I recently came across a photo of the Modern at its opening in December of 2002. The imposing façade is flat. The many leafless trees are small against the bulk of the building.
What a difference the seven years since have made.
More than one hundred bald cypress trees grace the grounds of the Modern. They line the perimeter of the parking lot in a rhythm of two trees, three parking spaces then two trees again. They shade the interior of the parking lot in a similar fashion. And they flank the entrance in two small groves, those trees placed personally by architect Tadao Ando. Ando-san famously described his desire to build here an “arbor for art”. As the cypresses mature that vision becomes clearer and clearer as the separation between outside and inside becomes less distinct.
These trees are reminiscent of the evergreen Japanese Cedar or Sugi, which shares its buttressed trunk and delicate foliage. Sugi are often found planted around shrines and temple precincts in Japan to shade visitors from the sun and hush the sounds of the surrounding city. Here at the Modern, the cypresses perform a similar function. Unlike their Japanese counterparts though, they shed their feathery foliage in autumn, hence the appellation “bald”.
The leaves turn subtle shades of rust as they fall, echoing the weathered steel of Richard Serra’s Vortex. Come see, before the leaves are gone.
Composing a haiku on the view is suggested but not mandatory. Feel free to post yours in the comments section.