English Gardens

Handel’s Pastoral Mode and The English Landscape Revolution

Paul Willen, FAIA

Tuesday, March 22, noon – 1:30 pm
Town Hall

Thursday, March 24, noon – 1:30 pm
Trinity Parish Hall

$25, includes lunch

Handel and the Gardens

Architect Paul Willen presents two performances of his stunning musical slide show demonstrating the deep affinity between Handel’s gorgeous pastoral music and the soft and mellifluous “natural” gardens introduced into the English countryside in the early 18th century.

Starting with Handel’s triumphant arrival in London in 1710, then describing his life among the great poets, architects, literati and the visionary developer-aristocrats of this wealthy and powerful city, the talk ends with a panoramic stroll through the gentle hills, lakes and classical temples of this new Arcadia – set to one of Handel’s most sensuous and beautiful arias.

Paul Willen

Paul Willen, Fellow, American Institute of Architects — an architect with a career spanning almost fifty years and a lifelong Handelian — has long sought to explore the link between the art of music and architecture. “To hear the buildings — and see the music.”

Willen’s architecture has always focused on the dynamic interaction between structure and landscape, the human scale and the environment — topography, foliage, climate, energy. For Willen this interaction was a form of music. Major examples of this work are a new town near Isfahan, Iran (1974-7), a small village in Vermont (1984-8), a new community in the suburbs of Shanghai (1999-2005).

In vast plans for the redevelopment of the New York City waterfront (now being realized) Willen laid out parks for public enjoyment, biking, boating, and for skyscrapers of business and residence. Among these prize-winning projects are The Lower Manhattan Plan (1966 -70), the Hudson River Park (1980 – present), and Riverside Park South (1992 – present).

Willen experienced a musical epiphany at age 18 when, as a freshman at Oberlin College, he discovered the glory of the baroque, its brilliance, passion, the sweet melancholy. From that time he pursued the baroque (and Handel in particular) as an independent study, weaving back and forth with his design work on the land. He has sung many of the great oratorios and masses of this period with distinguished choral groups.