Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Taking a View


The overlapping and interleaved manner of presenting the garden has the effect of creating an impression that the garden is much larger than is actually the case. As the viewer tours around the garden (in the case of a stroll garden) the succession of views being revealed in such a linear manner, means that the end point of a vista may be revealed in a variety of ways, each one slightly different to the one before. In this way the role of the viewer in the design as a whole becomes crucial to the design and layout of the garden.

A Japanese garden can be considered to be  created with a series of interrelated views, at the hub (origin) of which is the viewer or visitor to the garden. A view is not simply created by placing a garden element within the garden space in the expectation that the eye of the viewer will be drawn towards it. Rather a view is carefully composed in order to draw the attention of the viewer in a controlled manner toward it.

A view can be understood to be composed of three distinct parts: Foreground, Middleground and Background. Each part will lead on toward the next, thus creating a view or scene as an integrated and visually logical whole. The foreground (the space in front of the viewer), leads the eye of the viewer toward a given direction, the Middleground will reinforce and confirm the direction of view, and the Background will contain the logical consequence and justification of leading the eye in that particular direction. What becomes important are the spaces and elements which bind each of the three elements together. Also it becomes important to consider the position from which a view will begin, for example in the case of a Stroll garden. This then leads on to the manner in which the viewer is lead around the garden from one viewing point to the next, and the way in which each view is revealed.

A Japanese garden is a carefully managed visual environment, always at the centre of which is the viewer. The central concern when creating a garden in Japan is the question of how the viewer will interact with the garden space. Over the hundreds of years of its development, the Japanese garden tradition has evolved a sophisticated grasp of the psychology of design. The viewer is drawn into the landscape scene, and then presented with a perspective unfolding of the garden. Elements of the design will be brought forward or pushed away from the eye, so creating a sense of rhythm. It is critical that the imagination of the viewer is engaged fully into the composition, when this is the case the physical size of elements of the garden cease to retain the same dependence on a fixed relationship. Thus the suggestion of meaning in a stone arrangement will lead the viewer to ‘seeing’ the arrangement as that which  it is intended to represent.

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