The Contemporary Garden: Book Review for Bookpleasures.com
May 13, 2009
Allan in Book Reviews, Claude Cormier, Contemporay Gardens, Frank Lloyd Wright, Garden Design, Modern Gardens, Phaidon Press, garden design, gardening book reviews

 

The Contemporary Garden  Phaidon Press 

The editors of Phaidon Press continue to impress me. They make rigorous work seem easy. In their latest publication The Contemporary Garden, they tackle an encyclopedic amount of material [as they did with The English Garden] and distill it into an easy-to-read picture essay. In this instance, the essay is about the evolution of the contemporary garden from the early 1920’s up until today.

As some readers have discovered, a garden does not always refer to a front or back lawn with beautiful flowers. Often, it is a substantial expanse of land surrounding either a residential dwelling or a public building. The type of landscape treatment used for these spaces usually reflects the aesthetic philosophy of the artist, architect or landscape architect responsible for designing it. That style may reflect trends in modernity. From that perspective, this book offers an historical summary of the modern movement in arts, sculpture and architecture as interpreted in landscape design.

The book covers many of the seminal contemporary gardens, including ones by sculptor Constantin Brancusi, landscape architect Shunmyo Masuno, architect Frank Gherry and garden designer Piet Oudolf. Among the one hundred gardens presented in this book, two stand out for this reviewer. The first is the waterfall grotto located beneath the Frank Lloyd Wright home “Falling Waters” in Pennsylvania, USA. Mr. Wright chose to leave nature untouched by positioning that home directly over a waterfall. The second is the outdoor installation designed by landscape architect Claude Cormier titled “Blue Stick Garden”. Originally created in Canada for the Metis International Garden Festival, it moved to Hestercombe Gardens in Somerset U.K. where it gained additional fame for its audacity and vibrancy.

This is a provocative book for perennial gardeners. By our nature, we tend to be traditional in our outlook. Consequently, an ultra modern garden is not always a pleasant place for us. This book reminds us that without modernity and modern building materials, contemporary artists could not be true to their times. While the modernity of some gardens may leave us wanting, at least we now can appreciate the context in which they were created. This has been an exhilarating book to read and even more exciting to review.

                                       

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