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organizing space, synthesizing practical with sublime, architect on demand, advice without strings

Every morning before getting up, I reach for the roller shade, open it up, and soak in the view of my secret garden. In the previous post, I wrote about its architecture. I’d like to elaborate on the topic and talk about organizing space with a plan. In my opinion, it’s the process of synthesizing practical with sublime.

Paul Goldberger in his book Why Architecture Matters writes that all architecture must aspire “to be both familiar and new, to provide both pleasure and serenity, order and novelty.” Apparently, the best way to accomplish it is with a plan, which Goldberger calls “a two-dimensional diagram of a three-dimensional reality.” The plan is the basis for everything. It enables you to manipulate space and, at the same time, anticipate how a person will feel within it.

organizing space, synthesizing practical with sublime

synthesizing practical with sublime means organizing space for functional, aesthetic and emotional impact. 

Let me just walk you through the plan of my secret garden.

  • Looking out from the bedroom, in the foreground, centered on the fountain, is the “zen” area. In order to underline its ceremonial qualities, I covered the soil with small rocks that look like rubies in the rough. (1)
  • A little bit further, stands a pergola intended as a backdrop for a social gathering or an intimate conversation. A table with chairs is placed on the bed of decomposed granite mixed with cut-up tree trunks. (2)
  • In the rear, the fig tree commands its own domain. A colony of agaves nestled in the roots creates the ground cover. (3)
  • The walkways of moss surface flagstone (4) and precast concrete (5) entice movement.
  • The landscape (6) complements; it relates to all the hardscape elements and completes the arrangement.

At first, the perception of individual components is blurred. The space as a whole comes together. The garden’s distinctly articulated solids and voids form an alliance. Somehow, your gaze is carried. And then, a story unfolds.

The composition exudes a remarkable degree of ease. Clearly, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. No matter where you are in the garden, you feel encircled, absorbed. Filled with serene pleasure. Geometry, alignment, and repetition work as the plan’s ordering devices.

organizing space, synthesizing practical with sublime

Geometry of the plan guides you in while serving up an element of surprise. Deliberate manipulation of triangular shapes reveals playful, unexpected recesses.

Pushing and pulling, diagonal and orthogonal lines are doing something new each time. Stimulating and stirring energy. There’s life flowing through the garden’s veins.

organizing space, synthesizing practical with sublime

Alignment of individual pieces in plan moderates the intensity of mounting drama. It helps with the integration of the landscape features that are in constant movement themselves. It serves to accommodate the specific demands of arranging plants.

Graphic discipline structures variations in fluid lines, colors, and materials. As such, the eye follows easily from one designated function to the next. Thanks to the garden’s uncluttered organization, the plants are displayed to their best advantage. Most definitely, alignment is a major driving force and a dynamic presence of the design.

organizing space, synthesizing practical with sublime

Repetition lends visual ease and balance. It emphasizes the notion of movement. Restrained palette, reinforced by plantings, delivers a stronger, more cohesive outcome.

Thanks to a few reappearing details, the space feels concisely edited and logical. For example, vibrant sunny yellow, a color repeated throughout the garden in variegated species, allows for clarity of procession from point A to point B to point C. Pure and spare, the plan distills the qualities of lasting importance to their essence.

So, as you can see, the plan anticipates experiences. Its tools, geometry, alignment, and repletion are instrumental in  organizing space while synthesizing practical with sublime.


  • June 12, 2017


    After reading this post, I spent some time looking over the site plan. Then I reread both of your post on your garden and found that everything made sense (text, photos, etc.) and I began to see the many subtle details of your beautiful garden.


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