The main garden compartment

For your orientation, the groundplan is available in the Design the architecture section of the Specifics on the realization of Tsubo-en chapter.

The main garden, or main garden compartment, is a focus of attention. It offers a panoramic view out of our living room, the main corridor and the master bedroom ( chuumon). In design terms the living room resembles the traditional "shoin". The main-garden is actually made up of four if not five garden-sections, B, C, D and E and partly B. The panoramic view is roughly from North-West via North to North-East. On one side connecting to and bound by the water-front, North bound by the property border and on the North-East seamless connected to the front side.
One design principle of importance is the assumption that the landscape scenes can best be appreciated from fixed vantage points. In Tsubo-en this is the veranda and from inside the living room (replacing the "shoin"). Here they can be viewed as three-dimensional pictures framed by the rectangle lines of the house. We add to this the importance of having a great garden impression if viewed when walking the roji (pathway around the house, see later).

In the minimalist designs of Tsubo-en one of the most important elements that influences the main-garden experience is the impression of space and the visual tranquility. Both can be accomplished with sophisticated simplicity. The visual perception of space can be reinforced by more strongly emphasized visual foreground. The latter is achieved with the Ginshanada or "silver sand open sea", the surface of white sand with which substantial part of "empty space" 7 is realized.

Spatial organization in particular partitioning of garden ground was one of the first tasks in designing scenes and elements.
This activity started before we bought the house, that was built on a complex as part of a development project (see: House and garden). We could chose one of seven house types, the location of the lot and the size of it. With some restriction we could influence the placement position of the house on the lot and changes (additions) to the house. We had already developed a vision and strategy and that is how we came to the location of the lot and placement of the house.

An important additional design principle is the decision that spectators will always view the garden from the side of the house or from the street, that is the front-garden. The main-veranda should offer the best view.

  • What proportion and ratio should the various ground-segments be ?
  • What will be visible-ground and how will it relate to the scenery ?
  • Do we need to sacrifice ground surface for the sake of aesthetic qualities ? If so how and how much ?
  • What proportion will be gravel and what ground cover ?

The ground surface plan was very much designed in an interactive way. That is interaction between de garden ground and us. On the drawing board we made a rough plan that was then set-out in the garden (see: Design the architecture) and subsequently refined at location, until we felt good about it 8.


1678 This photo shows the situation (early 1999) where we made the very last adjustments to the ground space and commenced the ground work.
This shows a view of the main-garden as seen from the right most corner of the front garden (bottom right on the ground-plan. Viewing from section B to C, D and F at the very end.

You may observe that the backdrop has developed over time.


The lot surface is about 30 by 29 meters (98 x 95 feet), 870 meter2 or 1040 square yard. The house takes about 252 m2 (300 yard2) including the section E veranda. Without the section E veranda this is 220 m2 (722 feet2).
The sections A, F and G take up an additional 153 m2 (502 feet2). This results in a total area of the main-garden, or actually the ground surface at the right halve of the lot, of almost 500 (497) m2, or 600 yard2 including the E section veranda that is part of the visual-space and spatial impression. The ginshanada gravel-area in this part is 220 m2 or 262 square yard.
So the ratio planting-ground to gravel is 277 : 220 is 1,25 to 1. However of the planting ground a substantial part is not visible because it is located behind the main O-Karikomi (plant sculpture). An other area of out of sight ground is the water front. The total of this is over 35 m2 (42 square yard).
This then implies that the visual ground space is 242 m2 resulting in a ratio of visible ground to gravel of 1,1 to 1. In Western eyes this seems a dramatic open space whereas in Japanese proportions it is still modest.

Garden Elements

The hierarchy of terms that is used to identify garden "parts", from the highest level downwards looks like this:
Garden -> Compartments -> Sections -> Visible Objects and Elements -> Components (or Infrastructure Component).
Actually infrastructure components (see: Build and construction of the integral design) are at a different level as they can relate to each and every level of the garden. In principle and preferably these are invisible to the visitor. Garden Elements are composed of objects.
Scenes can cross compartments and garden-sections and are composed of Objects and Elements where Elements as such are a collection of objects that "belong together".
In the following visual-table we show the elements that are all used in Tsubo-en.

Garden elements in Tsubo-en
Click for an extensive coverage
Ginshanada gravel area
Ginshanada
Paths, step stones and special purpose stones
Paths & steps
Veranda and duckboards
Veranda
Tsukiyama artificial hills and stone setting
Tjukiyama & stone setting
Karikomi, O-karikomi and Haku-zukuri
Karikomi
Tsukubai facilities
Tsukubai
Small objects and ornaments
Objects,ornaments
Borrowed scenery based on the shakkei technique
Borrowed scenery
Buddhist Trinity stone arangement
Buddhist triad
Stone setting
Islands in the ginshanada
Islands
Shumisen or Mount Sumeru
Mt. Sumeru
Stone setting
Terraces, wall and stairs in Tsubo-en
Terraces, walls, stairs, fences


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