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The Thoroughly Modern Garden

Are you mesmerized by the changing shadows on your patio, as the sun moves through the sky? Do you like minimalist planting and smooth, seamless hardscapes? If so, read on: modernist design may be for you.

Excerpted from Garden Design
Infinity pools are striking contemporary design elements that are especially effective in positions high above surrounding terrain.

The era of Modernist design began in the mid-twentieth century, with the key insight that functional design, adapted to human needs, could also be a plant-sustaining work of art. But, how does this insight play out in the current Modernist revival, in which great attention is being paid to selective planting and high-quality finishes.

One of the most recognizable traits of Modernist design is its use of light and shadow in free-flowing space. Views through Modernist gardens are complex, and often multiple depending on the time of the day or the location or sensibility of the viewers. Although one or two views may be emphasized, the partial enclosure of space within walls or hedges means that views are open to personal interpretation, as the visitor is not forced by the design to experience them in just one way. Sharp lines reinforce the contrast between horizontals and verticals.

The material palette of Modernist design is minimal — smooth rendered concrete is often used for paving and walls, and limestone or slate, with little or no decoration, are also ideal for floors. Designers prefer large slabs that minimize joints and create clean, uninterrupted surfaces.

Planting in the Modernist style is restricted too, with many gardens featuring only trees, hedges and lawn punctuated by key architectural specimens.

The geometry of Modernism is almost exclusively angular and emphasizes the horizontal line, although there are examples of designs based on circles or ovals in the Modernist genre too. Regular grids are often used to relate the house to the garden, blurring the distinction between interior and exterior space.

Water is used architecturally in Modernist design, often as a reflective surface. Here, a tranquil pool reflects a unified environment.

Excerpted from Garden Design

©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009

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