Saturday, 29 March 2014

Katsura Rikyu




The main building was raised to prevent flooding from the nearby Katsura river.
Created between 1620 and 1660, the Detached Palace of Katsura, features one of the great gardens of the world. The palace created on the banks of the Katsura river (from which it takes its name), was begun by Prince Hachijo no Miya Toshihito and completed by his son, Noritada. The grounds to the palace complex cover 13.8 acres. The complex garden layout is linked by a series of paths that draw the viewer through a variety of landscape scenery types. Through poetic associations a number of scenic locations in Japan are evoked in the garden.

The scenery of Amanohashidate recreated in the garden
At the heart of the garden is a lake of approximately 2 acres, with a highly convoluted shoreline with five islands. Water was brought into the garden from the nearby river, and because of the low lying nature of the site there are no cascades in the garden higher than a few inches. The garden around the lake takes the form of a 'Stroll garden' (Kaikyu Shiki teien), an elaborate system of paths and bridges (16 originally) take the visitor through an ever-changing series of vistas and set-piece views. There were originally five Tea Houses in the garden, each with its own views over portions of the garden.


Informal stepping stones
An intermediate path


















A feature of the garden is the variety of paths, there are reputed to be over 1700 stepping stones. The paths are divided into three categories derived from calligraphy, shin, gyo and sõ; 'formal', 'intermediate' and 'informal'. The formal lengths of path are found nearest the main palace building, and dissolve into informality the deeper one penetrates the garden. By varying the style of paths the experience of the garden is varied for the viewer. Stepping stones slow down the pace at which one can walk, as the attention of the viewer is drawn downwards. In this way the experience of the garden can become rhythmic, as views open and close about the viewer.

The buildings frame views over the garden.


Natural textures define the buildings
One finds at Katsura, a blend of the Heian aristocratic 'shinden zukuri' style, infused with the spirit of the Tea garden (cha niwa), there is an almost palpable sense of longing for the past glories of the aristocratic court society expressed in the garden, overlain as it is with the new aesthetic arising out of the world of Tea. The subtlety of the overall design and the emphasis on refined detail prevents the garden from becoming trite or sentimental in any way. The particular style of the architecture at Katsura allows for an unrivalled penetration of the architectural interiors by the external spaces. Having gone through a long period of decline, Katsura has been sensitively restored since the 1960's, so now visitors can enjoy one of the great marvels of garden art.

All about the garden views are carefully framed



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