by Chih-Wei G.V. Chang, ASLA
An Interview with Antoine Nerval on International Practice and Planting Design
“The potential of landscape planting design is often limited by the supply of plant materials, especially when proposing a complex and diverse living system. Such proposals are in many cases considered unrealistic and too expensive…that is why we decided to start from plant collection and plant nursery.”
– Antoine Nerval
Antoine Nerval is an agricultural engineer who designs vertical gardens. He has created living murals and built nurseries around the world, and is currently working on one of the world’s largest botanical gardens in Normandy, France. This interview—conducted by Chih-Wei G.V. Chang, past chair of ASLA’s International Practice Professional Practice Network (PPN), for a research project—sheds light on Antoine’s unconventional practice and approach to landscape architecture and international planting design.
Coming from a French agricultural engineering background, what did you find particularly different working in the field of landscape architecture? Did anything catch your attention practicing alongside landscape architects in the United States?
It has been easy to communicate with landscape architects because I myself also love to draw or ‘graffiti’ on the paper, and the scale of landscape is similar to larger murals. From my point of view, it is a perfect mix between agriculture engineering and art.
I think in the United States, the landscape architecture industry is very mature and professional, but the specialization also leads to the disconnection between plants and design. Working alongside many excellent teams, I was surprised to find little design discussion about planting materials in the early conceptual phase. The plant selection often only got serious at a much later phase, where designers have less control. It is quite a missed opportunity for many talented landscape designers. For me, my first thoughts for any design projects would always be inspired by particular plants or settings, and then the designs evolve around them.