Imagine for a moment New York is not the overbuilt metropolis so painfully familiar to us today, but a city still in formation. You have moved into an apartment overlooking a rubble-strewn lot—to be called Central Park —precisely for the opportunity its landscaped spaces will offer for walking, playing with the children, or otherwise temporarily sloughing off life's cares.

Only after you move in do you discover that the developers haven't hired a landscape architect to do the job, but an artist, one who boasts her ignorance of gardens but who nonetheless (working with an architect and a landscape architect) proposes to turn it into a kind of gigantic environmental sculpture made of flowers and hedges—something, in other words, that makes a mockery of the idea of taking one's ease in a city park.

Welcome to Jennifer Bartlett's South Gardens, the most unpopular public-art idea since...

 
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