Ultimately Understanding The Wishes Of The Client: English Garden Design

english garden designDitchley Park was the last major British garden to be designed in the Italian style.

During the 1930s Jellicoe received plenty of smaller commissions which provided an opportunity to introduce elements of the Abstract style. Frontispiece to The Studio’s 1932 Garden Annual shows a garden by J C Shepherd G A Jellicoe with a distinctly modern flavour, and in 1933 Jellicoe and Page worked together on the design of the Caveman Restaurant and garden in the Cheddar Gorge. Basically the project was widely illustrated in the 1930s as an example of modern architecture but only part of the garden was built. Last word on the Abstract style should come from Tunnard, though he speaks of ‘structure’ and a ‘grand conception’ instead of ‘style’ -because of his functionalist belief that the styles had been rendered obsolete. Known it can be set alongside the descriptions of the landscape ideal which were quoted in the first chapter and is expressed with admirable directness.

Now look, the author’s personal approach to landscape gardening and planning has not changed. Eighteenth century understanding of the genius of the place is necessary. I’m sure that the structure -in which usefulness and aesthetic pleasure must both be considered. After the grand conception, materials of only better quality -this is very important, and it may be noticed that they are put in their proper place, not before it. While understanding the wishes of the client, whether it’s a private citizen or a public committee in NY or London. Actually, the diagram of the Abstract style shows a transition from a rectilinear paved area into a curvilinear planted area. Of course I know it’s intended for comparison with the previous diagrams but it must be remembered that it represents a garden of perhaps as little as 1 hectares while quite a few earlier diagrams showed estates of 1000 hectares and more. You see, anyway the modern paved area might be no more than a patio outside a French window but here the use of 600 x 600mm concrete slabs with prominent joints reminds amid the de Stijl aesthetic.

english garden designWe believe in the probity of the creative act.

The landowning class which commissioned the great British gardens of the period showed no taste for stylistic innovation in their twilight hour. Nor is there any reason to think that garden designers had a significant interest in modern art before The Modern Movement was assailed by the leading designers of the day when it appeared over the skies of England. In, 1916 Thomas Mawson was still laughing at the ‘art nouveau craze’ and lectured on ‘the ridiculous ornament and the exaggerated design which this overenthusiastic cult produced ‘. In 1934 Sir Reginald Blomfield, a Miro swimming pool, a lake designed as the setting for a Henry Moore sculpture and a marble wall by Ben Nicholson. Just think for a moment. Latter is a work of great beauty and represents an artistic ideal which has had an overwhelming influence on the Abstract style of garden design.

This analysis contrasts with the eighteenth century associationist approach of Archibald Alison, who valued the urn at Hagley as long as it was ‘chosen by Mr Pope for the spot and now inscribed to his memory’, as well as with the nineteenth century stylistic approach of Loudon and Kemp.

Loudon advised that urns and statues should only be placed where they can be ‘viewed in connection with some architectural production’ and Kemp that ‘statuary, vases, and similar architectural ornaments, are the fitting associates of Grecian and Italian houses, and appear less suitable in relation to each style’. Examples of abstract designs by Sylvia Crowe can be seen at Fulmar Grange in Buckinghamshire and the Commonwealth Institute in London.

Accordingly the design of landform and the layout of planting areas was more influenced by cubist sculpture. So it’s normal practice to execute such designs with a soft pencil or to make a maquette in clay. Both media lend themselves to the kind of shapes and patterns which are seen in the work of Jean Arp, Constantin Brancuzi, Henry Moore, and Barbera Hepworth. Then, they make considerable use of what and in addition the movement which has had the most profound influence on garden design. Anyways, its starting point is generally taken to be the work of Cezanne and his intention of ‘doing over Poussin entirely from nature’. That’s where it starts getting entertaining, right? While everything in proper perspective so that any side of an object is directed towards a central point’, cezanne spoke of art being ‘theory developed and applied in contact with nature’ and of treating nature ‘by the cylinder, the sphere, the cone. Also, as was discussed in the first chapter, So it’s evident that look, there’s a close affinity between this intention and the Neoplatonic theory of art which produced the geometrically organised paintings and gardens of the seventeenth century.

english garden design

Without the class distinctions which raise an arrogant barrier between craftsmen and artist, we shall create a totally new guild of craftsmen.

Like the crystal symbol of a brand new faith. Which will embrace architecure and sculpture and painting in one unity and which will one day rise toward heaven from the hands of a million workers. It’s a well modern planting design has tended to be non geometric and expressive. Designers have considered plants as abstract shapes and patches of colour, and have used them as a foil to the geometry of NeoPlastic and Cubist art. Accordingly the inspiration for this device is uncertain but the images which can be formed by overlaying random biological patterns on a structured geometrical background are highly characteristic of modern gardens. Now let me tell you something. It’s an interesting fact that the two possible sources for the imagery are Japanese gardens and Abstract Expressionism. Did you know that the former are known to have influenced particular designers and the latter is a movement which has educated us all in the appreciation of abstract and random patterns.

The front cover which was used for the first problems of de Stijl magazine resembles an abstract garden plan.

It was designed by Vilmos Huszar, a founder member of the de Stijl group, and published in October The design may be made into a garden by translating the blackish and white pattern into paths, steps, raised beds, pools and stepping stones. Even the title ‘De Stijl’, that lies above the design, may be used to make a paving pattern with dark and light slabs. No such literal translation of a graphic design into a garden plan is attempted but the geometry of NeoPlasticism has had a profound influence on the design of paved areas. When working with a ‘T square’ and set square So it’s easy to attempt ‘Mondriantype’ patterns.

english garden design

Kind of garden which ought to accompany a modern building was illustrated by a photograph of Bentley Wood at Halland, designed by Chermayeff and Tunnard. And so it’s an austerely beautiful and entirely modern design. Basically the garden owes nothing to ‘the second stone age with its plethora of flagged paths and dry walls’. Henry Moore helped to make another of Tunnard’s points. Actually, some awesome stuff from contemporary architecture is closely associated with some decent stuff from modern sculpture and constructivist painting since architects, sculptors and constructivist painters are in written or personal contact with one another’.

Tunnard believed that garden designers must ‘return to functionalism’ and he used quotations from Le Corbusier. And therefore the styles are a lie’, and Adolf Loos. Notice, to find beauty in form instead of making it depend on ornament is the goal to which humanity is aspiring’. Above all he believed that ‘The modern house requires modern surroundings, and in most respects the garden of today does not fulfil this need’. Seriously. His point was well made by a photograph of a crisp whitish rectangular modern house in Northampton, by Peter Behrens, that looks most uncomfortable perched on top of a Jekyllesque dry stone wall and a semi circular flight of steps which ‘fail entirely to harmonize with the character of the house’. Oftentimes many designers agreed with Tunnard but the public did not -the Behrens house was as a matter of fact the first in England to be designed in the International Style. Public seem to have looked at Tunnard’s photograph and decided that the garden was delightful but the house was an abomination.

Abstract style in private gardens are aimed at the general public.

In 1953 Lady Allen of Hurtwood and Susan Jellicoe wrote a book on Gardens for Penguin Books. So, lady Allen had worked with the New Homes For Old group which supported the cause of modern architecture in the 1930s. On top of this, the book contained photographs of gardens designed by Thomas Church, Garrett Eckbo, C Th Sorensen and similar foreign pioneers of the Abstract style. So main reason for referring to a ‘Abstract Style is that it draws inspiration from the abstract geometry of modern art. British garden design. Now this corresponds to the early twentieth century painters’ desire to produce a brand new art which was objective, analytical and nonfigurative. Since there was a tendency to abstraction in primitive art So it’s tempting to name the new style of garden design after amidst the four modern movements in art which have had most influence on garden designers. One could describe it as the Cubist style, the Constructivist style, the ‘Neo plasticist’ style or the Expressionist style. Now let me tell you something. My reason for not using any of these names is that they should imply so, that’s to say the uncovering of the purely aesthetic in plastic features, as its principle value’, as contrasted with traditional painting, where particularisation was of primary importance. He believed that art should concentrate on the primary colours and forms, and ‘leave the interpretation of stories, tales, and similar to poets and writers. In 1960 G A Jellicoe published the first of his three Studies in Landscape Design. They are inspiring books and give examples of the way in which his own design projects are influenced by modern artists, including Paul Klee, Jean Arp, Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth. For example, the Studies were concerned with public sector projects but in 1968 Susan and Geoffrey Jellicoe published a book which examines modern gardens from a similar standpoint. Jellicoe comments. It responds to shapes in landscapes’, just as the mind is responding. To shapes which it appears to seek and even to crave. England since the war. Jellicoe describes his meeting with the client as follows.

With a huge Monet close by and a Graham Sutherland in the offing, my first visit was on 22 July I remember nearly stumbling over a Henry Moore sculpture on the floor and observing a Ben Nicholson over the mantelpiece.

Stanley Seeger and I were on quite similar wave length in thinking that landscape art will be a continuum of past, present and future, and should contain within it the seeds of abstract ideas as well as having figurative meaning. So, when Peter Shepheard wrote a book on Modern Gardens, in 1953 it was still necessary to look abroad for examples of private gardens which had been influenced by modern art. His foreign examples included gardens by Thomas Church and Burle Marx. The main convincingly modern British garden in the book, Bentley Wood at Halland in Sussex, was designed by an architect and a landscape architect who had both emigrated to the United States. Basically the architect, Serge Chermyeff, was Russian by birth and on top of that owned the house. That said, the landscape architect, Chrisopher Tunnard, was a pioneer of modern gardens in England. It my be difficult, even today, to fill a book with examples of wholly modern British gardens, the illustrations in Shepheard’s book proved beyond question that it was possible to design gardens which could stand as totally modern works of art.

England was engaged upon the Italian phase of the Arts and Crafts style when the first modern gardens were being designed in Europe. Russell Page looks back on the British gardens which were made between 1900 and 1930 in his autobiography. You see, he criticises them for employing ‘a ragbag of styles has nothing to do with real style’. He and identical designers were attracted to the classical gardens of France and Italy by their abstract spatial qualities. It’s a well the beautiful pen and wash drawings in J C Shephard and G A Jellicoe’s Gardens of the Renaissance(reveal the spatial quality of the old gardens and the authors remark that ‘The bases of abstract design, running through history like a silver thread, are independent of race and age’. Gardens and Design, by really similar authors and published in 1927, illustrated a house and garden by Frank Lloyd Wright and praised him for grasping ‘the colossal latent power that lies behind the subject’. Also, jellicoe appeared in Architects’ Journal during 1931 and 1932. I know that the designs were classical but the discussion is highly analytical. In 1933 Jellicoe and Page were commissioned by Ronald Tree to design a Italian garden at Ditchley Park. By the way, the owner specifically wanted a Italian garden and Jellicoe comments.

Except for abortive designs for a completely new landscape at Claremont I threw myself enthusiastically into an unique study of landscape history made real. Lots of the designers who joined the ILA before 1939 did so because of their interest in private gardens. After 1946 they found that few clients wished to commission garden designs. Certainly, there was however a greatly increased demand for landscape designers to work in the public sector. It was on these projects that the Abstract style flourished in the ’50s and ’60s. Such projects lie outside the scope of this book but are referred to by Tony Aldous and Brian Clouston in Landscape by Design. Also, mostly there’re many public spaces in the new towns which illustrate the style. Although, harlow by F Gibberd and Sylvia Crowe, in Hemel Hempstead by Geoffrey Jellicoe, in Stevenage by Gordon Patterson, and in Cumbernauld by Peter Youngman and William Gillespie.

in 1958 Sylvia Crowe published a book on Garden Design which contains a masterly analysis of the abstract qualities of gardens in the chapters on the key concepts and materials of design. Her discussion of the Four Faces urn at Bramham illustrates the analytical nature of her approach and her belief that ‘underlying all the greatest gardens are certain concepts of composition which remain unchanged as they are rooted in the natural laws of the universe’. Long vista at Bramham Park, Yorkshire, looks across a pool and the end is marked by a huge urn. Whenever forming together one composition, the two do not compete, are complementary. Now look, the dominant vertical figure is completed by the calm horizontal pool which does nothing to prevent the eye travelling easily on its way to the terminal point.


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