The Ordering Logic of Private Gardens

During a recent visit to the University of Virginia, I was reminded of the beautiful logic of the gardens behind the Pavilions on Thomas Jefferson’s Lawn.  Despite the fact that the gardens and Pavilions have always been University property, each Pavilion (on the Lawn) and Hotel (on the parallel row of Ranges) has its own dedicated “private” garden.  The result is a larger logic that half of the Pavilion gardens are only half a module deep because the other half of the garden zone is dedicated to the Hotel pavilion behind.  The alleys and small courts that are left over between the gardens are dedicated to service access.


This clear division of open space into clearly public (The Lawn), private (the gardens), and service domains is a particularly Anglo-American idea of the landscape that is also evident in the reconstruction of the original Plymouth colony at kitschy but fascinating Plimoth Plantation south of Boston.


Here, like Jefferson’s Lawn, most of the open space is privatized by garden fences, that despite their primitiveness, serve the same territorial and spatial function as Jefferson’s more elegant serpentine walls.  The palisades at Plymouth are roughly the same height as both the garden walls at the University Virginia and the stockade fences that separate the back yards of my own block in South Boston.


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