- Paperback: 220 pages
- Publisher: Kodansha USA; 1 edition (April 15, 1991)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 4770015410
- ISBN-13: 978-4770015419
- Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 0.6 x 7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,670,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Secret Teachings in the Art of Japanese Gardens: Design Principles, Aesthetic Values Paperback – April 15, 1991
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"Truly a remarkable book; nominally a garden book, it is also a design manual, a study of Japanese aesthetics." -Choice
About the Author
DAVID A. SLAWSON studied under noted designer Kinsaku Nakane in Kyoto. He received his Ph.D. in Japanese aesthetics and landscape garden design from Indiana University in 1985; he presently designs gardens for private residences and public buildings, and he has taught at Carleton College in Minnesota and the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.
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Another wonderful resource this book has is a translation of Illustrations for Designing Mountain, Water, and Hillside Field landscapes by Zoen. Much there in terms of stone meaning, arrangements, taboos. Seeing the distillation of landscapes into single stone, stone arrangements, and layout suggestions for an entire garden design. Although much of this applies to the gardens of the era, I have always felt the need to understand 'why' as much or more than 'how'. I felt this book helped educate me on the path. To know more about the secret teaching in the art of Japanese gardens...
A number of years passed, nearly four of them spent in graduate architecture school studying formal geometries, history, architecture as a verb.....architecture with a great big capital A.
Yet, I did not fully appreciate the book until recently. I dusted it off when I was hired to set 2 semi-truck loads of stones. I reviewed it and found that my studies from it ten years earlier had indeed made an indelible impression upon me. The seemingly daunting task of composing 50 tons of boulders in an aesthetically pleasing manner was made much easier thanks to Slawson's studies. His book was more useful than 3 1/2 years of architecture school. Believe me, read it and get your hands dirty. Work with big stones, the dirt. It is the real work.
You will likely find the book "thick" in the sense that at times, each sentence is filled with succinct words. You may find yourself re-reading sentences to understand. Better graphic descriptions could have helped here. In particular the sections comparing Arnheims "Art and Visual Perception" with compositional arrangements, proportions and general japanese garden aesthetics are excellent. It is in these sections where one begins to understand how intelligent japanese garden design is. It fully engages the haptic sense as well as one's psychology.
Slawson makes many important notes and observations about the making of Japanese gardens. Yet he also points out that Japanese gardens evolved in Japan because of particular conditions of culture and nature. He points out that the teachings would not necessarily recomend "copying" these teachings in other region with climates different than those of Japan.
Slawson gives us an excellent resource to consider Japanese "teachings" in composing gardens, for example, in the desert southwest (USA). A garden influenced by the desert southwest would simply not fit in Japan. Yet, if you make the "teachings" your own you could create a japanese influenced garden.
Similarly, many Japanese garden copies in America don't fit. With the exception of the Portland Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon.
I recomend the book because I continue to turn to it year after year. The sign for me of a valuable book.