organizing space, synthesizing practical with sublime

Organizing Space: Synthesizing Practical with Sublime

Every morning before getting up, I reach for the roller shade, open it up, and soak in the view of my private garden. In the previous post, I talked about its architecture. I’d like to further elaborate on the topic as it relates to organizing space in the process of synthesizing practical with sublime.

Paul Goldberger in his book Why Architecture Matters writes: “And that may be as good a definition as I can come up with for the balance to which all architecture must aspire: to be both familiar and new, to provide both pleasure and serenity, order and novelty, intensity and repose, somehow managing to make you feel both equilibrium and a sense of revelation, all at once.”

In my mind, organizing space means allowing various pieces to form a whole. 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 — a map that guides you in the process of translating your ideas into the actual experience. 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

The inspiration for the plan of my garden was to provide a setting for spiritual encounters. Yes, it had to accommodate certain activities, but most importantly, it was supposed to give me strength.

As a result, my garden is a space that’s protective and exhilarating at once — offering a refuge and uplifting my soul. That’s what synthesizing practical with sublime is all about!

In my garden, synthesizing practical with sublime means organizing space functionally while maximizing aesthetic effect and emotional impact. 

Surely, any space has to be organized with pragmatic concerns in mind. But most importantly, it has to keep your senses engaged. Thankfully, I was able to accomplish all of that and more in my garden. Let me just walk you through the plan.

Looking out from the bedroom, in the foreground, centered on the fountain, is the “zen” area. To underline its ceremonial qualities, the soil is covered 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.

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, a story unfolds.

The composition exudes a remarkable degree of ease. 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 my 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 the 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 — a major driving force and dynamic presence of the design.

Graphic discipline structures variations in fluid lines, colors, and materials. The eye follows easily from one designated function to the next. Thanks to the garden’s uncluttered/inviting/straightforward organization, the plants are displayed to their best advantage.

organizing space, synthesizing practical with sublime

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

Thanks to a few reappearing details, the space feels concisely edited, ordered, and logical. For example, vibrant sunny yellow, a color rationally repeated throughout the garden, 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.

Thus, the job of anticipating experiences can be accomplished with a plan that is ordered with the help of geometry, alignment, and repletion. Clearly, that’s one of the approaches to organizing space while synthesizing practical with sublime.


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  1. Bob says:


    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.


    1. Alla DIY Ally says:

      Thank you so much, Bob!!!