Interview

Enzo Enea

Swiss landscape architect, Enzo Enea, has designed more than 1,000 gardens for hotels, spas and museums, as well as privately for the Queen of Bahrain and Prince Charles. He talks to Kath Hudson about saving trees, creating outdoor rooms and working with Zaha Hadid


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What inspired you to become a landscape architect?
My love of nature began as a child, when I spent summers at my grandfather’s farm in Italy. I used to help him build stone fountains for the garden, which was the start of a life-long appreciation for craftwork and high quality materials. My father went into stone masonry work, and I took over his garden ornament business before becoming a landscape architect.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
It’s a beautiful life: for me it’s not working, just living! I love working in diverse climate zones and facing new challenges. We might be building a new pond, working within an existing river ecosystem or bringing greenery to a city.

What is your signature approach to landscape architecture?
I create rooms outdoors to use and live in as well as enhancing the microclimate and complementing the surrounding architecture. The architecture is like the handwriting of the architect, and it’s important for me to read the site and integrate the outdoor space with the building.

The site tells you what to do. Sometimes it’s about creating a filter with trees to reduce pollution; sometimes it’s a filter for privacy from the neighbours. Sometimes filters aren’t required at all because it’s the open countryside, so other things are needed like the creation of ha-has or opening up or framing views of the surroundings. Sociology and functionality are the two most important aspects when we design – how an individual lives and interacts.

You have created the world’s only Tree Museum. How did you start collecting trees?
I started saving trees which were being cut down on construction sites about 20 years ago, and it became a passion of mine. It is very difficult to transplant mature trees. They need to be trimmed properly and irrigated immediately; otherwise they’ll die. Transporting these trees is also difficult; sometimes we have to use helicopters.

We found land at a convent by Lake Zurich to house the collection, and now the museum is open to the public, welcoming 30,000 to 40,000 visitors a year. I wanted to show people what a tree really is and help them to understand what trees mean to us. At the museum, trees are appreciated as objects; each tree is set against a block of sandstone, and the space is complemented by contemporary sculptures by renowned artists. The museum combines landscape, botany, art, architecture and design. We add two or three trees a year; each has its own unique story, and I love them all.

You’re currently working on the One Thousand Museum in Miami, what was your approach?
This is a very interesting project with the gardens facing very futuristic architecture by Zaha Hadid. It was also important to integrate the site with the museum and Miami Bay. We are using mangrove trees, coconut palms and grasses to create outdoor rooms which have a feeling of privacy as well as a sense of escape. The building has lots of glass which gives back heat, so we are integrating canopies of trees to provide shade.

It was exciting working with Zaha. She was very interesting, and I was proud to work with such a great architect on one of her last projects. The One Thousand Museum is going to be a very compelling project.

Tell us about the Fasano Shore Club in Miami
We have worked with the Brazilian architect, Isay Weinfeld, on this project, which is an update of the beachfront property in the re-emerging historic district of Miami Beach with the creation of 75 luxury apartments and hotel suites, a fitness centre, spa, restaurants and beachside pools with cabanas.

There is an existing beautiful old pool, and we have plans to build an additional 70m pool which will be divided so that every person has the feeling of being in their own, private pool. Natural palms will surround it and frame the architecture of the pavilion. There will be different scales and heights within the landscape. Trees are being used to create privacy within a very tropical environment along with various palm trees, mangroves and lush underplanting. It will give the feeling of air and space with clearly-defined outside rooms.

How did you approach the Lanserhof Tegernsee medical spa project?
This was a challenging project. We needed to meet the functional needs of a multiple award-winning medical spa and integrate the spa within the beautiful landscape of the Tegernsee mountains in Germany and with Christoph Ingenhoven’s architecture, while linking the site with the nearby golf course and golf hotel. [See interview with Christoph Ingenhoven on p80].
Central to our design is the lush atrium, designed with a combination of yew hedges shaped like waves, large Scotch pines and lots of high grasses which give privacy to the treatment rooms as well as tie the site with the surrounding landscape. We used pines, oaks, yews, beech trees, grasses and hydrangeas. We wanted to use as little planting materials as possible so that we didn’t detract from the view; the planting was just to provide a frame and a microclimate. We created a Zen-like atmosphere where guests can enjoy the serene outdoor environment. As we also helped in choosing the materials for the spa, there’s a real integration between the outdoors and interior.

The client chose a strong architect, and he chose us because of our understanding of places. They believed we could work well together and create a unique atmosphere reflecting the beautiful environment of the German Alps. It was a challenging project because we planned and built in 18 months, but we’re very proud of the building and environment which we helped to create. It is an interesting integration of landscape and architecture. The spa is 99 percent booked all year-round, and guests from all over the world are enjoying our architecture.

What is the Genesis resort and when will it open?
This is a new urban resort in Beijing. The first phase opened last year, the hotel opened in September 2017 and the museum will open in 2018. This new complex is set to create a new way of living: all about interacting with art, nature and architecture, which is a new concept in China. We wanted to stay true to our client’s idea of developing a holistic project which would touch and transform society through art, design and, most importantly, nature – all beliefs we share in our daily practice as landscape architects.

Three different types of architecture have been used for the office towers, the Bulgari Hotel and the Genesis Art Foundation, designed by Tadao Ando. In the same fashion, the outdoor spaces were carefully designed to enhance the experiences of each one of the programmes, including the public realm with the riverside promenade and amphitheater.

KPF designed the office towers, Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel designed the Bulgari Hotel, and we had the task of bringing this all together by embracing and interacting with the three diverse buildings and creating privacy where the client or program required it.

The landscape architecture was inspired by traditional Chinese gardens and the contemporary Italian architecture of the hotel. There were many challenges and restrictions, so we couldn’t create a very dense forest because there wasn’t enough space, but we obtained permission to transplant mature pine trees from the forest and to build up a rafter of trees with winding and sculptural shapes in order to give the sensation of usable, outdoor rooms to read, speak, drink tea and socialise in. These native pine trees have become living sculptures that tie the entire complex together.

I wanted to stay true to the idea of developing a holistic project which could incorporate art, design and nature, and of bringing these different types of architecture together in one park. I’m really proud of how people are using it – it’s buzzing from morning until night. People meet at the library, go to the park and attend speeches about art and culture. It’s a cultural project which really works and will improve the quality of life.

ABOUT ENZO ENEA

• After training as an industrial designer, Enzo Enea studied landscape architecture in London and then travelled to Brazil and Hawaii where he designed his first major landscape project for a Sheraton hotel

• Enea has received numerous gold and silver awards at the Giardina show in Basel and Zurich, and in 1998 he was the winner of the newcomer award at the Chelsea Flower Show

• Enea has a team of 250 employees which incorporates all the skills needed to plan and build a garden, including carpenters, gardeners, landscape architects, stonemasons and metal-workers

• Projects underway include: The Peninsula Hotel in Istanbul; Fasano Shore Club, Miami; the Zaha Hadid-designed One Thousand Museum, Miami; Bulgari Hotel Tokyo; Park Grove in Miami; the Genesis resort in Beijing; and Oaks Prague, a five star boutique hotel designed by Richard Meier in Prague

Enea has offices in New York, Zurich, Miami and Rapperswil-Jona, Switzerland
Enea has offices in New York, Zurich, Miami and Rapperswil-Jona, Switzerland
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Interview: Enzo Enea
Landscape architect Enzo Enea on saving trees, changing the face of Miami and working with Zaha Hadid