We were invited to a very interesting presentation. A case study of the renovation of a traditional Kyoto style house, a machiya, entitled the spatial art of the microcosm. I share with you some thoughts. The machiya and its garden spaces may be thought of as the true soul of the japanese garden. The case study was interesting as the preservation of the historic buildings came from a private individual, who wanted to blend of the modern and the traditional. 2 and a half machiyas were made into 1, developing the original architecture.
The architecture of the machiya is one of long narrow corridors, a central garden space, and a garden located at the rear. The use of natural light are, due to the lack of electricity when this was built, and the use of shade and depth make this a very interesting in this space.
The central garden was a garden to pass through. Japanese gardens such as this show an ability to create a tranquil atmosphere between buildings, and the construction of gardens for this purpose with limited spaces. The ethos is of simple, strong, dynamic expression. With the viewer being required to use their imagination to interpret the garden. This is a key factor in many of the gardens I have seen. Fine detail then ensues, particularly from the use of traditional elements of moss, bamboo, and water.
The aim of the design is to harmonise with nature within the house. This necessitates a strong understanding of atmosphere. This is created by understanding garden interest with seasonality. This encompasses the broader seasons, and also how the garden changes within a day, and the aesthetic of the garden in different weather conditions. This takes into accounts flowering periods, as well as the incorporation of organisms within the garden, the influence of the breeze, and moonlight. Stones are symbolic of mountain scenery, with sand and fragrance used to refresh the scene within these tsuboniwa, or courtyard gardens. A romantic view is abundant in the designs. Interestingly the soundscape of the garden is also considered carefully.
The designs were exciting and encapsulated the potential in blending the traditional with modern loving. The conversation between contractor and client is of paramount importance to the success of the project. The company places a real value on craftspeople led designs, and has the ethos that gardeners are part of the scenery.
We then learnt about the importance placed on internships within the company, and heard from some of the staff who had undertaken placements, forging links with the North American Japanese Garden Association. Japanese gardeners certainly seem to have multiskilling. Interestingly, many gardeners also undertake the pruning of specimen trees, showing the importance of trees to the scenery of many Japanese gardens. The balancing of individual trees to the scenery is the basis behind much pruning within a Japanese garden. The hospitality of different cultures was highlighted and sharing knowledge within horticulture. From our mentor’s visit to the Portland Japanese garden, it was concluded that Japanese gardens could learn much from this garden in terms of managing a visitor attraction.
We discussed the balance of visitor numbers and conservation. It was suggested that Japanese culture tends to be very respectful, particularly towards nature so growth in visitor numbers could be achieved without significant damage to gardens. The ethos is one of communication with the garden to understand the impact of visitors. When damage begins to occur, responses are taken to place the garden first. A good knowledge of one’s visitors is key. Understanding seasonality and variation in visitation is researched thoroughly and constantly to balance conservation. The balance between space and impact was also highlighted. This relationship is vital to understanding the balance of visitors and conservation.
Engagement activities such as garden workshops, lectures, informal discussions, and tours were used to interpret the gardens. The philosophy of gardens as a place of healing was introduced. Gardens being created and relations being fostered through them. Tradition and innovation, fostering collaboration, and seeing gardens with a depth and broadness and holism was key to a garden’s use in the future.
Overall, I found the ideas thought provoking, and the philospophy inspiring. Sorry no photos, only ideas.