he 18th century provided the conditions for a completely different course
in the development of garden design. The new style decides against straight
lines and stiff geometrical composition and in favor of a more natural
construction of parks and gardens. The 20s were the time of breaking centuries
old geometric traditions in Twickenham, Chiswick and Stowe.
“The idea of English landscape
gardens doesn’t fall behind the intellectual, art-oriented standards of
the Italian and French in any respect. On the contrary, it surpasses them
many times over because it only accepts that which has generality.” T.O.
The revolutionary garden
design had, in spite of its freed forms, some obligatory rules. First of
all, it’s the rejection of all main or lateral axes dividing the garden
area into distinct sections. The right angle was frowned upon since “nature
abhors the straight line” which William Kent, one of the founders of this
new style, was convinced in. this was the triumph of the serpentine, the
“line of beauty”. However, “If the serpentine is declared the obligatory
line in the garden, its winding nature makes it no less enforced or determined
than the straight line or right angle. Mathematical necessity is just as
applicable here as to more conventional forms. By the beginning of the
18th century, mathematics had already advanced far beyond Euclidean geometry.
Differential and integral calculus, in other words the calculation of irregular
curves and areas, were the order of the day. The serpentine is strikingly
similar to the fall of a classic differential curve with its maximum and
minimum. From this point of view, the English landscape garden can be seen
as a tribute to the mathematics of the age.”
Water was no longer regarded
as a “shaped fluid.” What is more, waterworks were forbidden along with
any possible flights of stairs, ramps, terraces and supporting walls. Apart
from the naturally flowing stream only one other form of water was permitted:
the broad lake with irregular shores. The parterres de broderies were replaced
by uniform, borderless lawns, sometimes reaching up to the very house.
Since there were no clear boundaries in the form of hedges, fences or any
kind of walls, no higher or lower levels in essence (i.e. all places were
equally present, equally inviting, gentle and lively), there was no need
for any process of mediation between them.
Everything in the park was
planned in such a way that it was absolutely impossible to view the whole
area as an entity. The importance of generality to the English garden is
also clear in its treatment of he solitary tree as a closed unit, a reflection
of universal wholeness. "Each individual thing, with its carefully-staged
solitude pointing to universal relationships of nature, becomes a window
onto a world theatre containing an infinite number of stages next to, above
and below each other. On each of these stages even the smallest object
can tell its individual cosmic story.”
1716 brought to the world
one of the best English landscape architects – Lancelot Brown or “Capability”
Brown as everybody called him. He was of the opinion that the architect
ought to seek the “capabilities” inherent in the landscape, that his work
could merely be defined as “improvement” and that built architecture should
be avoided as far as possible. Brown had a “rival”, William Chambers who
designed Kew Gardens and who placed great value on spiritual elements.
Chambers was one of the idealists who dotted the landscape with meaningful
pieces of architecture. Brown, on the contrary, belonged to the naturalists.
It is often claimed that the classic English landscape garden contains
no architecture, only nature. But this point of view forgets that even
nature is the work of an architect: “nature” is that which art selects,
retains and develops as nature. The English landscape garden was, in fact,
no less a precisely calculated artificial world than were the French and
Italian gardens. It was a network of curves laid out over a strict straight
lined coordinate system. The results showed that the two harmonize excellently:
the English landscape gardens have enjoyed wide popularity right up to
the present day.