Nezu garden

February 25, 2018

Vicarious travel is a form of research that we benefit from every now and then, in instances where a friend or colleague is travelling to somewhere of interest for our work. With this motive firmly in mind, I asked a friend, Ian Cooke, to take images of Dimitris Pikionis’ paving near the Acropolis years ago, whilst Ian also kindly furnished me with photos of the High Line on another trip abroad. A former employee, James Fischer, took detail shots of paving from several European countries at our request, whilst some clients of ours provided us with very good images from Scandinavia.

In the case of the images shown herein, I was unaware that David Straight was going to arrive back from Japan with shots of the traditional garden adjoining Kengo Kuma’s building at Nezu Museum, having been especially impressed by it on his travels. We are very interested in Kuma’s work as both an architect and architectural theorist (for example, within his writings in his important book, ‘Anti-Object’).

The building has a very direct relationship with the garden, and principles associated with how one proceeds through a garden or landscape are central to its design. As described in Kenneth Frampton’s monograph of Kuma, the architects’ scheme refers to the manner in which the approach to a tea house (the roji) incorporates shifts in direction (in contrast to the prevalence of axial alignment in European architecture and gardens).

The path that is shown in the image at the top (right) of this journal entry, demonstrates how rotation can be achieved in a composition containing strictly geometric units; wherein the fragments between the rectangular units create the ‘breathing room’ for the path to shift direction. The 2 small stones set in the middle of the recycled millstone represent a slightly unusual, yet undeniably fun attention to detail – the kind of strange element on which David’s camera frequently alights.

In common with certain other great Japanese gardens, it is planted in a manner that is an abstraction of immersive woodland environments; a sensibility akin to the atmosphere established by many of our native woodlands – especially where constraints on growth (such as skeletal soils, wind or even the influence of herbivores) lead to natural abstraction in plant form.