Charles Jencks's Landform at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is the centrepiece of the recent redevelopment of the grounds of the gallery, which has been in progress since the opening of the adjacent Dean Gallery in 1999. Completed in 2002, the Landform has won many plaudits, including, in 2004, the Gulbenkian Prize for Museum of the Year.
The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, part of the National Galleries of Scotland, now comprises two separate buildings set in a large park in the centre of Edinburgh. The first, the Gallery of Modern Art, opened as a gallery in 1984, joined in 1999 by the Dean Gallery. The opening of the Dean (built as an orphanage in 1833) as an annexe to the Gallery of Modern Art, has given a new public and cultural use to a previously unoccupied building within Edinburgh. Since opening it has proved enormously popular as a venue for displays from the Gallery of Modern Art's permanent collection and for many of our temporary exhibitions. The Dean is opposite the existing Gallery of Modern Art building (the former John Watson's School).
The addition of the Dean provided the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art with a total of some 20 acres of formal grounds, and a plan was implemented to develop the area as an amenity in its own right. The gallery enjoys a unique position in this country in having an outstanding collection of international 20th and 21st-century art, displayed in a city-centre location but in its own parkland (unlike the Tate galleries in London) where large outdoor sculpture can be sited. In the last five years works by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Anthony Caro, Eduardo Paolozzi, George Rickey and William Turnbull have been joined by newly acquired works by Tony Cragg, Rachel Whiteread, Dan Graham, Ian Hamilton Finlay and Richard Long.
The most ambitious and dramatic project in the redevelopment of the grounds has been the construction of Charles Jencks's Landform. The site it now occupies was formerly the old school playing field; the large, open expanse of this area made it unsuitable for individual works of sculpture and the position recommended a major development that would form an important visual link between the two gallery buildings as well being of artistic interest in its own right.
Charles Jencks was born in Baltimore and studied architecture and English literature at Harvard University and then continued as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of London where he gained his Phd in architecture. His publications include The Language of Post-Modern Architecture and The Architecture of the Jumping Universe and most recently The Garden of Cosmic Speculation. He has become known internationally for his work as a brilliantly original garden designer, carrying out his theories into practice in the grounds of his home in south-west Scotland. In his project for Edinburgh he has been inspired by patterns of nature, from meteorological effects to Chaos theory: ls"I am trying to create a new language of landscape. If you look at the way nature organises itself, it has inherent principles of movementhellip;.I wanted to design something which reflected these natural forces but heightened themhellip;'. His dramatic earthwork comprises a serpentine, stepped mound and three crescent-shaped pools of water; it radically transforms the area between the Gallery of Modern Art and the Dean. The sweeping, gently rising paths of the Landform give elevated views across the grounds and create new vantage points for sculpture sited in the grounds, as well as views of the Edinburgh skyline.
Since opening, the Landform has proved immensely popular and has attracted numerous additional visitors to the galleries and grounds. It is especially enjoyed by children. Jencks's creation has been an extraordinary setting for exhibition openings, has featured in exhibitions and has been the subject of educational projects. All these activities have con- firmed Jencks's hopes for the work, which he has since described: ls"I pictured a contemporary equivalent of Seurat's La Grande Jatte - everything going on at once, amidst sun, water and city life. You could eat lunch, perhaps have a drink, chase kiteshellip;'. Our long term ambitions are for the expansion of the gallery buildings, to house the growing permanent collection and to provide greater room for exhibitions. The further redevelopment of the gallery grounds will form a part of this scheme, with the intention to develop a garden for smaller-scale sculpture, an enclosed and more intimate space than the grand, sweeping area around the Landform.
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