Diana and the Four Elements

The DIANA MONUMENT

12 Months of Solitude (May 2020)

In April of 2020 I designed the Four Follies around our secluded lake which created a destination for a journey deep into the forest preserve. While I was creating the follies, I had not considered how these sculptural elements would be reached, and it became my task in May to begin to develop the plan for the trails that would connect the Four Follies to the entry oval, through the acres of dense forest that separated them. 

After some consideration I decided that instead of a single route up to the lake, that three routes were necessary to showcase the unique characteristics of this spectacular landscape. During the initial planning of these paths, I also felt that the layout and organization required an additional symbolic layering to differentiate them, as the routes they would follow were so dramatically different. I gave each of the special moments found at the site associative qualities, creating a journey that conveys my deep connection to this land and differentiating these walks from the experience that can be found within Algonquin Park, located 60km away.  

As explained in an earlier post, all the journeys into this landscape begin at the K. Winters Oval. The geometric rigor and compass orientation of this oval, carved from the surrounding trees, informed my decision to create a northern axial route into the forest from this point of embarkment.

When viewed from the entry oval this straight path will terminate in a sculptural element that I have entitled the Diana Monument.  Once constructed, it will be visible, far in the distance, across the darkness of the densely forested river valley below.

Heading north from the oval, guests will descend either of the stairs which will curve around the Genesis Grotto to access the forest floor below.

Explorers can then walk on either of the pathways that will line the terraced waters of the Metamorphosis Ponds, through an open, understory of birch and maple trees, as they proceed toward a stream.

After crossing a short foot bridge, hikers will find a circular clearing, shaded by a large spruce tree with sharp, arrow-like branches, which extend down to the forest floor.  

The three arched gateways, covered in a tangle of vines, will announce that the hikers have reached the Diana Monument.

This sculptural element is dedicated to my Aunt Diane, the eldest sister of my father and Uncle Noel. Diane played an important role in my understanding of the world outside of our insular symmetrical family of double parents which I knew nothing about until her arrival.  Between the age of 15 and 17, while I was in high-school, Diane lived in our home. She was an enormous influence on me during these years as I was beginning to lay the foundations for my entry into architecture school, and I still struggle to understand what led to her taking her own life in the spring of 1982.

The Diana Monument will function as the formal and symbolic meeting place from which the three wilderness walks originate. I designed the monument to be the transition between the structured axial walk that extends from the oval and the informal, naturalized routes which lead away from it.  At this juncture, the paths forward will meander, following the contours of the land to reveal the specific characteristics that I want to bring out in this spectacular landscape.  From here, each individual hiker can determine which route, of the three, they wish to take into the wilderness.

The Roman goddess Diana provides a cultural reference point for the symbolic organization of the three routes.  Her connection with my Aunt Diane is complex as both are nuanced characters with a rich history. I chose this source for inspiration since the goddess Diana has deep connections to nature. By associating this historic figure with my aunt, it articulates the connection to the role that she played in my life.  My aunt represented to me the bridge between the informality of my family life and her cultured formality. The location of the Diana Monument is positioned to mediate a similar shift in perception. 

The goddess Diana was primarily associated with hunting, and was revered as the goddess of the woods, and wild animals. Her worshippers believed she had the power to talk to woodland animals and thought that she was able to control their movements and behavior. While her presence was incorporated in many Italian Renaissance and Baroque gardens, it is during the 18th and 19th centuries that the symbolism of Diana would evolve to become a central thematic element in the design of parks and landscapes. This long history of her association with nature, parks and gardens connects Diana further to our preserve in Muskoka.

Because of Diana’s strong connections to woodland creatures, hunting, and the moon, she is sometimes referred to as the Triple Goddess. She was also associated with the “fork in the road” and it is at this point in the landscape that the three routes, leading into the wilderness areas of the property, originate. 

Historically, Roman artists created sculptures depicting Diana with three heads, those of a dog, a boar, and a horse and often these figures were placed in the landscape where roads met.  In this instance, for our site in Muskoka, a sculptural representation of the skulls of the three iconic species of this wilderness will be placed above the arched thresholds.

These three arches, one dedicated to the wolf, the other the bear and the last, the moose, represent the three iconic, land-based, animals of the Muskoka wilderness.  They correspond to the dog, the boar, and the horse which were the “trinity” of animals associated with the Roman goddess Diana. 

From the circular space enclosed by the three arches, hikers can explore the panoramic Wolf Trail (AIR) leading to the highest point on the property. The Bear Trail (EARTH) which takes explorers through the darkened boulder strewn, Berley Valley with its numerous waterfalls. And finally, the Moose Trail (WATER) which crosses Berley Creek and leads to the shimmering waters of Rabbit Bay.  The fourth element of (FIRE) is fundamental to how I have conceived and illustrated the various sculptural elements that I have created throughout the forest.

It is through the exploration of these three unique pathways that the intersecting nature of the elements comes to life through the illumination of fire. I will explore this theme further in my forthcoming post.

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