harmonics: artistic design in symbiotic relationship with nature

October 7, 2010
artistic design in symbiotic relationship with nature
‘Harmonics’ is a collaboration on canvas between artist Ann Vandervelde and architect David Vandervort. It is an attempt to read, understand and respond to the land in relation to built form – particularly as this relates to the San Juan Islands of Washington State. Drawings and documents from several actual sites were utilitzed as a framework for exploring this relationship. The painted works are visual tools to address the need for dialogue.
The collaborative technique involved layering image, sketch and paint on canvas. The result is a series of eight, two-foot square canvasses depicting and interpreting the context of the San Juan Islands, the inherent features of the land in relationship to structure and the forms that emerge from listening to the cues present in the landscape. The hope is to bring inspiration and renewed understanding to the complexities of living in harmony with nature.
‘light across time’
Architect:  The San Juans can be austere and windblown, or pastoral and serene. These extremes and the forces that have brought this about are illustrated here. How do I create a building that celebrates and also provides protection from these extremes?

Artist:  The composition emphasizes shapes, textures, and the quality of light. Originally the lower half was composed of gray gesso and pencil lines to indicate landscape. Handmade papers were added to delineate movement of light as it travels. The upper half is metallic gesso with darker acrylics added to create depth.


‘wind forces’

Artist:  This work began as three definitive elongated shapes with detailed emphasis on the middle segment. A cleft was left open in the middle. The positive spaces were for David to define with pencil. The painting evolved as layers were built to accommodate the trees and a sense of wind dynamics.

Architect:  The San Juans can be austere and windblown, or pastoral and serene. These extremes and the forces that have brought this about are illustrated here. How do I create a building that celebrates and also provides protection from these extremes?

 ‘driftwood cairn’

Artist:  Gray gesso, acrylic paint, and stabilo pencil diluted with water give a visual impression of solitude along the beach of San Juan Island. Driftwood piles create sculptural relief.  The structure is nature itself.

Architect:  I see the elemental beauty of this place as it is perfectly composed in nature. This is the inspiration for what is to come. How can we create an intensification of place in order to not lose these qualities?
Artist:  This work typifies the yin and yang of art and site concept. The area of import is the upper right, but the overall composition needed to reflect water, vegetation, land, and trees. The eye of the viewer needed to be drawn back into the circular motion of the lines of the sun while remaining a simple composition.
Architect:  This is the beginning of architectures interaction with nature. Underlying this work is a true site analysis drawing created for land on Orcas Island. Orientation to views, direction of sun, and topography of the land are illustrated along with initial thoughts on access and circulation. 



 ’emerging form’

Artist:  The artist’s perspective saw the land from the water – rocks in the foreground, trees to the right, and the midsection was of the ridge above. Texture and color were important to define the terrain. Handmade papers were used to show the potential unity of dwelling and rocks. Top and bottom areas were left for interpretation. A strong central line balances the verticality of the tree form.

Architect:  I’m seeking to view the land from different perspectives. In this scene, the view from the water to the structure above was considered. The plan form of the structure, set in the trees and oriented to these view elements is beginning to emerge.


Artist:  An aerial perspective of land shaped by the artist becomes architectural pods with an emphasis on views. Handmade papers help shape structures that fit into land like a seamless quilt.

Architect:  In Ann’s work I’m seeing the land from above and also in perspective. My drawing is a representation of forms responding to the effects of topography, sun and light on the land as viewed from above in plan. It is also attempting to illustrate connections to near and distant views in perspective. 

Artist:  The first is almost the last. This was my first response to the San Juan Islands – color, trees, boulders, land, texture and light. I left top and bottom on the right side blank for David to interpret.

Architect:  I could feel, in Ann’s initial studies, the intense beauty of the land – an idealized setting for a structure. The iconic form I created here, for a house in elevation/section, responds to the elements of topography and trees set near the water’s edge.


Artist:  The sketch incorporates trees in abundance on the Islands. They always needed to be part of the story. How to respect and incorporate their significant role?

Architect:  The architect’s window from the created world back to creation – to the beauty of nature as seen from the structure. This is a place to enjoy, and to experience a heightened sense of beauty in appreciation of the landscape.




This project was made possible by a grant from: 
The Whiteley Center, Friday Harbor, WA