Most landscaping books limit themselves to particular countries or regions but Modern Tropical Garden Design is the first to explore the impact of modernism on landscaping across the whole equatorial world from the tropical Americas all the way to tropical Asia and Australia.
Three years in the making, this richly-illustrated book charts the development of tropical gardens from the 1950s to the present. For many years tropical landscapers failed to take into account the architecture, adding perhaps just a meek garnish of color to their gardens. It wasn’t until the 1950s when the modernist movement reached a new level of acceptance in home garden design, the bold abstract forms of tropical foliage becoming part of the landscape.
Modern gardens should be poetic and romantic, complementing the architecture, providing a natural counterbalance to the man-made. As the author himself says, “Modern gardens don’t need to be stiff and unfriendly. Garden designers should wave wands, like Merlins of the Mulch, to soften the architecture and not just display the minimalist stamps of the 21st century.”
Modern Tropical Garden Design documents the seminal work of the early masters – Richard C. Tongg, Roberto Burle Marx, Luis Barragan, Isamu Noguchi and Geoffrey Bawa, as well as the outstanding contributions of such contemporary tropical modernists as Raymond Jungles of Florida, Bill Bensley of Bangkok, Martin Palleros of Perth, Karl Princic of Bali, and Ng Sek San of Malaysia. The work of trend-setting architects are also given their due, most notably Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright and Richard Meutra, all of whom have profoundly influenced a whole generation of tropical house and garden designers.
Author Made Wijaya is an internationally known and highly influential landscape architect who has been designing gardens and writing books on gardening and the architecture and culture of Bali for more than 30 years. He first made a name for himself in designing romantic Balinese gardens, park-like in scale, particularly his resort work at properties such as the Bali Hyatt (1984), The Oberoi (1983), the Four Seasons Jimbaran (1990) and the Amandari (1988).
Wijaya’s garden designs celebrate the richness and variety of nature, with a special emphasis on tropical plant forms. Everything this prolific gardener designs looks naturalistic but is in reality carefully orchestrated. He travels almost non-stop throughout the tropical world for his work and has spent two decades documenting the best modern gardens and interviewing modern designers.
His gardens at the Bali Hyatt in Sanur lead one into sensual world of discovery with new visual sensations at every twist of the path, combining masses of plantings, living fences, pavilions with views of the shore, all suggesting the work of a hidden choreographer, mimicking nature in the wild. Wijaya’s work is definitely not in the realm of the minimalist. He adheres to the rule that no modern plant should be allowed to sleep safely in its bed.
Other modern tropical gardens Wijaya has constructed – all featured in the book - are the Taj Wellington Mews Apartments (2004) in Mumbai, The Park Hotel in Visakhapatnam, the Asian Garden section of the Naples Botanical Garden in Florida (2006). During the 1990s he also worked in Singapore with the best modern bungalow architects.
Modern Tropical Garden Design has grown out of an earlier design book by Wijaya, Tropical Garden Design (2000) which presented the new wave of modern gardens then making their appearance all over the tropical world in which nature itself is used to enhance the architecture and uplift the spirits. This new book records those historical antecedents, presents new design philosophies and documents emerging styles from Brazilian modern through to Hawaiian and New Asian that are influencing garden design today. Written in Made Wijaya’s usual witty style, invaluable guidance is also offered on practical matters in designing courtyards and patios; pavilions, pergolas and verandas; pavings; water features; pools; walls; plants; colors; furniture; lighting; tropical flower arrangements and art.
The book is especially informative in terms of plant design and layout and which garden accessories best complement your overall garden design. The 270 striking images, full of beautiful colors and textures, give lots of visual design information and should inspire contemporary homeowners and landscapers to work with various combinations to give a garden that finished look.
The publication embodies all the elements that make for a fine large format picture book: readable text type, concise image assignments, informative captions, accurate running heads, high-definition semi-glossy photographs, variegated photo size with full-page bleeds and attractive layout with generous white spaces and text margins.
In the rear of the book the chapter “Avant Gardeners” discusses the exciting work of ten ground-breaking garden visionaries whose design philosophies have enriched the world of garden art and design, followed by a “Master Plant List,” the result of 10 years of travel and experimentation, which gives the botanical and common names of tropical palms, trees, shrubs, groundcovers, vines, ferns and orchids. (I wished Indonesian names were provided.)
Whereas tropical house design is the province of architects and developers, most gardens are designed and created by do-it-yourself homeowners who get their ideas from friends’ gardens, garden centers, resort hotels, books and magazines.
Modern Tropical Garden Design will prove an inspiration for not only novice gardeners and professionals but for anyone who loves tropical gardens, giving them virtually hundreds of new and modern ideas so that they are able to create similar exotic settings in their own back yards.
Modern Tropical Garden Design by Made Wijaya, Periplus Editions 2007, ISBN 10 0794650384, hardcover 208 pages, bibliography, notes, photo credits, index, dimensions 11.1 x 9.9 x 0.9 inches. Available for Rp460,000 at Periplus outlets, at Ganesha Bookstore in Ubud and Ganesha@Biku in Kerobokan.