Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Contemporary Garden Design - Part 1 - The Modernist Movement

When clients ask for a contemporary garden what they actually want is a specific style of garden. These days a contemporary garden design is usually shorthand for smooth, rendered walls with steel blade water features and spiky, architectural planting. You can bet your life that this kind of garden will feature at least one strip of blue LED lighting and probably a smart steel sculpture.

This contemporary garden design style was spawned by the Modernist movement which started in the 1800s and became particularly popular in the 1930s. The Modernist movement comprised writers, painters, philosophers and architects all searching for an alternative to the traditional values and styles which they believed to be unfashionable.

Spurred on by industrialization, the Modernist approach rejected tradition and created a new contemporary aesthetic. This new approach resulted in simplified forms without fussy details which the Modernists believed were unnecessary. In Modernist architecture form follows function, meaning that the buildings design is based on its intended purpose. Modernist architects used industrially produced materials like concrete and allowed their natural appearance to be seen rather than trying to disguise them. Modernist architecture is characterized by buildings with an emphasis on horizontal and vertical lines whose structure is seen rather than hidden.

Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House

Architect Le Corbusier was a leader of the modernist movement, his work emphasized the beauty inherent in the structure of a building. Le Corbusier’s designs combine the functionalism of the modern movement with a bold, sculptural expressionism. He was the first architect to make extensive use of rough cast concrete to create bold, sculptural forms. Le Corbusier described houses as ‘machines for living in’.

Le Corbusier's Chapelle Notre Dame de Haut

Self taught Mexican architect Luis Barragan was influenced by Le Corbusier. His work features flat planes, and blocks of bold colour. Barragan designed the house and garden as one and championed the idea of the garden as an extension of the house. One of his most famous projects is the Fuente de los Amantes horse ranch.

Luis Barragan's Campbell Divertimento House

In addition to architects like Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius and Frank Lloyd Wright the Modernist movement also spawned leading contemporary garden designers.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water

I love this style of architecture and designing contemporary style is what interests me most. Although the planting is not yet finished in the small Bracknell garden, it does illustrate how a contemporary garden design scheme can transform even the most modest outdoor space.

If you need help designing your garden please feel free to email me linsey@linseysgardens.com. You can visit my Web site and see some of my completed projects and get a bit more information.


Anonymous said...

Hi,I just wanted to let you know that the photo you have down as Mies van der Rohe's 'Barcelona Pavilion' is actually his 'Farnsworth House' I think. :)

Linsey said...

Hi, thanks for pointing that out. I was going to use an image of the Barcelona Pavillion then changed my mind and forgot to change the text! I've changed the label now.