Salone del Mobile Milano

Designing with trees

The challenge for Marco Bay and his ambition is to create a living artwork, the way only nature knows how. An architect by training and a landscape artist at heart, his passion dates back to his earliest years, when he spent his summers by the lake or in the country, where he learnt to distinguish a rhododendron from an azalea, how to prune a hedge, how to sow seeds in a seedbed, when it’s time to bring pots back into the greenhouse and how to rake gravel. 

This all sowed the seed for the Milanese architect’s decision to dedicate his life to designing the land and “green design,” embellishing piazzas and courtyards, country houses and palazzi with the solids and voids, lines and curves, colours and textures of the plant world. Gardens that are especially designed to take over spatiality, valorising the perspectives and the character of a place, respectful of the changing seasons. While his sources of inspiration must be infinite – from pre-existing nature and architecture to the climate and history of a particular place – every single one of his works is, in practice, the upshot of unremitting research illuminated by certain guidelines: learning to “see” the landscape around us, understanding the nature of the land and interpreting the needs of each plant in order for it to grow healthily and robustly even in a highly man-made environment; and, last but not least, the desire to set up a relationship between man and nature. In any case, the result is always exciting.  

Marco Bay throws himself wholeheartedly into every project, and much more: “as an architect, I design hedges and rows of trees, creating new spatiality on the earth. As a botanist, I seek out the as-yet unexplored within the plant world. As a gardener, I practice with the plants, because the effect depends on every single gesture and being hands-on helps me take concrete decisions. As a photographer, I observe the landscape through my lens, maintaining the same intensity of focus. As an artist, at my studio table, I draw freehand, from a single branch to a landscape. As a director, I coordinate the team working on a project. As a cook, I alternate scented herbs and vegetables with the flowers, and the borders blend admirably. As I writer, I note down my thoughts on projects for the natural, urban and wild worlds and I find myself identifying with them.”

These notes have informed Disegnare con gli Alberi (Designing with trees), a book that narrates in a light, sometimes poetic and always evocative voice the stupendous effort of dreaming up and building green spaces in places where greenery is passed over, reviled or banished. It teaches us unassumingly how to play around with plants and flowers, how to choose and combine shades and transparencies, the most suitable plants for expressing one’s own personal idea of harmony. From the magical moment when the idea for the project is conceived until the plants carefully chosen at the nursery are bedded in, along with a scenographic study of the right counterpoint of light and shade, these pages and the architect’s drawings lay bare a very particular creative process; the genesis of the living artworks mentioned above, destined to change and be renewed – just like human beings – day after day and season after season. 

 

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