The Machine in The Garden is a permanent outdoor installation and classroom for the Oxbow School in Napa, California. This project was created in collaboration with Marina McDougall and inspired by the Leo Marx book of the same title. We designed this garden to complement the subject matter a student encounters while attending Oxbow, which includes the study of 19th century American transcendentalist authors, the history of Western expansion in the United States, and various subject areas in the environmental sciences.
The garden’s elements reflect a conflict that has profoundly shaped the history of the American landscape and how we see it—the struggle between an industrialized environment and a bucolic, arcadian countryside. Machine in The Garden takes the form of a folly, which is a landscape that serves as narrative vehicle for the pastoral genre, including an idyll, rupture and resolve.
The space is entered through a series of overgrown pergolas, which open onto a secluded kitchen garden from an earlier time in Napa history.
Littered amongst Napa’s fields and hills are the abandoned remains of an earlier industrial age, with large machines left to slowly rot in the very lands they had once chewed into being.
The full scale locomotive sits at a cross roads, pointing towards a secret garden space hidden within the larger garden. Within this secreat space one gets a closer view of what at first appears to be an old shed. This shed turns out to be a viewing pavilion, framing a three hundred foot long view of the borrowed landscape, the banks of the Napa River revealed in the near distance.