Friday, 27 September 2013

Kaetsu Centre Garden, Cambridge, UK


The Gardens at the Kaetsu Centre, Cambridge

Before, from the interior looking towards the left.
Before, right side garden from interior.
Earlier this year at the Kaetsu Centre in the grounds of Murray Edwards College, Cambridge, an educational establishment founded by a Japanese philantrophic family, a group of volunteers gave up a weekend to create a series of gardens under the direction of garden creator Robert Ketchell. The garden spaces are very small but prominent as they are seen from a glass stairwell. Originally filled with ferns that found themselves growing there, it is an example of using the Japanese garden approach to maximise  and create interest in even the most unlikely spaces. 

There are four small garden areas, each has a ‘story’ to tell; one section is a simple rock arrangement representing the Kaetsu foundation founders, another section represents the Chōshū Five (five young Japanese who were sent to study at imperial College, London in 1863, two of whom became important political figures in Japan), and yet another part of the garden represents the symbolic interconnection of two island states.

The garden is composed of four elements:

Founders Garden

1      To the left of the stairwell (in the exterior space) is the ‘Founder’s Garden”, i設者の庭, a karesansui arrangement of three stones. The two tall principal stones represent the Kaetsu family the third smaller stone represents their benevolence flowing out into society.

Five stone arrangement representing the Chōshū Five
     To the right of the stairwell (in the exterior space) is the ‘Chōshū Gotetsu Garden’, 長州五傑の庭, composed of five stones representing the five young members of the Chōshū clan from Kyushu who were sent to study at imperial College, London in 1863. Two of whom (Itō Hirobumi and Inoue Kaoru) went on to became important political figures in Japan in their day. At the time they left sumuggled aboard a English ship it was forbidden for Japanese to leave their shores under the policy of isolation. The small stone lantern represents the light of knowledge and education.

3   Beyond the glass wall of the stairwell are seven upright stones (six set into the bank covered by ivy, one by the glass wall), this arrangement of stones represents the students who have passed through the Kaetsu Centre out in the world.

     Within the stairwell is a trayscape arrangement in the karesansui style, it is a stylised representation of the link between two island nations.


A symbolic river of black pebbles winds through each of the individual gardens suggesting the flow of ideas and knowledge crossing oceans, boundaries and time. 





Sketch plan of gardens layout



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