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American Society of Landscape Architects


January 2005 Issue

Beyond the Path
A modern translation of Japanese garden design creates a spiritual passage through the seasons.

By Heather Hammatt, ASLA

Beyond the Path
Brian Vanden Brink

With several controlled sweeps of a brush, a Japanese calligraphic artist can make ink swirl onto paper, forming characters admired for line weight and composition. Japanese calligraphy often resembles stylized landscape paintings: Language becomes art.

The character for "roji," or "passageway," symbolizes the series of experiences to be found along a common path, an influence in many Japanese gardens. In a modern translation of an ancient Japanese tea garden, landscape architect Kris Horiuchi, ASLA, of Horiuchi & Solien Landscape Architects of Falmouth, Massachusetts, worked with a husband and wife artist duo, New Hampshire-based Eck Follen and Charles Swanson, to bring traditional Japanese garden design to a residential site shaped by glacial history.

The clean lines and strong architectural geometry of the contemporary Cape Cod residence seem to melt into the shady edge of the native pine forest on a 10-acre site in Falmouth. The landscape, designed as a series of experiences along a passageway, is not intended to be viewed from any single location. The owners—a Woods Hole scientist and a psychotherapist who are Buddhists—wanted a landscape journey that would represent a spiritual connection to nature. A series of spaces to accommodate everyday life incorporate and encourage the constant rediscovery of nature via all five senses: An experiential path links a stream garden, a courtyard garden, an ofuro (soaking tub), a tokonoma (ceremonial planter), a tsukubai (water basin), an akari (lantern/outdoor shower), and a tobi-ishi (stone path).

In her design, Horiuchi abstracted key influential forms from traditional Japanese gardens while accommodating the needs of a modern family and taking advantage of the natural drama of Cape Cod's glacial history. Large boulders dot the landscape, their mossy, weathered surfaces breaking up the ground plane. Perched on a high point, the house overlooks a 30-foot kettle depression that defines the back corner of the site. The sense of discovery—coming across natural elements and bringing them out—was an integral part of the design process, according to Horiuchi.

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