Relating Architecture to Landscape

By Jan Birksted | Go to book overview

Mara Miller


Time and temporality in Japanese gardens

Since at least the time of Frank Lloyd Wright, Japanese architecture and the Japanese integration of buildings with their surroundings have fascinated modern architects and designers. Although the Japanese term for ‘nature’ considered as a whole, shizen, was taken from the Chinese language (about fifteen hundred years ago), 1 and many of the themes, motifs, and concepts used in garden design were also adapted from China, 2 Japanese gardens are utterly unique in techniques, principles and effects. 3 Yet this uniqueness does not limit their appeal in any way—it arouses the deepest responses in people all over the world, as the proliferation of Japanese gardens in North America indicates. 4

There are a number of reasons for this. The formal qualities alone are compelling (Fig. 1). The combination of natural materials and rational structure is especially appealing in an increasingly mechanical age (Fig. 2). The tranquillity they impart can transform lives. They are inspired places for parties (especially effective as places for socialising when guests don’t know each other well)—a capacity that is often overlooked in the West.

One of the most distinctive and least studied characteristics of Japanese gardens is the way they structure time. In this paper I will outline several (though not all) of the ways that Japanese gardens structure time, with an emphasis on those that are unique.

The mere fact of structuring time is not unique to Japanese gardens—gardens everywhere do this; it is one of their most important contributions. While it has rarely been analysed by scholars or designers, most visitors feel it, experience it, intuit it, in all gardens, whatever their style or country of origin. The different ‘styles’ or cultural traditions assume the task of making clear the structure of time in their various ways, and they do it on several levels. The most basic is making visible contrasting scales or orders of time—seasonal time, geological time, the different varieties of biological and historical time, etc. The Japanese Garden by Koichi Kawana at the Denver Botanic Garden, for example (Fig. 1), juxtaposes the brief yet predictable cyclic life of leaves with the fragility of moss and lichen, indefinitely extended in time, and with the century or more of a large pine, the aeons of the rock, and the few centuries of human history represented by the rustic fence.

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Relating Architecture to Landscape
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 6
  • Section One 13
  • Introduction 15
  • Introduction - To Modern Gardens (1953) 16
  • Section Two 39
  • Introduction 41
  • Time and Temporality in Japanese Gardens 43
  • Notes 57
  • Some Recommended Books on Japanese Gardens 58
  • Detailing and Materials of Outdoor Space: the Scandinavian Example 59
  • Notes 75
  • Playing with Artifice: Roberto Burle Marx’s Gardens 77
  • Section Three 103
  • Introduction 105
  • External Interior/Internal Exterior Spaces at the Maeght Foundation 106
  • 1 - Plan of Prague Castle 120
  • References 157
  • The Re-Invention of the Site 158
  • Notes 172
  • Section Four 175
  • Introduction 177
  • Hans Scharoun, Schminke House, LöBau, Saxony 1932-33: Garden by Herta Hammerbacher and Hermann Mattern 178
  • Notes 193
  • 1 - Road to Acropolis, Sketch 194
  • Notes 204
  • Notes 227
  • Section Five 229
  • Introduction 231
  • The Necessity of Invention: Bernard Lassus’s Garden Landscapes 232
  • Notes 243
  • The Prospect at Dungeness: Derek Jarman’s Garden 244
  • Notes 258
  • Building in Nature 261
  • Contributors 281
  • Index 285
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