Embracing Sarah: exploring the natural beauty, space, and community of the Sarah P. Duke Gardens

By Jackie Chipkin

As a student at Duke University, I walk past the Duke Gardens every day on my way to class. Through my project, I have discovered that more than just an outdoor collection of plants, bridges and terraces, the Duke Gardens are truly a testament to the innate connection between people and the natural world.

I begin by exploring the vast, physical landscape of the Duke Gardens—the pathways, botany and structures it encompasses within its stone-walls. As I zoomed in—documenting the detailed intricacies of the garden’s beauty—I began to unearth patterns and connections I had often overlooked. Concentric circles—whether in the chain links of a fence, the rings of an aged tree, or the roof of a gazebo—began to resonate and pulse with an undeniable sameness. Children, parents, animals, and lovers climb trees, splash in fountains, and bask in the sun. Regardless of the time or season, people come to the Duke Gardens to connect with both others and nature in an environment that invokes beauty and curiosity.

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