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2006 Varey Garden Renovation

With funding from the Office of the Vice President, students under the instruction of Associate Professor Daniel Winterbottom designed and built the Varey Garden, located directly behind Gould Hall, which houses the College for Architecture and Urban Planning. The Varey Garden honors the memory of Gordon and Mary Varey who passed away in 1995. Gordon, who had been dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Planning was much admired by students, staff and faculty alike. The garden is a lasting tribute and serves as a place of contemplation for users from both within the University and from the surrounding community. This garden is a renovation of the preceding design/build project in 1996 located on the same site.

Students in the studio were asked to probe the idea of memorialization through their design and grappled with how to appropriately represent the Varey’s passing. The students did not have the opportunity to meet the Varey’s and despite their efforts it proved difficult to get a sense of who they were as people. Instead of trying to represent the Varey’s literally, the student’s chose to create a place that was appropriately contemplative that could accommodate some of the social activities in the college. These include orientation events, graduation celebrations, departmental parties and outdoor classes, all activities that the Varey’s had enjoyed and that represent the close knit community fabric of the college. The garden is used by the broader University community as a passive garden space.

The central focal point is a raised circular turf mound provides a strong meditative space within the garden and is used for relaxing, sunbathing, lunching and as an outdoor classroom. A series of sculpted seat walls oriented at a 45 degree angle to Gould Hall provide a counter point to the buildings geometry and provide options for seating, standing, climbing and serve as entry bridges into the garden from the adjoining sidewalk. One of the walls located at the interior of the site is broken in half. Clad in blue stone, it represents a break in the predictable organizing forms, the fracturing of life. Users pass between the wall, and this act serves as both a reminder of the severed connections to those who have passed and of the cathartic necessity to move ahead in life and to remember those we have befriended along the way.

Several of the pavers are etched with thoughts expressed during Gordon Varey’s funeral that provide an insight into his character and disposition. The plantings are simple but bold and include hebe and yew hedges, blueberries and amelanchier trees for color and river birches that provide screening from the busy street flanking the east side of the site. A series of curved metal screens provide separation from the street and lights illuminate the screens creating a dramatic character at night.

The Varey Garden is located off of 15th Avenue below 40th street and is open to the public.