About a Rock: Mass and Void

“We even have a feeling about a rock, about anything.” – Donald Judd


No, not even for a difficult or evasive interviewee such as Judd

Like function, landscape design is much about the relationship between mass and void. Below are views of the same median I designed for vehicular speeds, though to a degree it also works for pedestrians and cyclists.

Feeling About A Rock-LS1-SML

The plants are grown in, showing the relationships between boulders, plants, and gravel mulch. The boulders and plants are mass (positive space). The gaps using mulch are called voids. (negative space) 

Together in a landscape, that’s considered legibility.

Feeling About A Rock-LS2-SML

The relationship of mass and void begins with the designer and their plan. Moving plants on a plan is easier than in the field. 

Years earlier, young 5 gallon plants were placed by the contractor helped by the owner’s representative 3 or 4 feet away from boulders per plan, further apart than above. That enabled those plants to grow properly in relation to each other and the boulders.

More than not, project owners and contractors don’t get that. Plants that appear on the plan against a boulder are placed too close, ignoring the plan’s scale and growth. 


Nature often inspires good placement. Even if no person placed all this.

Feeling About A Rock-Wild2-SML

That’s in Picacho Arroyo, near the above streetscape. Remember the Donald Judd quote?

Also, was Judd being too controlling wanting his works to be installed specifically for their space, or even to create spaces for his works?

Onto another streetscape vignette in the same development…

Feeling About A Rock-LS3b-SMLFeeling About A Rock-LS3d-SML

There are plant and boulder masses with crushed gravel voids, like the other median.

But with differently-shaped boulders that couldn’t be predicted months earlier on a plan, the contractor and owner did a good job of retaining the plans’ spirit and spacing between once-younger and smaller plants and boulders. Both parties also set the boulders to look real yet be deliberate.

Everything matured graciously.

So, I agree with Donald Judd: a rock…anything!

One Reply to “About a Rock: Mass and Void”

  1. “Everything matured graciously.” Another excellent line.

    How Nature distributes Garden Design. Layers of time and narratives.

    A few weeks before my mother-in-law’s death, age 57, breast cancer, I had the good fortune to take her to her family lake house she’d known since birth. Just the 2 of us, the house, the garden, the lake.

    Too weak to walk down to the lake, she asked me to go without her, to check on the boathouse and docks.

    Atop the covered boat house, I leaned out to see the water. Life moment. Winds had pushed fresh’ish pine straw against the stone wall, pure art, bundles of straw, water, rocked/wind swept into rectangular canvases, backdropped with glassy green water, each about the same size, 12″ x 8″. A new piece of installation art by Piet Mondrian. Aside from fish and birds, how my eyes were gifted this moment, still in awe.

    Yet the content, its architecture, engineering, scale, where it was dry, where wet, how lite lit each layer changing all by the moment. In my quiver of Garden Design arrows.

    Your story of voids and mass reminding me of the straw, water, light. Losing a beloved soul.

    Garden & Be Well, XOT

    Very interesting how all those elements and events interplayed, all at once. So much interplays each day, each place, when we look . We might as well intend it to be, or at least allow it to be.

    Liked by 1 person

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