Have Passport, Will Travel: Global Citizen Christian Moore

Across the vast Flevopolder landscape of the Netherlands, Christian Moore rode his bike toward the setting sun as clouds gathered above. Against the ever-present North Sea winds, he made his way over the last 35 kilometers to his camp for the night.

The Knowlton School landscape architecture senior was on an early leg of his summer tour through Western Europe, exploring foreign landscapes, engaging with locals and meeting with experts in the field of landscape architecture. He arrived at the site of Robert Morris’ 1977 Observatory, a land-art piece consisting of two concentric earth mounds with openings to allow for astronomic observations. In the huddle of the earthwork, Moore finished off a baguette and pindakaas (peanut butter), and settled in for the night.

“I’ve spent the last three years at Knowlton learning about what designers and scholars call the grand tour, which takes them through the great cultural centers of Europe early in their careers,” Moore commented. “I thought, the opportunities are there. Why not make this happen?” After a lot of letter and proposal writing, and receiving guidance from Knowlton School faculty, Moore was able to secure three grants that would fund his two-and-a-half-month sojourn in Europe.

Funded completely by an Honors & Scholars Enrichment Grant, the first leg of Moore’s European trip was a three-week tour through Paris, London and Amsterdam, where he studied planting designs in parks and gardens. It was in an iconic building, though, where he experienced his first Old World epiphany. “I went into Notre Dame Cathedral early in the morning and it was basically empty. And I just had to sit down. It was so overwhelming. It was my first “Wow” moment.” From exploring the enormous scale of the Versailles gardens to biking along the engineered infrastructure of the Afsluitdijk, Moore experienced similar intense moments through his travels.

The second leg of Moore’s journey covered the countryside of the Netherlands, a three-week excursion through a man-made landscape connected by small villages and hamlets. “The Dutch landscape is famously artificial,” commented Moore. “It’s a war landscape – the Dutch have been battling the North Sea for a thousand years.” Through the process of land reclamation from the sea, the Dutch people have created farmlands called polders. These basic units of the Dutch landscape are flat patchworks of agricultural plots, divided by extensive canal networks and historically drained by the famous windmills of the Netherlands. Moore’s research focused on the methods of Dutch planners, engineers and landscape architects to halt the subsidence of the fields while keeping the ocean at bay.

Following a clockwise loop of the country, Moore covered enough miles that he had to turn in his bike for a new one: “The bike just wore out. The wheels started to wobble and parts were coming loose. Luckily, I was able to replace the bike in Amsterdam.” This mode of transportation, however, had an unexpected benefit, as Moore recalled, “The biking itself was a surprising research method – I physically felt the contours of the landscape – dikes, canals, fields, metal infrastructure – as I rode across them.”

While he did take photographs of the landscape and sites he visited, Moore’s principle method of documentation was drawing in his Moleskine. He explains that drawing forced him to sit for a length of time and really study the site he was observing: “You learn to see the parts this way, which you may not if you are behind a camera.”

“I was drawing every day, and I used my drawings as an entry point for conversations with locals,” stated Moore. This routine led to an unexpected encounter with a Dutch family. Moore recalls drawing at his campsite when the camp warden approached and examined his work. “Very good. I would like you to draw my house,” the warden stated. Taking advantage of the unusual request, Moore spent the next day drawing the old farmhouse outside Rotterdam. After giving the warden the sketch, he turned to Moore and said, “OK. Now you come inside and have cake with my family.” Moore reflected, “It was a different sort of experience from Notre Dame and other visits to great architectural sites and gardens. It was a simple, yet very profound moment. You realize that even though there is a little language barrier, you are still able to connect with people abroad, and that’s what made it such a rich experience.”

Moore completed his Architecture Research Travel Award (ARTA) funded trip by meeting with a landscape architecture professor at TU Delft to discuss the evolution of Dutch infrastructure, visiting a salt farm on the island of Texel, and touring Waterschap Rivierenland, one of the largest Dutch Water Authorities.

Traveling to Germany for a five-week visit funded by a Garden Club of America Horticulture Scholarship, Moore gave up his peregrinations between campgrounds and hostels, and settled into lodging in the Baden-Württemberg region. At the Schau- und Sichtungsgarten Hermannshof, a roughly ten-acre botanical garden located in the center of the medieval city of Weinheim, Moore worked under the direction of Herr Cassian Schmidt. While joining a team of gardeners to perform tasks such as planting, pruning and trimming, Moore studied novel planting communities and planting designs within an urban environment. During his daily conversations with Schmidt, Moore received what he called “nuggets of wisdom,” practical advice ranging from plant species interactions to design considerations when introducing plants to new habitats. 

“I really grew a lot in my abilities as a designer, but also as a global citizen,” reflected Moore. “When you travel abroad, your world gets so much bigger.” He emphasized that international travel allows a student to create a catalog of experiences that can be drawn upon as one pursues a chosen field of study. For him, it was the legacy of design in Europe that stretches back a millennium that will have a lasting affect on him as a designer. “It set a high-bar for globetrotting. I have a greatly increased appreciation for fine craft in design and a belief that projects of heroic scale, where appropriate and necessary, are possible,” Moore stated. “The Dutch have done it!"

Moore indicates that if you know where to look there are abundant opportunities for funding. “The university really encourages students to go abroad,” he commented. “They want Ohio State students to go out into the world and bring back new ideas.”