In Puebloan Native American culture, Kiva is a place that is both highly spiritual and social. It is a place to commune with the dead, the sky and the spirits, and also the village’s meeting place for ceremonies and rituals.
In this garden dominated by white, walkers are first invited to walk through three shelters, each symbolising a fundamental part of the human being: body, spirit and soul.
It is only when you head towards the “house of the soul” that the dome of the Kiva, hidden until this point, appears as if floating on a cloud. The interior provides a pared-down space, immersed in darkness, encircled by a single circular bench, from where walkers can contemplate together the heavenly vault created by a light well.
This garden aims to provide a collective experience of reconnecting with nature and yourself. Its structure, combining recovered materials and living plants, invites visitors to take a virtuous look at our society and our future way of life. It also speaks to us of that elusive part of the human spirit, of that need to believe in a transcendental beyond, which we call spirituality.
Delphine MESTOUDJIAN, Laetitia DEMOL and Emmanuelle NATAF, garden designers
Laetitia Demol is a garden designer and graduate of the Versailles National Graduate School of Landscape Architecture.
“I spent all my childhood and teenage years in the countryside, in northern France, where I passed my free time gardening, nature watching, dancing and drawing. After studying Agri-Food Engineering, I specialised in marketing: from plant science to social science, thus the varied disciplines that I dealt with secretly but gradually converged towards the field of landscape architecture. I worked for nearly 15 years marketing food products. And, just as a product’s brand owes its strength to the ‘identity’ it is given, I wonder about what makes the ‘identity’ of a site, and about the sustainable design of a personalised space, according to the specific art of ‘garden art’. My concern for nature and the environment, combined with its varied artistic practices and interest from a design perspective, led me to take the plunge and make a career change. I added to my studies with a 2-year course in Garden and Park Design from the Versailles National Graduate School of Landscape Architecture, aiming to put my pragmatism as an engineer at the service of engaging the senses and sensitive creation. Passionate about this multifaceted profession, I am now continuing to improve my knowledge and recognition of plants.
Emmanuelle Nataf was born into the entertainment industry and dreams of being able to have several lives, given the number of interesting and rewarding professions there are that can evoke emotional reactions, through the body or mind. Passionate about iconic texts and performing arts, the daughter of an actor, she first devoted herself to the pleasures of the theatre. She received her Acting Diploma from the National Graduate School of Theatre Techniques and Arts and spent over 10 years treading the boards. She then changed direction to work in costume and was a head costume designer in the television industry for 20 years. One thing that remained constant in all her choices was the search for beauty, the perceptible and emotions in all forms of artistic expression. A music lover and musician in her spare time, she lived in the countryside as a teenager, working in a vegetable garden. Like music, proximity to nature is vital to her, keeping her balanced. Through her assignments and travel, her passion for landscape design and gardens was reaffirmed. The emotions she experienced exploring some of the most beautiful gardens in the world naturally led her to a second career change: a “Garden Design in the Landscape” course at the Versailles National Graduate School of Landscape Architecture. The theme Gardens of Paradise inspired within her an intense desire to express her imagination and sensitivity once more.
Garden designer and graduate of the Versailles National Graduate School of Landscape Architecture, Delphine Mestoudjian has always been curious about and attentive to the natural world that surrounds her. As a child, when she wasn’t drawing in her mother’s painting studio or going dancing which she did every day, she spent her free time at the bottom of the garden of a large house in the countryside, like a wild child, observing plants and small animals and creating works of visual art using ochres and objects collected from the garden. Working in the vegetable garden with her grandfather, who was a man of little words but who passed his know-how down through actions, put the finishing touches to the foundation of her being. She already had observational skills, creativity drawn from the surrounding world and the desire to share and give. Naturally, she studied Biology then Plant Biochemistry with a dissertation on cedars. Faced with problems funding her thesis and the desire to build on her knowledge and, above all, her scientific state of mind, she spent two years in Paris studying Scientific Communication. She organised events like the Festival du film scientifique (Scientific Film Festival) for the CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research) then worked for over 10 years as an assistant and researcher for TV documentaries. Afterwards, she slid into the press industry where, through articles about green roofs and terrace design, she rubbed shoulders with the garden designer world and realised once more how significant this field is to her. Escapes to the countryside and the smallest square of land she could find in Paris, where she lived, were good ways to get her hands back in the dirt again. Thus she led gardening workshops for children at the nursery and school that her three sons attended. When they were older, she listened to her lifelong aspirations – create with nature, make gardens – and, in 2016, she changed career. She worked as a gardener for landscapers in order to gain experience in the many different aspects of the profession and be as close as possible to plants and attended the Versailles Graduate School of Landscape Architecture where she learnt to design gardens herself. Since then, she has committed herself to creating gardens in their landscape with sensitivity and poetry, gardens tailored for life.