Yuyuan Garden a Chinese Classical Garden
BMH 02 - 20 - 2010

The Yuyuan Garden of Shanghai, China, was the groups first excursion to a Chinese Classical Garden during World Tour. Also known as a Scholar's Garden for its poetic composition, a component of feng shui, the group will continue to examine this garden type tomorrow in Suzhou, China, visiting the Master of Nets Gardens and the Lingering Gardens. Commissioned by Pan Yunduan during the Ming Dynasty, the Yuyuan Gardens were damaged by the British Army in the Opium Wars and further trampled by the Japanese in 1942. As of 1982, the gardens were restored and are today recognized as a national monument in China. Studying the components of the Yuyuan Garden, as an example of the classical garden typology, might assist further design analysis in tomorrow's exploration. In its entirety the complex, as an extension of the private home, was created as a spiritual retreat from the pressures of public life, to reconnect with nature and realign the mind. To accomplish this the designer utilized various design principles that will likely appear in other Chinese Classical Gardens. First, the garden is segmented into various sized rooms and separated by a tile-scaled dragon wall. These individual sections encourage exploration and unexpected discovery, allowing individuals to meander through thought and location. This process of exploration utilizes the awareness of the right-brain and silences the processing algorithms of the left-brain, the modern definition of a spiritual retreat. Second, the five-acre garden is relatively small. The garden complex is completely walled off from the surrounding city, and each segmented space provides a sense of intimacy and security. While the size of the complex might reflect the realities of an urban garden, perhaps it also provides an illusion of control in an otherwise complex and chaotic existence. Third, the transitional elements between spaces vary in style, texture, and character and respond to the various elements within each room. Zig-zagging bridges span larger ponds, while arching bridges span small brooks; rocky stairs transition to the top of mounds and wall penetrations and windows frame a picturesque view of the progression (Top, Left Image). Finally, the garden mimics natural orders through its asymmetrical layout, and each room contains a varying degree of cultural and natural landscapes. Plant life is strategically placed for its symbolic reference to Chinese values and for its aromatic contribution to the sense of retreat, activating the experiential portions of the brain. Some rooms contain a formal ordering system while others attempt to mimic the mountains and lakes of China. Using ponds and mounds in the microcosm, the garden juxtaposes jagged rocks against the calming, still water (Bottom, Left Image). The reflection evokes universal harmony, a balance of masculine and feminine energies. From this perspective, the swimming carp was selected for its ability to overcome turbulent water, a cognitive link back to the user's own struggle for harmony. Within the urban context, there are opportunities to adapt these classical design principles to contemporary design within individual hometown projects. Realigning the mind's connection with the cosmos in a form of spiritual retreat should not be a luxury for the elite; rather, it should be strategically designed and accessible to a all individuals in the high-stressed environment of the city.

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