Thursday, 26 June 2014

Alistair Rowan, Garden Buildings

alistair rowan garden buildings
Rowan,Alistair. Garden buildings.
Watford: Country Life Books, 1968.
This small book came with the magazine Country Life and contains many drawings that originate from the precious collection of the Royal Institute of British Architects, today mostly digitalized on the website
Being inspired by this extraordinary collection, the author sketches a particular history of the taste in gardening following the architectural elements inlaid in the landscape.
Throughout history people have enriched gardens with the inclusion of small or big buildings, but this custom became even more popular as the gardens themselves grew in size. The author says, and there's no reason to deny it, that garden architecture gave designers the chance to experiment with innovative new styles, so they became innovative, often serving as the first examples of architectural revolutions that would soon take place.
The reason could simply be that those buildings were mostly inexpensive and therefore easily amenable and malleable, but also easily removed.
Landscape gardens, like the paintings from which they draw their inspiration,
are constellated from small buildings. These structures were always different from one another and rarely served a functional purpose. 
Pavilions, ruins, and temples are often used to create a journey (both physical and spiritual) for the visitor: they create viewpoints, offer shelter or meditation places, and bring to mind exotic places sometimes related to the owner's life.
As history evolved, so did architectural tastes. People shifted their perspective on the purpose of buildings and decided that they too should serve a purpose beyond that of being aesthetically pleasing, claiming further that usefulness was a requirement for beauty.   

Many of these fabriques were destroyed, and the only remaining elements that were ushered into the nineteenth century were: bridges, small cottages for gardeners, and, naturally, conservatories. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Let Nature Never Be Forgot

To build, to plant, whatever you intend,
To rear the column, or the arch to bend,
To swell the terrace, or to sink the grot;
In all, let Nature never be forgot.
But treat the goddess like a modest fair,
Nor overdress, nor leave her wholly bare;
Let not each beauty ev'rywhere be spied,
Where half the skill is decently to hide.
He gains all points, who pleasingly confounds,
Surprises, varies, and conceals the bounds.

Alexander Pope, Epistle IV  To Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington, 1731.

Here above there is one of the most important statements about landscape gardens. In few words Pope describes how a modern (for his times) garden should be designed, with great respect for nature and proportionality using man made elements. 
Both the poet and the Earl of Burlington were two of the leading actors in garden design in the 18th Century, the former with his writings and his small and meaningful garden in Twickenham, the latter, friend and mentor of William Kent, with his contributions in the propagation of Italian landscape as a model for the English garden. 

With these words I wish to begin my small contribution to the study of landscape garden.

There will be plenty of chances to write something more about Alexander Pope and Richard Boyle in the next posts.