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Entries in Robert Mallet (1)

Wednesday
Feb152012

A "Renaissance Man" Writes About Landscape Design

Envisioning the Garden, Line, Distance, Form, Color, and Meaning, by Robert Mallet, Norton & Co.

This is no ordinary book on landscape and garden design. The author’s sublime, poetic writing takes this publication out of the mainstream and raises it into a class by itself. What also makes the work exceptional is that Mr. Mallet has successfully integrated several disciplines of study to create one inspiring work.

In a friendly style, reminiscent of the passionate English garden writers of the first half of the twentieth century, the author introduces the reader to the primal significance of good landscape design, with references to the physics of optics, the anatomy of the eye and brain, the psychology of perception, and the fundamentals of pure design.

Mr. Mallet’s multi-discipline approach is reflected in the book’s original French title: - Optics of the Garden; Enlarging Space and Liberating the Spirit.

An illustration from the book: Staircase with Campanula porscharskyana.The author elaborates the details of his thesis in seven chapters in which he discusses lines and punctuation, scale, distance, forms, textures and lighting, colors, other senses that have an impact on a garden, and the search for meaning in landscape design. The book concludes with a short, inspiring summary of the author’s philosophy on the subject of gardens.

An illustration from the chapter A Search for a Meaning.To illustrate the breadth of the author’s intellectual horizons, consider an excerpt from a chapter on scale.  When discussing miniature gardens in a paragraph titled “Elasticity of mental markers; bonsai gardens”, the author reports: - This representation on a smaller scale of a much larger natural world is intended to liberate us from our everyday environment and to allow us to escape into an idealized world. It can even serve as real therapy for people who are trapped inside their own mental universe.

Illustration from a discussion on distance and perspective.On each of the 143 pages, Mr. Mallet shares fine details of landscaping concepts that are sometimes overlooked by other writers. For example, he elaborates on the art of lopsidedness, illusion and staged effects, false perspectives, verticals in front of horizontals, shadows, placing jagged forms in front of ovals and rounds, nuance rather than contrast, placing cold colors in front of warm colors,  proprioception - a sixth sense that improves how we see by using sound and smell - and the emotional dimension of a garden.

Few books on the subject of landscaping touch the soul of the reader with the depth of meaning that Mr. Mallet has successfully imbued in his writing. While many of the examples, diagrams, and illustrations are drawn from large estates, the fundamentals are universal and applicable to gardens of all sizes.

Reviewed for Bookpleasures.com