Design & Interiors Magazine, Indian, February 2008

Design Modern Gardens
An extract from Modern Tropical Garden Design by Made Wijaya

Publishers: Editions Didier Millet/Wijaya Words

“God almighty first planted
a garden
indeed it is the purest of
human leasures.
It is the
greatest refreshment to the spirit
of man
without which building and palaces are
but gross handyworks.”

— Francis Bacon

Sunny terrace in a Lloyd Wright-designed house. Furniture blends with the terrace structure.

Gardens must be put together from parts-pieces of hardscape (paths,ponds,pergolas), areas of softscape (plants), and appropriate artwork and furniture accents. The result should look well balanced as between the natural and the man made.
The last decade has seen architectural gardens become ultra-fashionable in the tropical world. Modernism has come to be equated with minimalism Reflecting bodies of dark water have replaced joyous water gardens. Planting schemes have become a tad monotonous and architectural-rows of spiky things, such as Spanish Bayonets (and other yuccas), dracaenas, and the ubiquitous Horsetail plant have become de rigueur.

The same goes for colour schemes, where palletes of grey and other neutral tones have become the norm. In hardscape, man-made has started to look machine-made. Stripes of different coloured stone have become status symbols.

There are few Roberto Burle Marxes, Luis Barragans and Geoffrey Bawas-masters at balancing landscape with architecture-among today’s modernists. ‘Architects all over Asia have taken over from garden designers in a sapless coup d’etat,’ one garden wit commented. Many of these gardens look as if they from each oter.

Social Realist pavilion in Village Square near Careyes, Mexico .

How best to counteract this? ‘It’s the garden designer’s first job to soften the architecture, then it’s the architect’s job to stay inside, quipped the same wit.

Great modern gardens combine structure and geometry with softer elements such as plants, and more dynamic elements such as art and innovative use of colour and lighting.
The garden is today an extension of the living room, a space designed for outdoor entertainment and leisure. The best gardens are also comfortable, relaxing spaces designed for people, rather than indulgent exercises in hardscape excess.

The lesson I hope to impart in this chapter is: one ca achieve a modern look without the garden looking either homogenized, soul-less, bird-less or god-less.


This roof terrace in Mexico is shaded by a wooden structure that is minimalist and natural.
Antique urns filled with Boston ferns help to soften the concrete platform.

Courtyards & Patios
Modern house designs often consist of a series of interlocking spaces-indoor and outdoor. These spaces are either central courts of Spain which are fully enclosed, or attached to the main structure as is the case with garden terraces or roof terraces.
In ultra-modern architecture-the architecture of Luis Barragan in Mexico and Chan Soo Khian in Singapore, for example-garden courtyards are often defined by walls, or the ‘wings’ of the architectural courts, thus becoming outdoor living rooms with feature walls. The series of courts become compounds, a term derived from the Malay word kampong, meaning a group of dwellings in a village-like cluster, often walled.

In his house in Mexico, architect Duccio Ermenegildo separated the outdoor living and dining areas from the rest of the garden with a series of arches. He designed the dining table and chairs to blend with the architecture.

Traditionally, patios-the Spanish kind-have a fountain or water and water spouts are often woven into the fabric of contemporary architecture and its external courtyards. These water spouts are often realized in modern materials such as stainless steel and high-density ceramic which can look jarring if not pitched just right.

Peopling a courtyard with potted plants and garden furniture makes a court cosy. However, too much and the garden architecture loses its modernist edge. Popular wisdom has it that a striking exterior architecture needs a bolder planting scheme or mass planting to balance. Advice: the choice of planters, light fixtures and garden furniture must take into consideration the character of the courtyard walls and softscape elements.

Pomd and outdoor shower overlooked by a pavilion at Begawan Giri Estate, Bali (now Como Shambhala Estate)

A light pavilion and geometric hardscape forms blend seamlessly into this Thai riverside landscape in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Dan Kily’s courtyards at thate Four Seasons Hotel Miami are good example of balancing landscape elements into a well-composed modern environment. Likewise, the courtyards and patios in Geoffrey Bawa’s work are peopled with light, quirky modern garden furniture. Hawaiian modernists, on the other hand, tend to prefer heavy furniture (of the Summit furniture variety) in their lanai-style courts. This chunkiness matches the solid appearance of their pergolas, light fittings and planters.

Pavilion, Pergolas & Verandahs
The provision of shade is of key impoerance in tropical landscape design. Pergolas and verandahs provide shelter from the harsh tropical light, and they provide shady nooks from which to appreciate garden delights better. They also serve to soften the architecture, as is the case with vinestrewn pergolas. Where pavilions or kiosks serve as artwork accents or follies, they humanize a natural zone.

Tropical Asian courtyard with modern looks designed by P.T. Wijaya for a California home. The chairs were designed by Ed Tuttle, and the doors by sculptor Pintor Sirait.

The dining area is designed using the same timber pattern as the deck, creating a sunken effect.

These added-on elements should be designed to match the basic architecture and blend harmoniously with the planting scheme, trees and other courtyard elements. The end result should enhance the landscape design and not just send architectural elements into the garden, as it were.

Too often in contemporary gardens, we find pavilions that are overdesigned structurally and fabricated from materials stainless steel, chrome or tinted glass-which look jarring or incongruous.

Landscape designer Ng Sek San uses his experience in New Zealand—where things are practical and natural—to create the outdoor entertainment area which feature his trademark ‘metal mesh suspended over the jungle’ design and an attached boardwalk.

In tropical Asia, top architects are adept at designing elegant pavilion or shade structures which add to, rather than distract from, the landscape design. This is in part due to the light and refined nature of pavilions in many Southeast Asian architectural-Balinese and Thai traditional architecture, for xample. In Hawaii, where the indigenous architecture is not as light, landscape architects have a track record of designing heavy-handed pavilions pergolas (seen in many resorts and homes), structures which look as if they are built to withstand a nuclear attack. In Central America, the palappa pavilions with their chunky tree trunk columns transfer effortlessly, in a bold modern way, into auxiliary landscape elements such as pergolas and covered walkways. In tropical Australia, modernists have looked to vernacular architecture such as the shade houses and low-eaved pavilion styles of 19 th-century bungalows to develop a language of landscape architectural forms using tropical hardwoods which is both tropical and modern.

The floating pavilion, ‘imported’ from classical Asia, where it has been favoured since at least the Harapan civilization of the Indus valley in 3000 BC, is another popular, even overused modernist ploy. The pavilion ‘floating’ on a clean body of water is designed to create a sense of romance, detachment, or even the picturesque.

Verandah/loggia space with a postmodern feel at the Villa Bebek, Bali.


| back |

PT. Wijaya Tribwana International
Jln. Pengembak No.9B Mertasari, Sanur 80228, Bali - Indonesia. Ph: (62-361) 287668, Fax: (62-361) 286731

Copyright 2010 PT. Wijaya Tribwana Internationa