Visions: Sculpture landscape

Kevin Knippenberg, president of K.M.K. Landscape Design & Installation in Centerville, Massachusetts, recently completed a project honoring late president John F. Kennedy. The Hyannis (Massachusetts) Area Chamber of Commerce commissioned sculptor David Lewis to create a life-size bronze statue of Kennedy at the JFK Hyannis Museum, and Knippenberg’s company designed and installed the surrounding landscape.

The statue depicts Kennedy stepping forward among rose rugosa bushes and beach grass. Knippenberg worked with Lewis to design a landscape depicting a typical Cape Cod beach scene, complete with sand from the Hyannisport beach where Kennedy spent a good part of his childhood learning to swim and sail. K.M.K. Landscape installed the statue’s foundation as well as the plants.

TLC: How did the statue/landscape commission come about?
KK: The statue landscape commission was constructed of board members from the community and people involved in the JFK Museum on Main Street in Hyannis. They contacted me through a Rotary Club home show that I was exhibiting at in the spring of 2006.

TLC: How did you incorporate the “beach” landscape into the overall effect?
KK: The general theme of the statue was John F. Kennedy walking through the dunes of Hyannisport, so we used plant material such as dune grass, juniper and roses that are native to the area along with authentic Hyannisport sand to create a beach effect.

TLC: How much contact with the artist did you have?
KK: Once construction began it was day-by-day discussions to make sure everything was right for the statue, which is the focal point of the design.

TLC: What were the specific challenges?
KK: Working with a publicly funded project meant we had to wait for the funds to be released and then adapt to a tight turn-around time to be ready for the unveiling ceremony. In addition to this we had to wait for special-order granite curbing to arrive. It was engraved with a Kennedy quote: “I always go to Hyannisport to be revived, to know again the power of the sea and the master who rules over it, and all of us.” This made the curbing very delicate and we had to avoid any chipping. A public courtyard in front of the museum and a busy one-way road made it difficult to get the concrete truck into place to reach the pour for the footing.

TLC: How did you handle the installation?
KK: We had a crew of three men onsite along with a mini excavator and dump truck. We had to shut down most of the courtyard, but still leave access to the sidewalk along with the handicap ramp to the museum. We then excavated the site and cut existing bluestone patio to fit new curbing. Once curbing was installed, we excavated the hole for the footing for the statue. Next, we lowered the form work in place and then brought a cement mixer in to pour the footing and concrete to lock the curbing in place. After the concrete was dry, we trucked in fill to create the mounded effect for the soon-to-be beach theme. After that the statue was lowered into place by a crane, with help from David Lewis. Only after the statue was in place were we able to bring in the plant stock and lay out our design. After the plants were installed we had special sand supplied by the Town of Barnstable from the beaches in Hyannisport which put the finishing touch on the area.

TLC: Do you see this as a trend? Incorporating hardscape/sculpture/art with landscape elements?
KK: Yes, I find it to be something that is unique and adds value to the landscape when you can incorporate such a fine piece of art into it.

TLC: Describe your work with technical schools.
KK: I am on the curriculum committee at Upper Cape Tech in Bourne, Massachusetts. I was asked to join by instructor Josh Greely along with other landscaper professionals in the area to help develop a curriculum for a new program in landscaping at the tech school.

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