Kudos for the Kudus House Garden
My new home is Vashon Island, in Washington State. It’s a place where many threads of my personal history are woven together. Surprisingly, some of them are also knotted tight to the threads that bind my heart forever to Indonesia, where I lived for over 20 years.
One of those threads is my long friendship with (the late) David Smith of David Smith & Co, whose Indonesian base was in the district of Blitar, East Java. There he gathered artisans, craftsmen, carvers, friends, and old Javanese traditional teak structures, furniture, folk art, and lore. The Blitar workshop salvaged, conserved, restored, re-purposed, and exported these treasures to David’s vast showroom in Seattle. His other home was just outside of Seattle, where he created a wonderland of a house compound here on Vashon Island, incorporating many structures and objects from Indonesia, most notably the “Kudus House” (photo above). Another essential element of David’s place was a motherlode of salvaged granite material from China sourced by my childhood friend Charlie Ragen and his wife Wen Jun.
To make a landscape garden honoring old Indonesian wood, and ancient Chinese granite would be quite a feat. These contrasting components, moreover, would necessarily have to abide in symbiosis with the powerful genius loci of the Pacific Northwest, a land of fjords, ferns, fog, towering firs, rugged mountain ranges, rain, rain, and rain. So who would be up to such a design challenge?
David Pfeiffer, an idiosyncratic master who takes only certain commissions, was absolutely up to it — as the results shown here clearly demonstrate. Kudos to Pfeiffer for his work at the Kudus House garden! He composed an enduring landscape that is also dynamic and enchanting at any season, in any weather, no matter how foul and gloomy. I never cease to be cheered, calmed, and humbled, by what Pfeiffer, Smith, the Chen-Ragens and the Pacific Northwest genius loci created here on Vashon Island at the Kudus House compound. I understand that since David’s demise the buildings and landscape of this collaborative magnum opus are to be preserved by the estate’s new owners. Thankfully.