26 July 2010

Secret Garden

Located just behind the Grande rue de la Croix Rousse in Lyon's 4th district sits one of the most unlikely public spaces operated and maintained by the city of Lyon - the Rosa Mir Garden.

Jules Senis (1913-1983), a Spanish mason who fled his home for France during the Spanish civil war, spent approximately the last 20 years of his life creating the garden after surviving a bout with throat cancer.

The garden takes up nearly 400 square meters of an adjacent building's inner courtyard and offers a unique vision of what one artist's eye and steady hand can create with stone, shell and plant.

To find the entrance, go through the doors of 87 Grande rue de la Croix Rousse. You'll see the entrance gate a little farther up on the left.

A stone-covered column lining one of the garden's pathways.

A quiet place to sit and contemplate this unusual space.

A detail of one of the garden walls. Where each shell has been used as a planter, a small hole drilled into the bottom allows water to flow through.

Looking from the back of the garden towards the entrance.

The garden from above. I had a crazy thought while looking into the garden from here - to see it filled with water and then swim through it.

The view from the building where Mr. Senis lived.

According to one of the young men who works for the city of Lyon, Mr. Senis was fond of geese, and even kept several of them in this garden for a while. He eventually removed them due to the neighbors' complaints, but mostly because the law did not allow geese within city limits.

Mr. Senis got rid of the geese and, true to his character, got the last laugh by replacing them with peacocks. According to the law, peacocks were allowed in the city. Even one peacock is loud, but several living together...you can imagine his neighbors' dismay.

The only place I've seen peacocks in Lyon is at the Parc de la Tête d'or. So I asked the man if it's still legal to keep peacocks in the city.

He paused, then looked at me with a smile and said quite honestly, "I don't know."

The Rosa Mir garden is open on Saturday's from 3 to 6pm from the 1st of April to the 30th of November. If you're in Lyon, it's definitely worth a visit.

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