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Landscape Architecture: the History of the Art and Garden Design

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Garden design and everything related to a landscape architecture is nothing new. The history of the art of creating gardens goes back to antiquity. Landscape architecture has evolved over the years. However, both in the past and today, a well designed garden, was a symbol of wealth and a high social status. The aim of this assignment is to describe and understand key features and principles of a four chosen historic garden designs.

Historic garden design styles

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 Medieval gardens 

The key concept of garden aesthetics during Middle Ages was based on proportion, number, unity and order. It was believed that number creates the order, which leads to symmetry. Garden was a symbol of heaven. The monks looked after gardens in monasteries. Gardening helped in contemplation and doctrinal exegesis , but also produced food for the whole monastery. It was used for growing medicinal plants. The biblical Garden of Eden affected the monks. They believed that garden led them closer to the God. Part of monastery, from which the public was excluded was called cloister. It was a small garden with lawn and flowers used for reflection and contemplation, e.g. Abbey of St. Gall

Castles at that time were inhabited by lords, ladies and soldiers. The castle gardens were built inside or outside fortifications. They were usually rectilinear or hexagonal and served as a place to relax and study. Typical features of castle garden were trellis, flowery lawns, turf seats, tunnel arbours, fruit trees and shrubs. Castles also had hunting and pleasure parks and orchards.

 High Renaissance gardens

When the Renaissance began to reign in Europe people living at that time become more interested not only in man, but also in the beauty of the landscape that surrounded them. The idea of having a garden started to change. They were perceived less symbolically. They were a place used for relaxation with addition of growing fruits and vegetables. They were looking outward rather than inward like in Middle Ages. Thinkers were encouraged to create gardens, which were formal yet harmonious. They subordinated the nature under own plans. Lords and ladies did not need gardens for food production or safety, but could display their wealth and improve the around scenery.

Antique sculptures were displayed around the garden to show connection with the past . This style characterised by geometrisation of space in the form of axial housing arrangements, symmetry, cut forms of plants, use of water in the garden to demonstrate the sophistication and to create the impact.

An example of High Renaissance garden is in Villa Medici in Castello .

 High Baroque gardens 

Fashion for moulded baroque gardens began with the enrichment of manors in XVII century France. Much larger park assemblies were created on the basis of Italian Renaissance gardens, where according to strictly defined rules, geometric squares were designed decorated with trimmed lawns, formed trees, hedges and stray paths. Buildings were positioned in the centre, not on the edge like in Renaissance. Everything was arranged relative to one axis, sometimes cresting a mirror image on both parts. Wonderful landscape viewing axes were created, which included not only plants and paths, but also stairs, squares, fountains, canals, sculptures and artificial water reservoirs. It was like the theatre, but also an expression of power . To surprise the visitor secret gardens were created in woodlands. Baroque gardens were demanding for gardeners and very expensive to maintain. The most magnificent garden that becomes determinant of the Baroque garden was the French Versailles.

English landscape – Serpentine garden 

In the XVIII century people started to deviate away from the French style. The natural appearance of the landscape began to be more popular (Dooley, 2000). Trees were no longer pruned and formed, but left in their natural state. It was the opposite of formalities of the Baroque period. Parklands were filled with grazing animals. Visitors felt that the owner was rich, but not wasteful. The main features of this style were sweeping lawns, serpentine lakes and woodlands, free flowing curves, winding driveways, encircling tree belts and tree clamps.

Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was one of the main precursors of this style, this is why serpentine style sometimes it is referred as ‘Brownian style’. One of his famous designs is the garden at the Blenheim Palace .

Each garden is a work of art to a greater or lesser extent. In particular historic periods, gardens reflected perfect artistic preferences, typical for that period of time. The greatest charm in creating a garden is probably the possibility of combining the beauty of nature with the charm of the composition itself.    

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