Designing a Garden: Monk’s Garden at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
The intimate Monk’s Garden at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston embodies the design principles that inform the work of noted landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh.
Designing a Garden presents Michael Van Valkenburgh’s concept and execution of the Monk’s Garden, an intimate, walled site immediately adjacent to Isabella Stewart Gardner’s Venetian palazzo on the Fenway. Devoted to horticulture and music as well as Old Master paintings and sculpture, Mrs. Gardner planted multiple gardens on the site herself. Van Valkenburgh’s design aims to interpret the museum’s meandering gallery layout, and the rich colors and textures of its idiosyncratic collection, in a contemporary landscape context.
A small-scale, dreamlike woodland, the garden is composed of approximately sixty trees including Stewartia, paperbark maple, and gray birch, that establish a detail-rich palette of colors and textures suitable for intimate appreciation. Winding paths, paved in a striking combination of black brick and reflective mica schist, meander through the trees in the Olmstedian tradition that invites a gentle pace and contemplation.
Van Valkenburgh’s text explores the origins of his love of landscape and plants in his family farm in Upstate New York and moves through the designing of the Monk’s Garden, focusing on the experiential nature of the process and the challenges and satisfactions of the small scale and the historic and cultural context.
|Dimensions||216 × 292 mm|
Michael Van Valkenburgh
Michael Van Valkenburgh is the founder and president of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) and Charles Eliot Professor in Practice of Landscape Architecture at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. Based in New York and Cambridge, Massachusetts, the firm is widely acknowledged as the preeminent American landscape architects and received the prestigious Firm Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects in 2016.