La Cresta: A Land-Sculpting Installation by Syd Carpenter and Steve Donegan
As part of a larger landscape plan, the latest addition to Woodmere’s grounds is a collaboration with Philadelphia artists Syd Carpenter and Steve Donegan. The land-sculpting installation takes inspiration from the horticultural practice of hügelkulture. Visually, La Cresta is comprised of two large organic mounds designed by the artists and inspired in part by the forms of sprouting seed pods. It is a work of art that blurs the line between creativity and horticultural practice.
The goal of hügelkulture, a practice associated with the northern-most societies of ancient Europe, is to create fertile planting and farming areas by creating mounds of earth built over layers of decaying wood and other organic materials. Mature trees from across Woodmere’s property, either damaged by storms or at the end of their lifecycle, have been given new purpose. The logs and branches are now at the heart of the “hügels,” and as the wood decays it will provide nutrients to the soil, encourage healthy soil ecology and sustain micororganisms that are essential to the health of the ecosystem. Since the process of decomposition generates heat, the hügels extend the growing season.
Syd Carpenter, sculptor and Professor of Art and the Peggy Chan Professorship in Black Studies at Swarthmore College, and artist Steve Donegan titled the hügels La Cresta, meaning “ridge” in Spanish, and referring to the ridge-like backbone of the mound shapes they sculpted. La Cresta is also a reference to nearby Ridge Avenue, one of the longest streets in Philadelphia and a Lenape byway that was established before the arrival of European settlers in the area in the 1600s.