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Marius Boulesteix: The Pan Priape

From Balenciaga’s fashion house to designer garden houses, Marius Boulesteix sets the aesthetic GREEN.

Audrey Hepburn once said, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”. But what does tomorrow actually look like? Is today’s grass truly viridescent, say an Eau de Nil? Is pastoral hope for tomorrow really emerald? Or is it all just relative in glory and grace? As you know, they do say that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.

Well, let’s skip today, and tomorrow, for just a minute and jump to a hundred years from now to 2123, possibly. Where magical novels line the shelves with stories of today’s roaring 20s. One novel in particular, a bestseller and my favorite, The Pan Priape is the story of Marius Boulesteix; the landscape visionary who always saw a more scintillating, but never-aging future. For Marius, tomorrow is today, and today, was forever young, and it was poetic. 

“For me, excellence is la poésie, when something is poetic then we approach perfection. It also makes me think about what Eugène Delacroix said, ‘An excellent gardener is worth an excellent poet.”

So let’s rewind back to today. How did Marius end up as the guardian warrior of the oasis and golden green thumb of the Mediterranean? Well, catching up with him in Marrakesh, he tells me that as he is still highly passionate about fashion, he had found landscaping humbling.

“To work in contact with nature is to be humble. What is sorely lacking in fashion is a 2% that made me change paths.”

Marius’s excellency reached supremacy; his formal education in haute couture led to an exceptional decade of working through product development at Balenciaga and Courreges in Paris, but his love fell heir beyond fashion, to nature, during his travels. 

He describes the correlation between fashion and landscape as “98 percent identical” stating that it’s a “story of texture, colors, experience corporeal, beauty, volume, artisanal…  the two percent of differences are ecology and contempt. To be a garden creator is to work with the living and also with death. Metabolize that nothing is eternal and that we are a creation of nature among billions of marvels.” 

Continuing that “there is nothing more inspiring than traveling, discovering landscapes and cultures. I must also admit that I find inspiration at the roadside, or in the wastelands. I try to find and use plants that live without maintenance. Cinderella, I call them.”

“It was in Japan that I had the revelation of wanting to work outdoors, to be in contact with earth and plants. It is also in the Japanese art of the garden that I found an obvious convergence between my old and my new job.” Marius then trained at the School of Landscape Arts and Techniques in Paris before joining the Hermès house gardens and the Botanical Gardens of the Château de Vauville

He later received an invitation from Pierre Collet, a friend of his who invited him to design a garden for his new house in Marrakesh where he was spellbound by Morocco’s seduction and ended up not taking a flight back, in true carpe diem form. 

It was Morocco that chose me,” he remarked.

Acre by acre he grew his philosophy to work “as much as possible with, and as little as possible against nature.” A philosophy he describes as a discipline.

“Nature is well done and everything is logical in its cycles. Humans break these cycles, at every level, which creates problems at every level. When it is on the scale of one’s own garden, breaking cycles generates unnecessary maintenance or expense problems, and when it is on the planetary scale it causes a climatic disorder.” he added.

It can be easy not to notice the wood for the trees, in a world of rubbish and wasteful living. Society’s biggest threat today is in fact global warming, if not ourselves, and sustainable landscaping may be one of the only remedies to postpone the catastrophe. 

It is a luxury in the sense that perhaps we should not create a garden and live in the natural landscape that surrounds us. But we’ve destroyed so much of the landscape around us that it’s impossible. And it’s not a luxury like other arts. Everything that can reconnect us, and make us aware of nature is now indispensable. Even if a garden is not nature, because it is created and controlled by man, it is the integral work that is most relevant.” he acknowledged.  

Marius’s involvement with many social consciences, in particular, the Hackathon Water Show in Marrakesh, an Emerging Business Factory Marrakesh initiative, amongst others, works to bring awareness to various problems of increasing water and environmental stresses. The lack of rain in the nation has caused severe droughts, leading to fulfillment issues for water receptacles. Most of his gardenia genius and his encompassing vision revolve around water preservation.

Water is very simple: it is life. Without water, there is no life, so its safeguarding must be the world’s priority. There are many solutions, and everyone at his level must act because it is only together, that we can obtain satisfactory results. Everyone must take responsibility for their consumption of water, the people, but also the companies and the politicians must quickly put in place effective measures” he advised. 

He further added “We should spend our time caring for nature because it creates us and it is our home, but humanity is perverted by the desire to process, I believe that possession is the basis of the problem. The flower does not belong to the bee and the bee does not belong to the flower but they need each other and they will never harm each other. Let us follow this example” explaining that it is the basis of his work.

Marius focuses on creating landscapes that are resilient, resource-efficient, and low-maintenance with “common sense” and respecting the earth’s natural cycles. As a whole, the earth is his favorite garden “I am always fascinated by the beauty and diversity of its landscapes. The perfections of its lines. The gardens that touch me the most are those that try to recreate the natural landscapes, even if I know how to appreciate an English madness.” he said, adding that ecology and garden culture are challenges here. 

Morocco is rich in a landscape identity, with unique garden aesthetics and unfortunately, I see Japanese-cut olive trees on roundabouts or Balinese-style gardens in Rabat. We must become aware of the plant heritage and history and perpetuate it, enhance it to evolve and not bend to a short-lived mode.

Marius is the Marrakesh mastermind behind the gardens of the recent exhibition museum, “Le Monde des Arts de la Parrure among other projects including, “Villa Tazegzout, “Kasbah Es Saada, as well as the upcoming future farm garden of “Boutique Souk.” 

He works alongside his business partner and project manager Abderrahim; beyond an industrious schedule of drafting, consulting, and setting grounds, the two have grown the firm into a regional eco-scape. A much-needed endeavor, giving Morocco hope to believe that somewhere out there, in a dry climate, nestled inside a charming Douar surrounded by olive trees, the Pan Priape blossomed within a season, fighting for nature as a fundamental common good and finding ecological and aesthetic solutions for everyone, one plot at a time. 

I am an eternal utopian, I am against borders, I am for freedom and universal brotherhood.” – Marius Boulesteix

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