The 250sqm site runs east to west and is surrounded by two buildings, a perimeter wall and open on the western side. Initially the ground was pretty level and laid to paving blocks allowing access to the buildings but serving not much purpose and fairly static. The project took 3 months to build during the wettest winter in the British Isles at a cost of £140,000.
Situated in the middle of the Essex countryside, about an hour north of London, the site offers far reaching views, tranquillity and green. The client, whom I designed two projects previously, had invited me to design a contemporary Japanese garden for this space after a visit with his family to Japan. He was inspired by the peace offered by temple gardens, the plants and rocks, the disciplined raking of gravel and the sound of water. It was an opportunity for me to interpret further my contemporary ideas with the soulful tradition of ancient Japanese gardens.
The plan had to link the four disparate boundaries of the site, all set at different angles and respond to the existing character of the architecture. The client had moved to the site a few years back and had restored an old barn and its outbuildings using oak beams, black cladding, slate tiles and flint walls. Specialist equipment was required to crane certain heavy materials and then to lift heavy pieces by hand with hydraulic hand-held lifting gear.
Around 50 tonnes of rubble were excavated to make room for 60 new tonnes of materials: 10 different kinds of natural stone, aggregates, timber and rocks. A line of 6 granite rocks traverses diagonally to create a narrative to symbolise the family, decreasing in size from the background culminating in the foreground with a low granite rock set as a water feature. Black and grey flamed granite feature in the surfaces and walls, alternating in random patterns culminating in the focal point wall which has a three-dimensional quality where the stone is protruding out at random.
Location: Essex, UK
Designer: MyLandscapes LTD | Amir Schlezinger
Most of the plants used are Japanese species such as Acer palmatum, Camellia, Ilex crenata topiary, ferns, a multi-stem Prunus ‘Accolade’, miniature grasses set in lines in the deck and bamboo. Two floating decks feature in the lower temple area as platforms to offer views to the countryside beyond.
Photographs: Amir Schlezinger