Yu Garden / Boboli Garden
DDF 03 - 16 - 2010

The experimentation of natural versus architectural styles made the Boboli Garden in Florence, Italy unique to others seen on the tour thus far. When I ventured through the gardens, there were several instances when I never knew what to expect next. The landscape architect clearly wanted to keep visitors interest by never giving away too much, which encouraged exploration of the entire garden. To be more specific, after climbing a curved staircase to view an elevated garden, I was surprised with a sweeping view of the Italian countryside. This concept of looking to the outside world was a harsh contrast to the confined, solitary approach of the Yu Garden in Shanghai, China. Views were controlled so that no outside influences could change the experience of visiting the garden. The Yu Garden, however, did have subtle differences between the spaces, but because of the limits of space and terrain, the scale of differences in the Boboli Garden was not found. The Yu Gardens seemed to be completely and totally designed, while the Boboli Garden was integrated within its natural terrain. Every space and experience was considered in the Yu Garden and nothing was left to chance. The integration of architecture within the landscape was handled differently in both gardens. In the Yu Gardens, the mixture of architecture and landscape architecture was completed in a harmonious manor with each taking advantage of the other’s strengths. The buildings and landscape seem to be meant for each other as each building was specifically placed to frame a view. The land forms seemed to “build up” to the architecture as can be seen in the lower image. Because of the widespread use of water in the Chinese Gardens, reflections also started to become major elements of the spaces. The mirror-like qualities of the water forced me to look around and see the space from different perspectives. In the Boboli Gardens, however, the architecture did not play a large role in the forms of the landscape. The built forms seemed to be clearly defined form the landscape architecture. The buildings of the Yu Garden were clearly designed specifically for that garden, however, the majority of buildings in Boboli Garden seemed if they could have just been placed there, not having any deep relationship with the landscape. Also, buildings took up a much higher percentage of land use in the Yu gardens when compared to the Boboli gardens, which in itself began to define a major difference between the two places. While each garden had individual compartments, the gardens had unique methods for creating separations between these compartments. The Boboli Garden used vegetation to separate spaces, furthering the feeling of the use of natural vs. architectural elements. The separation of spaces in the Yu Garden was done with architecture. Covered paths and walls were often used to separate the spaces. Both methods seemed appropriate for the individual gardens. The wall and architecture “separators” in the Yu Garden became part of the epic narrative for the space and started to define important aspects of the Chinese culture. The dragon wall made a powerful architectural narrative statement while also function as means of dividing spaces. Because of this integration many of the key elements of the Chinese gardens were in the details. To really see the most important parts of the narrative, I had to look at all of the elements of the space. In some ways, this could be considered a more successful implementation of an epic narrative because it forced me to observe even the most minute features. In contrast, the statues and sculptures of the Boboli gardens were the centerpieces for the spaces. Less investigation was required to understand the meanings behind the design.

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