Luxury

At the beginning of the 1990s Dieter Kienast mentioned another aspect that underlines the significance of the garden and garden thinking in our lives today: The garden is the last luxury we have today, as it demands those things that have become the most rare and precious in our society (i.e. time, attention and space). “It is a true reflection of nature in which, once again, we require spirit, knowledge and craftsmanship in the careful handling of the world and its microcosm, the garden. Changing social values are causing a garden renaissance.” In light of current tendencies, referred to collectively as “urban gardening”, it actually is possible to speak of a garden renaissance. If vegetable gardens in large cities were considered to be an anachronism or a sign of dislike for cities a few years ago, today they are thought of as being expressions of a progressive environmental consciousness, even if this isn’t really true in all cases.
As varied as the reasons for gardening in cities may be, from a desire to be self-sufficient to a way of resisting planning paternalism, or as an expression of a wish for intercultural communication, one thing is the same for everyone: ”ln the garden we learn how to deal with nature without having to deny the creative power within us. And thus, it becomes a model and a test case with regard to how we deal with the entire natural and built environment”.

Udo Weilacher, Is Landscape Gardening? (2016)

Dieter Kienast, Courtyard at the Reassurance Company Swiss Re in Zurich, (1994-1995) (Georg Aerni Photo, 2012).

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At the same time as Le Corbusier’s grandiose visions were becoming built reality, Nek Chand, a humble street inspector in the Chandigarh Public Works Department started to realize his dream of a fairy-tale kingdom among the wild scrubland on the outskirts. In the planned city, where every building measure required planning permission, in contrast with other Indian cities, it was impossible even to clear undergrowth or build a little hut without official sanction. So Nek Chand worked secretly, often at night. From 1958 onwards he collected stones, rubble and material created by the demolition of old estates and the construction of the new town, and carted everything to his building site on a bicycle. (…)

Unlike the building plans for the modern ideal city, the complex plan for the Rock Garden existed only in Nek Chand’s head. Anyone entering his empire for the first time through the little entrance portal in the high garden wall topped with geese cannot have the slightest idea of what is waiting for him or her at the next bend in the narrow sunken path, over there behind the garden gate or in the next courtyard. A whole troop of monkeys might be looking curiously down, figures of girls carry their water-jugs to the well in an endless procession, or hundreds of decorative figures perform their ritual dance for one of the countless Indian deities who are undergoing one of their numerous incarnations in the figures. The imaginative world of the Rock Garden is as boundless as the ancient Indian sagas of gods and heroes like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.

The garden, which can reasonably be called a park after the third development phase from 1983 on, now occupies about ten hectares. A large clearing in this park is reached via a deep, artificial gorge, past a rushing waterfall, in the shade of the trees and numerous palace-like buildings on the hill. With its colourful ceramics and rustically cemented arches the setting will almost remind Europeans a little of the Parc Güell in Barcelona. A swing hangs in each of the 50 high arches, a feature much loved by children, while temples, amphitheaters and grottoes entice visitors to explore new terrain. (…)

Antoni Gaudi, Park Güell (1900-1920)

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Like all paradises, this one too is under threat, despite its international fame. It is only courageous resistance by residents that has prevented this imaginative alternative world to the ideal modern city from having to give way to a road development project.

Udo Weilacher, In Gardens (2005)

Nek Chand, Rock Garden (1965- )

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