Garden Design and Exploring Space

I don’t know about you, but I get a lot more emails than I used to. What with that and phone calls, like everyone else, I frequently find myself typing or sketching something at the dining room table at 10pm in order to meet a deadline. It is even worse now that I am trying to train for this damn three peaks malarky – now I have to fit in 150 miles a week on the bike, as well! I say to myself how much more I could get done if I just had another hour or so… Just imagine what I could achieve if I didn’t have to sleep! And like other people I see on the tube and the train (where I am sitting right now) I use all those little bits of time to check emails, go on twitter, write a blog etc.

Which is why you may find it strange that I am arguing that we should make some space in our busy lives to do nothing. Some of you might remember my previous piece entitled ‘Where do ideas come from?’ (10 May 2012) In this, I argued the importance of the right-hand half of the brain in creative activities, such as design. In the article, I quoted Mattias Konradsson – “Creativity and ideas don’t come on command, they seem to spring up when we least expect it”. For me that is often when I am staring into space. Or sitting on a train. Or driving. Or (this one is the most frequent) standing in the shower in the morning. Perhaps this last is the most revealing: the fact that the brain has been completely disengaged from everyday tasks for a few hours may leave it free to chew away at some problem that it hasn’t been able to address during the waking hours. A bit like when my laptop runs short of RAM, except that it doesn’t seem to go on working when I turn it off! Perhaps we all need to make a bit more space in our lives for doing nothing? Shift into neutral and idle for a while. We might be surprised at the results.

So, if you see me on the train, gazing out of the window; or nursing a cup of coffee and staring into space, just remember that I might be working on my next project…

How do you find space to think in a busy life?

About John Wyer

This blog is mainly the thoughts and ramblings of John Wyer,with contributions from James Smith, Stuart Wallace, and others from the Bowles & Wyer team. John Wyer has been in the landscape and garden design sector for over 25 years. He was elected as a member of the Landscape Institute in 1990 and went on to establish the design partnership Bowles & Wyer with Chris Bowles in 1993. He was elected fellow of the Society of Garden Designers in 2011. His inspirational designs have won many awards including, most recently, Landscape Architect of the Year and Garden Designer of the Year from the New Homes Garden Awards. Outside of Bowles & Wyer, John is a founding member of the Triangle Community Garden in Hitchin, Hertfordshire which he formed with his wife fifteen years ago in a forgotten nettle covered corner of a public park. Today the award-winning garden runs regular hands-on gardening activities and several social and therapeutic horticultural projects for the local community all the while encouraging awareness and appreciation of environmental practices such as recycling, nature conservation and organic cultivation. His children have been known to say that he spends more time in his beloved vegetable garden than he does with them. Apart from gardening, he loves to cook (and eat) locally produced food. He is also a keen cyclist, and before having a family cycled from London to China.
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5 Responses to Garden Design and Exploring Space

  1. On the tube, on the way back from an initial consultation, I do some work but as I’m not in the usual working environment of the office, I pressurise myself less and manage to relax enough to release a train of creative thought…

    Good luck with the three peaks!

  2. Charles Waters says:

    As a wine trade professional many years ago my safety valve and stress release was time spent gardening- neutral territory in which to collect and marshall thoughts; solitary space where the plants didn’t ‘chirp’ back! Today, as a garden designer, a good walk or a soak in the bath offer the personal space that provides the creative answers….sometimes!

  3. Julia says:

    Don’t know whether you caught ‘Unbuilt Britain’ last night on Geoffrey Jellicoe’s Motopia? Anyway, lovely to see him, at a great big drawing board, involved in some render. Just standing at the drawing board helps me – I was thinking of getting rid of it but so much more helpful on the concentration stakes than a screen. I do agree about the long walk though.

    • John Wyer says:

      I didn’t catch it Julia – we were away in France. We still have two large drawing board in the office and one at home – despite a plethora of computers. I do try and encourage everybody to use them as I think all designs should start on the drawing board or sketch pad. I remember Will Allsop telling me that he always started every project by doing an abstract painting to channel his thoughts on form. I wonder if he ever showed them to the clients…

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