The axis mundi is an imaginary vertical axis or linkage as a center pole, running from the sky through the ground, uniting heaven, earth and underworld.

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The formal layout of the beloved Sissinghurst rose garden includes a central yew hedge planted in a circle with four tall yew-lined paths leading away from it.  This is known by it’s creator Vita Sackville-West as “the Rondel”.

 Sissinghurst photos: ©toddhaiman2011

Outside the Rondel, there are low, neatly clipped box hedges separating huge beds filled with roses.  The rondel assists in masking an a geometric garden layout whereby the two garden paths and axes do not cross at perfect right angles.  Some say a brilliant move by the designer correcting the obtuse positioning of the buildings they connect with, others claim that this was an error by a young worker on the estate who miscalculated while laying out the path.  No matter, the end result all agree is breathtaking.

Vita Sackville-West pays homage to the surrounding countryside, which is dotted with oast houses by referring to this garden structure as a rondel. Rondel is an old Kentish word employed for the shape of the hop-drying floor in the oast-houses, where hops lay in mounds.

Oast houses are buildings designed for drying or “kilning” hops as part of the beer making or brewing process.  They are true examples of vernacular architecture -- many of which have over time have been converted to homes. (Vernacular architecture is a term used to categorize methods of construction, which use locally available resources and traditions to address local needs and circumstances. Additional examples would be igloos and log cabins. Vernacular architecture tends to evolve over time to reflect the environmental, cultural and historical context in which it exists.)

Oast house photos, wikipedia

In “Sissinghurst, Portrait of a Garden”, the author Jane Brown believed that this hedged circle in yew is  “of Italian Inspiration.”

Rondels are also considered in architecture a circular window opening or the beadmolding of a capital.   But, upon further research the word “rondel” is either from the old French or old English word “roont”, meaning round or small circle. Present inspiration for the rondel can be found in the London Underground as its logo.  Past history also finds it as the logo for the RAF.
London Underground logo, wikipedia

 Castlerigg stone circle/ wikipedia

Excuse the pun, but “coming full circle”, a roundel enclosure is a type of pre-Christian and prehistoric enclosure found in Europe.  Stone circles. Timber circles, prehistoric earthworks enclosures are all examples of this.  Stonehenge, a megalithic structure of stones is recently believed by some to have had multiple rondel hedges surrounding it thousands of years ago.


''I believe that the artist must achieve creative control over the whole of his environment.''- New York Times, October 21, 1984

Herbert Bayer was intimately involved in the celebrated Bauhaus school in Germany in the 1920s and 30s: first as a student, and then as one of its directors. He emigrated to the United States in 1938. As an advocate of Bauhaus principles he produced works which expressed the needs of an industrial age, the positive collaboration between business and art, mirroring the advanced tendencies of the avant-garde.

typography by Herbert Bayer, entrance to Bauhaus    image: Wikipedia

The Bauhaus was based on the principles of the 19th-century English designer William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement that spoke of art meeting the needs of society and that no distinction should be made between fine arts and practical crafts. It was also dependent on the more forward-looking principles that modern art and architecture must be responsive to the needs and influences of the modern industrial world and that good designs must pass the test of both aesthetic standards and sound engineering. This Bauhaus style, could also be described as the absence of ornament and ostentatious facades and by a harmony between function and the artistic and technical means employed.

For over 60 years Bayer created pioneering works in painting, sculpture, environmental works, industrial design, typography, architecture, photography, and applied design.  He was truly what can be referred to as “a renaissance man,” one of the few "total artists" of the twentieth century. 

"Metamophosis"1936 photographic montage
image: metmuseum.org

Marble Garden, 1955
Aspen Meadows Hotel 
In this experimental garden, Bayer introduced modernist imagery into the environment for perhaps the first time. Slabs and blocks of white marble were sourced from a nearby abandoned quarry for this thirty-eight foot square experimental garden that begins to suggests the notion that all gardens are nothing more than three dimensional sculpture.

The "Grass Mound" (1955), came to inspire a whole generation of earthworks artists and initiated the ground for ecological design and restoration projects of today.

Sketches for earthworks by Bayer...

Installed in 1982, the "Earthworks" was hyped for its fusion of art and infrastructure, making the installation a powerful precedent for landscape designers, architects, engineers and artists.  A series of sculpted spaces that feel both ancient and modern, the Earthworks’ pure forms of geometry -- cones, circles, lines and berms—are built into the alluvial delta at the mouth of Mill Creek Canyon. Grass and concrete, a wood bridge and steps: these are the materials at work, joined by the natural forces of Mill Creek itself.  According to Landscape Architecture magazine, "the city of Kent, Washington,  through its Arts Commission and Parks and Recreation Department, commissioned this project as a solution to urban stormwater runoff and its resultant soil erosion problems. The environmental artwork was a means of enlivening the plans for a proposed stormwater detention basin and creating an unusual entrance to an existing public park. The city's goals were to control flooding, to restore fish runs, and to create an aesthetically pleasing facility that would contribute to enhancing the park."

Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks 1982
image: landscapemodeling.org

previous images: flicker.com

Photo by John Hoge and Nancy Leahy

"Layered Landscape" 1944 gouache on paper   
image: aspen journal

In his commercial graphic design work, he was an advocate of social responsibility in design -- products or services that promote positive ideas and behaviors while promoting the company.   In 1941 the Container Corporation which produced 90 percent to 95 percent of its cardboard from wastepaper hired Bayer to oversee a series of posters promoting the companies ability to recycle products on a grand scale, linking corporate responsibility with the environment.  

Subsequently, Bayer also oversaw another series of posters linking entitled "Great Ideas of Western Man".

"The things that will destroy America are prosperity at any price, peace at any price, safety first instead of duty first, and love of soft living and the get-rich-quick theory of life."--Theodore Roosevelt. 
From the series Great Ideas of Western Man. 1959 Herbert Bayer 

“In a response to the Earth Day of 1970, the Container Corporation announced a design competition for a trademark for recycling in the spirit of Bayer. The competition was won by a student at the University of Southern California presenting the symbol at the Design Conference in Aspen (Figure 7).87 Now universally known, its history goes back to the Bauhaus ideal for living in harmony with the natural world.”
-Environmental History, Peter Anker  April 2007

original design for recycling
image" wikipedia