The theme of Parks and Gardens, elected by the
Council of Cultural Co-operation in 1992, was chosen together with
that of monastic influence to conclude a methodological study. In
particular it made it possible to experiment with teaching actions
and to find co-operation with Eastern Europe.
Taking into account its multidisciplinary
character - a garden is indeed essentially a meeting place of
scientific, technical and artistic cultures - and its opening
towards cultural landscape, it constitutes one of the privileged
fields of application of the European Landscape Convention.
definition of the fields of work
The methodological exercise began with a meeting
of experts held in Palazina di Caccia di Stupinigi, close to Turin,
at the end of 1992. The experts present, botanists, architects,
historians, garden conservation specialists, agronomists, creators,
teachers, knew how to highlight all the theoretical and practical
implications of this topic, so much so that ten years afterwards
all the actions undertaken are still founded on this first
Villa Lante, Italy.
A garden is by nature a site whose responsibility
is transmitted during ages, but also a site in which the work
carried out in the present will find part of its results only
several dozens, even several hundreds years later. It thus ensures
a bond, continuity and even co-operation between generations.
A garden is always anchored in a territory, but it
is at the same time a place of mixture, a grafting and
hybridisation of both erudite cultures and horticultural practices.
A garden, only through the variety of the origins of the plants in
it, constitutes an opening to the world. In our multicultural
societies, it enables everyone to find elements of his/her own
culture and to understand, intellectually and practically, how the
cultures interfere and combine.
Because a garden presents plants and animals and
puts them on display, it constitutes - obviously - a
"mise-en-scène" of nature. But the terms of this
presentation evolved much during the ages. One can even say that
the largest process played during the history of the gardens is
that of "domestication", which man dared to exert on nature,
through which he handled and proportioned the natural, accepted the
life of plants, introduced artifice and the artificial: English
landscape gardens, without borders and fences, automata and
machinery parks, the waterworks of the Renaissance, the Baroque and
the Classical eras, the natural gardens of William Robinson, the
moving gardens of Gilles Clément... What better subject for
the new experts of the information society than to face a domain in
which a part already familiar to them has been played for a long
time: the conflict of reality and virtuality?
If the majority of meaningful data that underlie
the structure of religious buildings and of their picturesque or
carved representations became "illegible" for the majority of our
contemporaries, owing to the obliteration of religious practices or
of the knowledge about the role of monks in society, the gardens
are themselves prone to two kinds of obliteration: the loss of
botanical knowledge and the loss of symbolic knowledge. A
historical garden is always founded on an architectural program,
itself based on a method and an initiation. It is properly speaking
a metaphor. Its drawing, its perspective, its masses, its statues,
the movement of water, the "factories" built there and, of course,
the plants found there "tell" a history: legend, reflection of the
power of its owner, love of philosophy or geometry... There exist a
social reading, a reading of voyage and wandering, a cultural
reading of the garden.
Gardens of the imaginary, Terrason France.
Photo Jacques de Givry
The garden is a place of self-representation and a
place that favours public representation and spectacle. The garden
constituted a symbolic place for all the societies that wished to
anchor to a territory the image of their social or economic power.
Lastly, the role of creators and artists constitutes one of the
strong elements and this, once more, in the confrontation of
Finally, following Gilles Clément, one can
say that the practice of gardening - as daily and intimate place -
and the reading of the landscape are certainly two steps that
involve planetary awakening, an awakening of biological diversity
and an awakening of durability, in direct and intimate ways. A
recent exhibition of this creator of gardens entitled "The
planetary garden" clearly demanded: "Do there exist, on a planetary
scale, actions comparable to those in which the gardener is engaged
in his garden?
Can one move the vocabulary of the garden, usually
associated with constrained and closed spaces, towards an
apparently immense and open space?" Consequently, what best subject
than the garden to try to understand the relation of the local to
By the diversity of the practices engaged, parks
and gardens can also enable a confrontation of knowledge. The
crafts involved in the maintenance of a garden are multiple and
demand constant updating. The disappearance of knowledge
constitutes a true challenge, which has to be stood, especially if
one thinks that a reopened Europe makes it possible to answer today
on the scale of a Large Europe.
Always on the scale of the found continent,
through gardens and landscape one perceives a true stake of
co-operation. Not only because there is factual solidarity in the
management of natural spaces beyond borders, but also because most
of the Europe of the gardens was left wasted for decades.
Before splitting up, the Europe of the gardens was
one. The Europe of the gardens formed a true society within
society, as well as a source of cultural exchanges. Collaboration
and confrontation concerning the state of territorial and urban
gardens, in the East as in the West, constitute current stakes for
which teams set themselves up to carry out common actions once
again exceeding the logic of borders.
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