On the first study trip for the project, we went to Japan in search of gardens whose particularity is to look natural although adapted in certain aspects.
The visitor may be surprised to find Japanese inspired gardens in our park dedicated to Mediterranean species but our overall view on the park is to give the visitor an experience based on the Japanese philosophy.
The Japanese gardens have Chinese roots. Japan was closed to influences from outside for a long time but eventually the interaction between the two countries grew, resulting in the introduction of new religions and new customs. All this led to different concepts of gardens and philosophy, but also to a desire for assimilation and integration of these concepts.
There are certain characteristics related to Japanese gardens which are often wrongly seen as "the Japanese garden". The ancient Japanese gardens have very different lay-out and plantation but have several common characteristics. The most obvious are the use of lanterns, water, steppingstones and bridges. For the layman the subtle layout and the path along which the visitor is guided through the garden, is less visible. What remains is the sense of harmony and tranquillity.
We wish to offer the visitor a space where nature is adapted to a certain extent. This adaption has no added value unless it sublimates the original state. When plants naturally bring beauty and balance, there is no need to modify. This philosophy favours the creation of visual ruptures specific to the design of Japanese gardens. The power of each subject (floral or other), of each space, is based on the presence of the other elements. Whether in harmony or in apparent chaos, the goal is to create a feeling of balance (principle of Yin and Yang). Thus raw rocks co-exist with paths and water.
We rely on the structuring of plant elements to give the idea that they are naturally implanted in order to sublimate nature. They will preferably be left in their original state but if they are pruned it is in order to reveal their true beauty.
Through the use of depth we try to create a feeling of space. The Japanese style rests on the double principle of perspective in which the distant view is integrated and on the coexistence of juxtaposed planes. Thus the creator will alternate active spaces (plant) with intermediate zones occupied by passive spaces (stone or water).
From the end of the Shogun period (1850) until after 1945 Japan opened up to the West. Japanese landscapers adapted their traditional know-how to new requirements.
They retained their typicity while adapting to fashions coming from elsewhere. It has thus become common to see Western species integrated into this type of garden such as the Western plane tree (Platanus orientalis), the flower dogwood (Cornus florida) or the crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica).
Pebbles, gravel and sand will be chosen according to their size, colour or texture. The mineral element intervenes either in rupture between two planes or is a main subject of the “picture”. Rocks symbolically shelter the spirits in the ancestral animist culture. Positioned at the foot of the trees, planted on the edge of the river, they structure the path towards the waterfalls. More modest stones show in transparency under the water.
Dirt roads, gravel and stepping stones. In this style of garden you do not go just anywhere, the path indicates the best place to enjoy the garden.
Besides the reflection of trees, stones and decorative objects, it is the mirror of the sky. In the strict design of the Japanese garden the sky is not part of the "picture" except to be found by this playful reflection. Thus creating a perfect symmetry between what is above and what is below.
Rivers, ponds and waterfalls are often combined with an island, a bridge or stones in order to create a balance. They make the visitor's mind travel and inspire him to discover the garden and also affect the sound of the place. Their lapping or falls, recall the wild nature.
In a dry garden, water is symbolically represented by gravel or sand.
Sculptures and Objects.
The appearance of stone bridges is relatively recent. A priori because the mineral has long been used in its raw state and was often positioned exactly as it originally was. It constitutes an intermediate passage allowing access to an island.
Lanterns and statues come to recall the presence of man in his spiritual dimension.
Hedges, palisades and walls, the notion of limit is not absolute. If the perspective contains a visual interest (view of mountains, temples or other), it will be integrated into the "picture". Conversely, in a small space (urban gardens for example), the boundaries of a garden can be hidden but also enhanced.
Being a Mediterranean park we want to preserve the spirit of the Japanese gardens by using Mediterranean species and the Japanese philosophy. The garden can be seen as an organic place where the mind of the visitor can roam freely. This idea was our inspiration for the creation of the river and its surroundings, south of the Castle Park.