As part of the Historic & Contemporary Landscapes module, we travelled to Rousham Gardens in Oxfordshire and Througham Court Gardens in Gloucestershire. With the module focusing on the human influences on landscape design and the importance of precedent informing design through transferable ideas, these were ideal gardens to explore.
The historic, William Kent designed gardens, epitomise the Augustan Style and emphasise the character of the indigenous English landscape. They show the beauty of nature through its visual irregularity and whilst designed, create a natural pastoral scene. The extended borrowed views over the River Cherwell into the surrounding countryside are very much designed into the composition with the addition of the eyecatcher in the distance. Walking through the network of winding paths, visions of Rome are drawn with Classical references found in the form of sculptures, grottos, groves, woods and small temples. The view of the serpentine rill, running through the organically clipped laurel hedges, managed to create dancing reflections even on a dull day and was voted to be one of the favourite spaces within the garden.
In contrast, Througham Court Gardens, originally renovated in the 1930’s in the Arts and Crafts style by Norman Jewson, has been redesigned by current owner Dr Christine Facer Hoffman, and delivers a contemporary and conceptual approach. The design respects and uses the original garden-room structure, with some areas left as original such as The Sunken Garden, but many have been redesigned to a very contemporary end.
Entering through the “Anatomy of a Black Swan” gate, Christine explained the reference to unpredictable events. On to the Chiral Terrace where we learned about left and right handed molecules, identical twins being mirror images and examined the two-way mirror and palindromic DNA sequences. Fibonacci’s Walk is a mown, white lined path through the meadow (birch trees are spaced according to the Fibonacci sequence), with borrowed views extending over the Holy Brook Valley. From here we walked up steps of red carpet to a pleached lime walk above a sunken croquet lawn and on to the Starburst pool of blue and purple slate. The Bamboo Grove with table and chairs in the centre, originally to be a maze, has metal stepping-stones to encourage you through. The Cosmic Evolution Garden has 6 limestone spheres representing planets (used as seats), and inspired by Martin Rees’s book, Just Six Numbers. There is so much more that could be described and I look forward to the debrief discussion next week.