The History of the Modern Garden

The Modern Garden developed in the early 20th Century and sits alongside the collective reimagining of conceptual thinking and thebrejection of the past following the traumatic and turbulent period post First World War and Russian Revolution. The Shock of the New (Robert Hughes) describes the journey towards Modernism and its origins in Art, Architecture and Design. 

Development of new materials and construction techniques allowed designers to develop new concepts and sculpt radical forms.

In landscape design, the so called “Harvard Revolution” rejected the syllabus of Arts & Crafts and challenged conventional notions of landscape architecture to redefine the relationship between built environments and nature. Led by the collaborative efforts of Dan Kiley, Garrett Eckbo and James Rose, this marks a pivotal moment in the evolution of modern landscape design.

All three left an incredible legacy of work. Dan Kiley, known for his minimalist and geometric approach; Garrett Eckbo, celebrated for his integration of social principles and modernist aesthetics; and James Rose, recognised for his innovative use of plant materials and spatial dynamics.

Central to their philosophy was the idea of "designing with nature," a concept championed by landscape architect Ian McHarg, which emphasised the importance of understanding ecological processes and respecting the inherent qualities of a site. Drawing inspiration from this ethos, Kiley, Eckbo, and Rose sought to create landscapes that harmonised with their surroundings, blurring the boundaries between the natural and the man-made.

Thomas Church enriches the narrative of the Harvard Revolution. Church's emphasis on practicality and human-scale design, notably with the concept of the "outdoor room," enriched the movement's focus on family living. In the UK, John Brookes notably developed the modern movement with his own approach and commitment to exploring new ideas.

Dan Kiley Garden

The post-modern Modern Garden

So where are we today?

The principles of Mcharg are more relevant today than in the 1960’s. With a growing population the conflict between providing new homes and creating landscapes that meet the needs of people, wildlife and water management have never been greater. Building on greenbelt land is possible but the gift should be granted to responsible developers. The arrangement of dwellings in new build sites must give more than they take away - and at present that is a rare situation.

Sustainability: With a growing awareness of environmental issues, modern gardens often prioritise sustainability and eco-friendly practices. This may include the use of native plants, rainwater harvesting systems, composting, and organic gardening techniques to minimise environmental impact and promote biodiversity.

Biophilic Design: Incorporating elements inspired by nature, such as native plantings, natural materials, water features, and wildlife habitats, to create a sense of immersion in the natural world.

Mindfulness and Wellness: Creating spaces for relaxation, meditation, and reflection, where visitors can disconnect from the stresses of modern life and reconnect with themselves and nature.

Accessibility and Inclusivity: Ensuring that Connection to Nature gardens are accessible to people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds, allowing everyone to experience the benefits of connecting with nature.

Sensory Experience: Stimulating the senses through the use of textures, scents, colors, and sounds that evoke the sights, smells, and sounds of nature, enhancing the overall sensory experience.

Environmental Stewardship: Promoting sustainability and environmental conservation through the use of eco-friendly practices, such as rainwater harvesting, composting, and habitat restoration, to support biodiversity and ecological health.

Meadow and Steps

A Modern Garden that connects people to nature.
Habitat creation to encourage wildlife and promote biodiversity.

Wild Swimming Ponds (below) combine habitat creation, mindfulness and sensory awareness

Wild Swimming Pools