to avoid address abuse, type it yourself

retaining walls : serving the purpose - but are they eye pleasing?

Grabov Rat : retaining walls and stairways

Grabov Rat : retaining walls and stairways

Photo of Aug. 26, 2007

Very few mediterranean country gardens are aesthetically self-contained because very few are flat. In our regions there is no such thing as a "lost" horizon, unless it is that of the sea. It is a question of terrain. Our horizons are very present and visible, framing our immediate environment. Even within the limits of our own gardens. many different levels are usually represented.

On the whole this makes our life easier - at least where design is concerned. The built-in variations in levels spares us the necessity of creating it with either costly construc-tions or slow-growing trees; even an immature garden presents a pleasing synthesis from day one. Most often parts of our garden are projected against other parts and against the immediate or distant landscape, which becomes another, often dominant, element of our design. Often the only decisions we need to make are how to provide transitions, areas that lead the eye to the surrounding landscape without distracting from it - intermediate zones that mix the "artificial" with natural and merge in with what lies beyond. Our only concern for the landscape need be that we refrain from betraying it.

Our design task is also easier because we have fewer choices: when we have to make a garden on a steep slope, for example, the choice of terracing has already been made for us. Aesthetic solutions are invariably right when they coincide with practical ones. [...]

The kind of building we do in our gardens also differs. We have belvederes at the edges facing the view beyond, rather than gazebos at central vantage points from which to admire and enjoy the garden itself. Our shelters are invariably airy pergola-type constructions intended to provide protection from sun, rather than solid pavilions to shelter us from rain and allow us to enjoy the garden despite it.

Cali Doxiadis: Softscape, hardscape and landscape, in The Mediterranean Garden, No. 49, July 2007.

I wonder how many mediterranean gardens did Mrs Cali Doxiadis design, i.e. how one comes to the notion that "on the whole this makes our life easier". Iím designing my first and Iím very far from that notion. And it seems to me that saying something as "also easier because we have fewer choices" is like saying that life under a dictatorship is easier because we have fewer choices than in a democracy.

A rather steep slope forced me into terracing which involves retaining walls. Building drystone walls is a skill not easily found nowadays; so I went for a wall of building blocks, just facing it and capping it with the stones of local origin. Walls of building blocks promote rather simple geometry and now Iím stuck with a "horizon" saturated with straight stone walls. It should look better when my plants mature, I hope.

 2007-08-26 

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