles and explore the prairie landscape, wild and cultivated, as one system. As such, the environmental impact - not least in terms of increasing the visibility of natural processes -- could be seen as a positive one. The effects of increased pedestrian and vehicle traffic in the area (if the garden was successful in its aim to become a destination) are difficult to predict at this level of investigation, but are potentially cause for concern.


The main design challenge - and, ultimately, reward - was to create a space which held its own in the vastness of the open prairie and yet attracted visitors on a human-scale with warmth, intimacy, and humour. The main personal challenge has been to overcome my own idea of what is possible here, for landscape architecture and for my own development as a designer, as I move from academia into practice. I had hoped with this project to express what I love most about the study of landscape, and that is its potential for play - in the design process, in the continual exchange of ideas, in creating spaces that engage people with mystery and beauty. In this sense, if only to me, the project has succeeded.


Section D / Light Photos / Text Re: Experience Of Garden -Scale Of Section 1:250 (A-2 Sheet Size)
Perspective Graphic -View From Highway
Perspective Graphic-Inside Garden
Light Photos-Random Acts Of Rural Electrification
Conceptual Graphic-Random Acts Of Rural Electrification
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