Tag Archive | Isaiah Zagar

Philly – Magic Gardens

Magic Gardens

Having travelled a bit, sometimes I think that I’ll run out of interesting things to see. The main example I think of is Gothic cathedrals – when I visit these now it’s usually out of a sense of obligation, as they have stated looking very similar to one another.

But the more I travel, the more I encounter things unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

In Philadelphia, it was the Magic Gardens.

Located on South Street, the Magic Gardens include an outdoor mosaic sculpture garden and a completely tiled indoor space, designed by Isaiah Zagar. Like Philly’s Gaudi, Zagar’s mosaics decorate buildings around the south of the city centre and are instantly recognisable.

The garden is a mini-labyrinth – there are low arches and tunnels leading to tiled courtyards, and walls are constructed from bicycle wheels, blue and green glass bottles, old bricks, plates and concrete. The concrete is painted in pastels and the tiles are plain, fragments of patterns, letters or shards of mirror.

I loved the mirrors in the mosaics – in the garden they glittered as they captured the sun, whereas others created the illusion of transparent windows in the walls. It was only when I went into the indoor basement that I realised I could see glimpses of my reflection in the mosaics – a collarbone here, a nose there, an elbow, my pockets . . . I had become a part of the masterpiece.

A wavy line of mirror fragments snaked down one wall, and my eyes were transfixed by it as I walked out – the mirrors flickered up and down my body as I stepped, the flashes like frames from an old film. I resisted the urge to return and walk past it again, and then sat in the sunny courtyard one last time.