For the Garden | Zen and Now
Robin Tanner’s projects remain steeped in art and push conceptual boundaries
Local landscape architect Robin Tanner doesn’t have a formal resume or a detailed curriculum vitae but his extraordinary work can be found throughout the city. Much of it beautifies the New Orleans Botanical Garden in City Park.
“Robin Tanner’s landscape designs engage our visitors and allows them to appreciate his work as an art form,” says Paul Soniat, director of the gardens. “He sees his designs in its entirety not as pieces and parts, but as a whole landscape.”
Tanner is acknowledged as an expert in Japanese-garden design and he was part of the team who designed the New Orleans Japanese Garden. He’s also responsible for the Helis Foundation Enrique Alférez Sculpture Garden and his most recent work is The Chapel of the Rain, a gift from The Garden Study Club of New Orleans.
He’s also known for his many residential and commercial projects throughout the city.
“I like to think what I do is landscape architecture,” he says. “I also approach the work as an art form and use plant material to put together the piece. I am not a decorator.”
Tanner loves being outside keeping beautiful landscapes beautiful and aspiring to make other spaces beautiful too.
His major influences come from Mirei Shigemori, who had a major impact on the development of Japanese landscape architecture in the 20th century and Lancelot “Capability “ Brown, the foremost English master of garden design, whose works were characterized by their natural, unplanned appearance.
Tanner is currently working on a project for the Tasmania-based Museum of Old and New Art in the 9th Ward. It is a community center with programs in fashion, music, culinary arts and gardening.
“It’s a fantastic school and an interesting project,” he says.
A potential dream project in his future is a site that would involve a cave.
“It would be conceptual,” he says. “It would be like a Japanese stroll garden with connecting pathways allowing you to discover a new garden scene at each turn. Or maybe it would be more like a labyrinth and it would culminate in a bench in the back of the cave so instead of a medieval labyrinth where at the end you would find God, here you’d end in the earth and find whatever mystery is there.”
Always determine how the space will be used. If you are going to use the space for sitting and relaxing, then plant a good shade tree.
Next, you want to think about the organization of the space and let the design express itself through the space.
Finally, use plant material that works for our environment and climate. And keep in mind planting plants in the right sunlight.