Enclosure versus exposure?
How about enclosure and exposure?
Which in fact equals aperture!
It is of course a cliche that views need to be framed,
but think ‘camera’ - the intensity of the snap shot.
On a blazing June day earlier this year we met clients of ours, in Swansea, South Wales of all places, simply because it is geographically half way between our 2 homes. We needed to give them some books to look at. (A crucial part of our design procedure ahead of our thought processes is to examine exactly what garden styles our clients like, even to develop what they like.)
So for the hand over we met at a garden, two in fact, for a walk round. Further research on our clients’ tastes. Two birds…… and all that jazz!
The second, The Ridler Garden, was straight forward to find but difficult to get into. There was no answer at the house. Ultimately through the assistance of neighbours and the owner emerging from a side lane we found ourselves led to an unpreposessing metal gate.
The gate shut behind us and we were suddenly in a completely different world of box-like enclosures mostly formed by clipped hedges.
‘Another garden with rooms’ you say, kinda bored already. ‘Yada, yada.’
But this was truly something else! Firstly the landscape tended to the minimal with almost no emphasis on the classic herbaceous border and other ’lady of the manor’ flummery so often the stock in trade of ’gardens with rooms’.
Neither was there a deal of plant collecting, the other great British disease.
The plant palette was almost monochrome , a green but textural landscape…..
pierced by narrow apertures……….
often these are focussed on gem like objects:
In theory we were led around by the owner, Tony Ridler. But led around?
We were as much drawn forward through the rooms
by the slit like glimpses ahead.
The apertures were emphasized because light and dark, sun and shadow and texture also served to develop in you a camera-like intensity of vision.
The narrowness of the access also enhanced the urgency to explore ( the so called ‘venturi effect’), the sense of secrecy and the reveal itself.
At no point in this enclosed world was there any long outside view, apart from access from one room to another and not always then.
Sometimes the views thru were even more tantalising, taking the form of hatches or windows giving no immediate access at all
which then sent you prowling to find a way thru.
You became conscious of a game:
On your route you encounter real hens, in their nun like seclusion from the world,
having already passed false ‘art deco’ hens reduced to minimalist shapes
You move towards a glimpse of a distant view
only to discover that it is merely an image painted on a wall.
You could try this door…….
only to discover it is false and to move further forward you need to go through a defile that gives no views.
Of course access that has no view through gives you a real surprise of a totally new space. Once thru you find yourself standing next to this pom pom topiary:
which Lesley is photoing
and drawn forward again to explore amongst a pretty potager of productivity.
Move past another wall and you are in yet another wider landscape:
But then ultimately any wide views here were merely glimpses of neighbours’ suburban gardens and were irrelevant ones because this intense floor pattern held your gaze down.
But even here the titillating sense was offered that there might be other rooms……………….
………………..even if they were just in your mind. And that might just be the widest view of all!
And the whole garden was that: a garden of the mind. In this calm but disorientating, predominantly shady world, the ‘being led around but having no long view’ meant that you had no real idea of the distance you had travelled.
(This photo of a google image shows the garden from above. It is roughly within the L shape outlined with white ink.
I, for one, had no idea I was beside a major road and a railway line.)
It was therefore its own quiet, little, therapeutic world.
Reflective, temple like with its own internal focus.
Its genius seemed that you are thrown in on yourself, and your own feelings about it.
And on your own imagination.
Of course truly successful ‘meaningful’ landscapes extract meaning from you rather than thrust meaning in upon you.
However, all is not always tranquil in the temple. Alarmingly it can be subject to quite dramatic changes itself in a short space of time. Its quiet designer owner thinks nothing of complete change, moving topiary around at will.
The glitzy and ditsy art deco hens apparently appeared quite quickly and you had the sense that they might as quickly be converted to box balls if the need arose. Off with their heads, and their tails! And their wings too come to that. A temple coup! Clearly Tony is a man of phenomenal energy beside all his other attributes.
What did we make of it all as garden visitors? Well, I was the only one that lived and gardened in similar circumstances: the garden as ‘refuge from the city’. Our clients loved the owner, found the garden intensely fascinating, but in their vast, mountainous world as sheep farmers it was not all for them.
But they had come to perceive the need for greater enclosure of open spaces immediately around their house, whilst still retaining views.
And that these more enclosed areas of their garden could become focussed on objects or structures.
The ash shelter was for them a ‘must have’. And I am sure we will find ourselves cribbing that for them, with credits of course.
Visiting gardens can be about taking and leaving after all.
What about Lesley and I?
We adored it all! And our modest and charming host too.
In fact released suddenly back through the metal door into the brighter, noisier, wider world, the bustle and hustle of a Swansea suburb, we felt a little bereft.
It had actually become curiously disorientating to be outside. Obviously enclosure and exposure need to be balanced, or put another way to expose you must first enclose!
R and L
Please now check out the posts of our fellow ‘Round Tablers’ to see their stance on enclosure V exposure: