My personal favorite projects are Colorado Hardscapes’ di Giacomo rock projects. Recently we completed a project for Pressley Associates in Albany, New York. It is always an honor to work with such wonderful landscape architects. On this project, we were asked to create some artificial rocks for a rooftop garden for the new expansion of the existing medical center. Located on the 3rd or 4th floor, this garden greets visitors as they enter the facility from the adjacent parking deck. It also provides comfort and nature to the patient rooms and hallways that overlook the space. As di Giacomo boulders, these couldn’t just be rocks placed on a deck. When di Giacomo rocks are specified, there is a purpose beyond what is drawn on a set of plans or even viewed out a window. The primary goal of di Giacomo rocks are to qualitatively change people. Now, no one will go to the Albany Medical Center and say “wow, we’ve got to go back there to see those rocks again!”. No, that is not the point of di Giacomo rocks.
The original design intent by Pressley Associates showed three groupings of rocks tied together with pavers, a flowing cobble bed, and a beautiful dusting of landscaping and trees. The serene design required rocks which complemented the desired subtle impact. At di Giacomo, we start with the design given to us by a talented Landscape Architect and transform it into a 3D maquette (precisely-scaled model). It’s not as simple as putting clay on a modeling board and viola – there are your rocks, let’s start building. The toughest part of any di Giacomo maquette is understanding the space, audience, and the impact of the rocks. Many elements are planted into the design that may never been seen or verbalized, but subliminally are present. One of the most basic design elements brought into this space was the idea of a dry stream bed. The Landscape Architect beautifully placed the groupings of rocks along a flowing path of dry cobble and lush green landscaping. The obvious starting point for the rock maquette was to simulate the presence of water. At one end we created what we identified as the “source rock” This rock grouping has the most dynamic attributes as it is the subliminal source of the water. Through the education of geomorpholgy, these rocks were designed to show the motion picture of the past, present and future. Water once flowed through this space and originated at this grouping of rocks – pushing them, weathering them, breaking them apart, and giving them their character. The next grouping of rocks originated from the source rock area, but have been pushed through the stream over time and are slightly more weathered, worn, and fractured. The last grouping is the most weathered as the water pushed it further down the stream and scattered the rocks a bit more. But still there is a sense of natural order.
In addition to the dry stream bed design, we also tied in the old Japanese gardening/rock placement theory of the devil and the children. The devil and the children is a child’s game where there are two groups of kids. One group has the devil as their leader and they try to capture kids from the other group. In rock placement, this is signified by 2 groups of rocks, each with one larger rock with a trail of smaller rocks hiding/following behind. In this space, the two down-stream formations are playing this old game, darting and hiding behind the trees and planters.
Are either of these design elements identified by the passerbys in this medical center? Not likely, nor do we want them to scream a story at anyone. The intent is to create features that blend in with the beautiful landscaping and tell an accurate geomorphological story so that no one points at them and says, “hey, look at those fake rocks”. As the landscaping grows in, these rocks will just be peaking out at the visitors at the hospital, hardly noticed by anyone, but they help create the serene design intended by Pressley Associates. And hopefully the qualitatively change people’s lives by providing a serene space in what could otherwise be a stark environment.
As you’ll notice from the finished photo, during the construction (and maybe VE) process, the pavers were eliminated and replaced by more cobble, which lost some of the dry streambed story, but if you look carefully, you can still see a rough outline of the original design intent in the cobble. I look forward to seeing this space years from now as the landscaping flourishes and natural weather helps age our rocks even further into the natural environment.
In the end, yes, di Giacomo rocks are great for rooftop gardens since they can be constructed and placed much lighter than natural rocks and because of their high quality level of detail, construction and strength. But, there is so much more to di Giacomo rocks than meets the eye.