from Lectures on Architecture (1736)
By the 1730s the new English garden movement was clearly taking shape. The first significant representative of the new trend was William Kent (1685-1748), a painter whom Lord Burlington had lured back from Italy in 1715. During the mid-1720s Kent was commissioned by Burlington to write a book on Inigo Jones, and by the end of this decade he was assisting Burlington in redesigning his own garden. Kent would also turn to architecture (as a classicist) in the 1730s, but at the same time he gained considerable renown for his relaxed or informal garden designs, first manifesting itself in his masterpieces at Stowe (1731-5) and Rousham (beginning in 1737). Kent left no literary record of his ideas of garden design, but we can gain an insight into his design sensitivities by turning to another contemporary book by Robert Morris.
The latter, as we have already seen, was at least loosely connected with the Burlington circle, and in his classical theory he places great emphasis on the notion of harmony. In his Lectures on Architecture, however, we have the emerging ''picturesque'' side of his thought, which Morris obviously felt to be fully consistent with classicism. Again, many of the elements of later British theory are evident here: the preference for rural living, for convenience of the plan (over beauty), for the prospect of gardens from the house, and for a freer treatment of nature as a painter might arrange a landscape painting. There are, however, still echoes of the classical tradition as well, such as the preference for a classical design of the residential seat, embellished with the three Greek orders (depending on the characteristics of the landscape). The lecture is thus an interesting transitional piece between the earlier classicism and mature picturesque theory, in which geometric and symmetric architecture and the informal garden are regarded as complementary features. The great emphasis on the situation, however, presages the later step of seeking to make the design of the house also more ''picturesque.''
When I speak of Situation, it must not be suppos'd that I mean proper Choice of it in Towns or Cities, where every Order is promiscuously perform'd, and, perhaps, in the same Pile of Building; but I would be understood, such Situations which are the proper Choice of Retirements, where a Sameness should be preserv'd between Art and Nature.
Convenience is certainly the first Thing to be consider'd in Choice of Situation; what Supplies of Water, of Provision, of Carriage, &c. can easily and speedily be attain'd: For without these principal and necessary Conveniences, for the Support of little Commonwealths of Families, a Structure would soon be deserted, and left a Residence only for the Fowls of the Air to retire to, from the Inclemencies of the Seasons, and a Place of Repose.
Robert Morris, from Lectures on Architecture (1734-6). Farnborough: Gregg International Publishers, 1971 (facsimile edition), pp. 63-70.
But it is at the same time to be observ'd, such Situations which produce such Supplies, are not difficult to be found: And, perhaps, with the Additions of a healthy and fertile Soil, uninterrupted Vistas and Avenues, an agreeable River, or some opening Lawn, or at least a distant Groupe of Hills and Vales diminishing from the Eye by a pleasing Gradation: I say such an agreeable Spot of Ground, where Nature wantons in Luxuriancy, is the first Care of a Builder; and by a proper Design compos'd to blend Art and Nature together, must consequently render it the Delight of the Inhabitant, and give an unspeakable Pleasure to the Eye of every Beholder.
A Person who builds on such a useful and delightful Glebe, must doubtless not only agreeably improve that Fortune which Providence has supplied him with, but likewise perpetuate his Judgment to his Posterity; it must render his Off-spring a Happiness and Pleasure, which gives a true Relish to Life. But he who, on the contrary, lays the Foundation of his Fabrick on a barren or unpleasant Soil, or on a bleak Wild which Nature seems to have deserted, is, consequently, only perpetuating his Folly to future Ages.
But it is to be observ'd, that every one that builds has not an equal Felicity in the Opportunity of chusing a fine Situation; therefore some must fall into little Errors and Inconveniences: But it were better to have an ill-shap'd Hand or Leg, than to have none. Therefore Conveniency must he preferr'd to Beauty; and the fine Prospect, the opening Lawns, the distant Views, must give way to a more healthy, a more temperate, or more convenient Soil.
I might here descend to shew you by what Methods you must proceed to distinguish a healthy Soil, such as by the Complexion of the Inhabitants, the Health of Cattle, and even by the Soundness of Stones and Trees, are known; and in the choice of Water, concerning its Goodness, by being in running Streams, not stagnated, muddy, or leaving any Sediment in the Vessel, its Remoteness from Lakes or Ponds of Water, &c. But as this would divert your Thoughts from the Application of Buildings, to a proper Situation; I shall refer it to another Lecture, or to Alberti, or Andrea Palladio, who has said what is necessary on this Subject, in his first and second Books of Architecture.
As Nature requires a Sameness, when Art is made use of to add Lustre to her Beauty; so Art never more agreeably pleases us, than when she has a Resemblance of Nature: Therefore, by a kind of Sympathy and Attraction, when both are blended or mingled together, so as to be preserv'd without starting into Extreams, they must necessarily give that Pleasure to the Senses, which alone can flow from the nice Hand and Skill of the Designer.
In this, I think, our modern Way of planning Gardens is far preferable to what was us'd 20 Years ago, where, in large Parterres, you might see Men, Birds, and Dogs, cut in Trees; or, perhaps, something like the Shape of a Man on Horseback - (pardon this Digression.) - In Architecture Men have fell into Methods equally absurd. In some Places, may be seen little Boys supporting a Burden of a Monument that had been the Labour of 10 or 12 Persons to place there; or a Corinthian Column set in a Fish-pond, and a Tuscan at the Entrance of a Summer-house. I say, such Inconsistencies in Nature always hurt the Imagination, and we view such Objects with more Pain and Surprize than any Pleasure they can possibly give us.
A champaign open Country, requires a noble and plain Building, which is always best supplied by the Dorick Order, or something analogous to its Simplicity. If it have a long extended View, it were best to range the Offices in a Line with the Building; for at distant Views it fills the Eye with a majestick Pleasure. A Situation near the Sea requires the same, or rather a Rusticity and Lowness: The Vapours of the Sea, by its saline Qualities, expand themselves some Distance, and always are a decaying Principle; and with the boisterous Winds which blow from it, must, consequently, require a Power forcible enough to withstand its corrosive Quality.
The chearful Vale requires more Decoration and Dress; and if the View be long, or some adjacent River runs near it; the Ionick Order is the most proper; where Nature seems to wanton in Dress, and is gay in Verdure, she requireth Art to assist and embellish her, and the Liveliness of the Ionick Order can deck and garnish the Glebe. If the Spot be an Ascent, and some distant Hills or Wood environ the back Part, (in which I suppose the Front a South Aspect) then a few Ornaments may be scatter'd in proper Parts, to give it an enlivening Variety; - but Care must be had not to use Superfluity. If it be on an Eminence, and surrounded with Woods, the principal Avenues should be spacious: Portico's give a grateful Pleasure to us in the View, and more so, if the Front is not contracted by the Avenue, nor continue too near it, to take off the proper Shades and keeping of Design.
The Ionick Order is of the three Greek Orders the most applicable to Situations of various Kinds; and if I say her Measures and Proportions more pleasingly attract the Eye, it is not without Reason: The Parts are analogous to Nature, in which she has been so nicely pois'd between the Rusticity of the Dorick and the Luxuriancy of the Corinthian, that I am more apt to believe the Ionick Order was invented as a Mean between the Dorick and the Corinthian, than that the Ionick was in so beautiful Proportion before the Corinthian Order was invented.
The silent Streams, the gay, the wanton Scene, requires the Corinthian Order; where Nature is gilded with lively Landskips, where the Verdure is blended with Flowers, which she decks herself with, and where the party-colour'd Painting of some opening Lawn garnishes her in all her Pride; then the Architect must have Recourse to Fancy, must mingle his Flowers with Nature, his Festoons of Fruits, &c. must deck the Fabrick, and be Nature in every thing but Lavishness; the same Chain of Similitude should run through the Design, rising from one Degree of Dress to another, still preserving the Consistency of the Parts with the Whole, and keeping that Mediocrity in Ornament which the Nature of the Design requires.
This first book by the architect William Chambers voices a sub-theme lurking in the background of picturesque theory - the Chinese garden. This book of Chambers owes everything to the circumstances of his early years, the three trips to China and the Orient in the 1740s. This fascination with China later found an outlet when, during his architectural training in Paris, he met the Prince of Wales. As the story goes, the latter encouraged him to design a Chinese building for the garden at Kew, and Chambers indeed built a ''House of Confuscius'' there in the
William Chambers, from Designs of Chinese Buildings, Furniture, Dresses, Machines, and Utensils, published by the author, 1757. New York: Benjamin Bloom, 1968 (reissue), pp. 14-18.
early 1750s, even before the architect had settled in England. After moving to London in 1755, as architect to Princess Augusta, Chambers further transformed the gardens at Kew. The gardens today are still best known for the 10-story Great Pagoda, laid out by Chambers in 1761. Chambers published all of his designs for Kew in his Plans, Elevations, Sections, and Perspective Views of the Gardens and Buildings at Kew in Surry (1763), and he would also later publish A Dissertation on Oriental Gardening (1772). His Designs of Chinese Buildings is an earlier book, and it captures Chambers at the moment when he was most attracted to what he regarded as the Chinese style. The passages are from the chapter, ''Of the Art of Laying Out Gardens among the Chinese.''
The gardens which I saw in China were very small; nevertheless from them, and what could be gathered from Lepqua, a celebrated Chinese painter, with whom I had several conversations on the subject of gardening, I think I have acquired sufficient knowledge of their notions on this head.
Nature is their pattern, and their aim is to imitate her in all her beautiful irregularities. Their first consideration is the form of the ground, whether it be flat, sloping, hilly, or mountainous, extensive, or of small compass, of a dry or marshy nature, abounding with rivers and springs, or liable to a scarcity of water; to all which circumstances they attend with great care, chusing such dispositions as humour the ground, can be executed with the least expence, hide its defects, and set its advantages in the most conspicuous light.
As the Chinese are not fond of walking, we seldom meet with avenues or spacious walks, as in our European plantations: the whole ground is laid out in a variety of scenes, and you are led, by winding passages cut in the groves, to the different points of view, each of which is marked by a seat, a building, or some other object.
The perfection of their gardens consists in the number, beauty, and diversity of these scenes. The Chinese gardeners, like the European painters, collect from nature the most pleasing objects, which they endeavour to combine in such a manner, as not only to appear to the best advantage separately, but likewise to unite in forming an elegant and striking whole.
Their artists distinguish three different species of scenes, to which they give the appellations of pleasing, horrid, and enchanted. Their enchanted scenes answer, in a great measure, to what we call romantic, and in these they make use of several artifices to excite surprize. Sometimes they make a rapid stream, or torrent, pass under ground, the turbulent noise of which strikes the ear of the new-comer, who is at a loss to know from whence it proceeds: at other times they dispose the rocks, buildings, and other objects that form the composition, in such a manner as that the wind passing through the different interstices and cavities, made in them for that purpose, causes strange and uncommon sounds. They introduce into these scenes all kinds of extraordinary trees, plants, and flowers, form artificial and complicated ecchoes, and let loose different sorts of monstrous birds and animals.
In their scenes of horror, they introduce impending rocks, dark caverns, and impetuous cataracts rushing down the mountains from all sides; the trees are ill-formed, and seemingly torn to pieces by the violence of tempests; some are thrown down, and intercept the course of the torrents, appearing as if they had been brought down by the fury of the waters; others look as if shattered and blasted by the force of lightning; the buildings are some in ruins, others half-consumed by fire, and some miserable huts dispersed in the mountains serve, at once to indicate the existence and wretchedness of the inhabitants. These scenes are generally succeeded by pleasing ones. The Chinese artists, knowing how powerfully contrast operates on the mind, constantly practise sudden transitions, and a striking opposition of forms, colours, and shades. Thus they conduct you from limited prospects to extensive views; from objects of horrour to scenes of delight; from lakes and rivers to plains, hills, and woods; to dark and gloomy colours they oppose such as are brilliant, and to complicated forms simple ones; distributing, by a judicious arrangement, the different masses of light and shade, in such a manner as to render the composition at once distinct in it's parts, and striking in the whole.
Where the ground is extensive, and a multiplicity of scenes are to be introduced, they generally adapt each to one single point of view: but where it is limited, and affords no room for variety, they endeavour to remedy this defect, by disposing the objects so, that being viewed from different points, they produce different representations; and sometimes, by an artful disposition, such as have no resemblance to each other.
In their large gardens they contrive different scenes for morning, noon, and evening; erecting, at the proper points of view, buildings adapted to the recreations of each particular time of the day: and in their small ones (where, as has been observed, one arrangement produces many representations) they dispose in the same manner, at the several points of view, buildings, which, from their use, point out the time of day for enjoying the scene in it's perfection.
As the climate of China is exceeding hot, they employ a great deal of water in their gardens. In the small ones, if the situation admits, they frequently lay almost the whole ground under water; leaving only some islands and rocks: and in their large ones they introduce extensive lakes, rivers, and canals. The banks of their lakes and rivers are variegated in imitation of nature; being sometimes bare and gravelly, sometimes covered with woods quite to the water's edge. In some places flat, and adorned with flowers and shrubs; in others steep, rocky, and forming caverns, into which part of the waters discharge themselves with noise and violence. Sometimes you see meadows covered with cattle, or rice-grounds that run out into the lakes, leaving between them passages for vessels; and sometimes groves, into which enter, in different parts, creeks and rivulets, sufficiently deep to admit boats; their banks being planted with trees, whose spreading branches, in some places, form arbours, under which the boats pass. These generally conduct to some very interesting object; such as a magnificent building, places on the top of a mountain cut into terrasses; a casine situated in the midst of a lake; a cascade; a grotto cut into a variety of apartments; an artificial rock; and many other such inventions.
Their rivers are seldom streight, but serpentine, and broken into many irregular points; sometimes they are narrow, noisy, and rapid, at other times deep, broad, and slow. Both in their rivers and lakes are seen reeds, with other aquatic plants and flowers; particularly the Lyen Hoa, of which they are very fond. They frequently erect mills, and other hydraulic machines, the motions of which enliven the scene: they have also a great number of vessels of different forms and sizes. In their lakes they intersperse islands; some of them barren, and surrounded with rocks and shoals; others enriched with every thing that art and nature can furnish most perfect. They likewise form artificial rocks; and in compositions of this kind the Chinese surpass all other nations. The making them is a distinct profession; and there are at Canton, and probably in most other cities of China, numbers of artificers constantly employed in this business. The stone they are made of comes from the southern coasts of China. It is of a bluish cast, and worn into irregular forms by the action of the waves. The
Chinese are exceeding nice in the choice of this stone; insomuch that I have seen several Tael given for a bit no bigger than a man's fist, when it happened to be of a beautiful form and lively colour. But these select pieces they use in landscapes for their apartments: in gardens they employ a coarser sort, which they join with a bluish cement, and form rocks of a considerable size. I have seen some of these exquisitely fine, and such as discovered an uncommon elegance of taste in the contriver. When they are large they make in them caves and grottos, with openings, through which you discover distant prospects, They cover them, in different places, with trees, shrubs, briars, and moss; placing on their tops little temples, or other buildings, to which you ascend by rugged and irregular steps cut in the rock.
When there is a sufficient supply of water, and proper ground, the Chinese never fail to form cascades in their gardens. They avoid all regularity in these works, observing nature according to her operations in that mountainous country. The waters burst out from among the caverns, and windings of the rocks. In some places a large and impetuous cataract appears; in others are seen many lesser falls. Sometimes the view of the cascade is intercepted by trees, whose leaves and branches only leave room to discover the waters, in some places, as they fall down the sides of the mountain. They frequently throw rough wooden bridges from one rock to another, over the steepest part of the cataract; and often intercept it's passage by trees and heaps of stones, that seem to have been brought down by the violence of the torrent.
In their plantations they vary the forms and colours of their trees; mixing such as have large and spreading branches, with those of pyramidal figures, and dark greens, with brighter, interspersing among them such as produce flowers; of which they have some that flourish a great part of the year. The Weeping-willow is one of their favourite trees, and always among those that border their lakes and rivers, being so planted as to have it's branches hanging over the water. They likewise introduce trunks of decayed trees, sometimes erect, and at other times lying on the ground, being very nice about their forms, and the colour of the bark and moss on them.
Various are the artifices they employ to surprize. Sometimes they lead you through dark caverns and gloomy passages, at the issue of which you are, on a sudden, struck with the view of a delicious landscape, enriched with every thing that luxuriant nature affords most beautiful. At other times you are conducted through avenues and walks, that gradually diminish and grow rugged, till the passage is at length entirely intercepted, and rendered impracticable, by bushes, briars, and stones: when unexpectedly a rich and extensive prospect opens to view, so much the more pleasing as it was less looked for.
Another of their artifices is to hide some part of a composition by trees, or other intermediate objects. This naturally excites the curiosity of the spectator to take a nearer view; when he is surprised by some unexpected scene, or some representation totally opposite to the thing he looked for. The termination of their lakes they always hide, leaving room for the imagination to work; and the same rule they observe in other compositions, wherever it can be put in practice.
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