Michael Singer (American, born 1945)
The Garden of the Seasons, 2003–4
Granite, cast concrete, painted steel, aluminum, copper, and plantings, 64 × 48 feet
Collection of Middlebury College Museum of Art, Vermont. Purchase of the Committee on Art in Public Places with funds provided by the Middlebury College Board of Trustees One Percent for Art Policy, 2004.048. Copyright © Michael Singer.
Location: Adjacent to the library
Michael Singer, who has been a resident of Vermont since 1971, is an internationally known sculptor who has redefined the practice of art and broadened its applicability to a surprisingly wide range of publicly funded and publicly maintained spaces. In addition to commissions for private residences, he has completed award-winning site-specific sculptural environments comprised of natural and man-made materials for airports, office complexes, college campuses, civic waste management facilities, waterfront recreational areas, and public parks. A graduate of Cornell University, he has been awarded fellowships and grants from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts. In 1996 he received the Vermont State Governor’s Award for the Arts from then Governor Howard Dean.
Singer was awarded the commission for a library garden at Middlebury following a competition in 2002–2003, which was sponsored by CAPP. An exhibition of three proposals was on view at the college Museum in spring 2003.
A popular destination as well as a seductive retreat for pedestrians and casual visitors to campus, Garden of the Seasons was conceived as a designated spot for study, contemplation, and refreshment of the senses. From the western and southern windows of the library one can enjoy a birds-eye view of the project. Even those who see the garden only from afar—in passing vehicles, for example—can enjoy its alluring conjunction of nature and culture. As its plantings mature and the seasons follow their courses, Garden of the Seasons is designed to affect and offer respite and pleasure to generations of Middlebury students, staff and passersby.
Occupying a space of approximately 30 feet in diameter, Garden of the Seasons is located to the south of the library building. Articulated both on the ground and above it, the garden space is defined by granite benches that form a semicircular enclosure and also a stepped wall that runs parallel to the sidewalk between the building and Storrs Avenue.
From afar the garden can be seen by its signature planting screen, a six by fourteen foot rectangle made of mesh, aluminum, painted steel, stainless steel cable, and copper piping that rises above the ground. In warmer months the screen carries a variety of deciduous vines and foliage, which change color with the seasons. In winter months it supports a wall of ice. The circular seating area of the garden encloses a “floor” made of cast aluminum and concrete with textured copper that harbors various indigenous plantings—mosses, flowers, and ferns.
The water that maintains the garden in the temperate seasons is furnished by a designated retention pool that holds run-off storm water. A swale of rocks and plantings extends from this pool, forming an arc around the garden that ends at the road at the perimeter of the library lawn. The entire area within this arc is planted with tall grasses and wild flowers. In the temperate seasons the water runs naturally; during the winter months a pump buried in the construction delivers water in upward pulses where it freezes on the planting screen.