With an Eye Towards Nature: Japanese Garden Design Intensive

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With an Eye Towards Nature: Japanese Garden Design Intensive

This three-day course created for design professionals focuses on the Japanese tradition of designing with nature, using the spectacular landscape of the Columbia Gorge as an outdoor classroom. Marc Treib, professor of architecture emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, and a noted landscape and architectural historian and critic, takes part in the last day’s design critique and gives a public talk the next day.

Dates: April 25-27 (application opens Feb. 1, 2020)

Tuition, conditions, program content and other details at japanesegarden.org/thecenter or from  kfaurest@japanesegarden.org

The Training Center is a recipient of the 2018 American Public Gardens Association award for program excellence.

About the Course:
Designing with nature is a powerful but recent current in the western garden making tradition. In Japan, garden makers have for well over a millennium been guided by the philosophy that nature is the first design teacher. That tradition has much to teach us about making places capable of answering ecological needs and providing visitors with a sense of space, stillness and balance even in a hectic, crowded urban setting.

This three-day course provides 25 hours of theoretical and hands-on training in the Japanese approach to designing with nature and its modern use and application. Traditional techniques of arranging stone, plants, and water according to nature’s design principles are placed in historical perspective and given contemporary ecological and social context as tools for creating meaningful spaces that connect people to their environment. On-site thematic garden tours and lectures offer theoretical instruction in observing and analyzing composition and representations of nature in the garden.

An offsite excursion offers an opportunity to engage with and study the local landscape. The offsite portion will focus on scenic views in the Columbia Gorge and include an overnight at the stunning Menucha Retreat center in Corbett.

Drawing by hand is foundational to critical thinking, absorbing skills at the intuitive level, and developing a cultivated eye, and is the course’s core hands-on activity. Participants are expected to keep documentation of their observations and drawing work in a sketchbook. A required preparatory module will provide readings and assignments in advance of the course.

Learning objectives:

After the course, participants should be able to recognize, explain and be able to apply to their work:

  • Natural landscape patterns and processes in stone, water, and vegetation, and how they can be abstracted or otherwise referenced in a designed landscape
  • The traditional Japanese process of designing from the details up
  • The Japanese aesthetics of suggestion, simplicity, irregularity and perishability
  • Design techniques in Japanese garden arts including asymmetry, balance, borrowed scenery, enclosure, hide and reveal, blank space, and layering
  • Contrasting ways and scales that nature has historically been represented in Japanese gardens such as literal, symbolic, or evocative

Cover image submitted.

Event Detail

April 25, 2020 8:00 am
April 27, 2020 5:00 pm


Portland Japanese Garden
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