Our studio is currently collaborating with RELM on an affordable housing project in Oakland. Located in a predominantly black community, we had a fascinating discussion about how we might go about selecting a planting palette that reflected the culture of this community within the context of the Mediterranean climate of the Bay Area. The phrase "Mediterranean garden" almost always conjures up European references, but what about African and Middle Eastern references? In this journal entry, we wanted to highlight the incredible Mediterranean architecture and landscape architecture traditions of Morocco, Tunisia, and Syria.
The most notable characteristics are the intense, saturated colors, the application of intricate patterns on both vertical and horizontal surfaces, the concealment of many garden spaces within hidden courtyards, and the organic manner in which building and landscape overlap and interact. Fountains provide cooling elements and the narrow streets and enclosed courtyards provide refuge from the intense sunlight. The end result is a breathtaking overlap of cultural nuance and adaptation to climate, with a playful use of geometry. An example of the hortus conclusus, "enclosed garden," these gardens prioritize intimacy and privacy. Rather than looking outwards to the larger landscape, the architecture itself becomes the backdrop, or canvas.