Incorporating Modernism Into Landscaping Architecture
By Leslie Fischer
Looking to change up your living space and incorporate more of an “indoor-outdoor” style? That’s one of the main elements of Modernist landscape architecture. The average temps in Clarksville lend themselves to extending your living space into your garden during spring, summer, and fall. The name Modernism is a bit of an oxymoron, as the cultural movement began around the turn of the century … the 20th century!
Modernism says “no” to tradition and “yes” to new and unique ways of approaching art, drama, literature, music, and architecture. In art, it uses shapes, forms, colors, and textures to create an effect that’s open to interpretation. Think Picasso, Matisse, Manet, and O’Keefe. The same concept works in your garden, drawing away from it being a place where you work, to a place where you live.
We only have so much space in our home and yard. Modernist landscaping design puts it to good use. The idea is to blend the two seamlessly, getting rid of the boundary between inside and outside. One of the best ways to connect the two is through the use of windows and floor-to-ceiling folding glass doors. This allows sunlight to stream into your home and gives you a good view of the garden. Folding, swinging, or sliding doors let you remove the wall when open. This is great for relaxing on calm, sunny days and also provides extra space when entertaining. Modernist artists expressed themselves with cubes, spheres, and square pyramids. You can express yourself by varying the size and shape of your windows.
The Modernist landscape architect believes less is more. And shape and texture take precedence over flowerbeds. The idea is to have more time to live in and enjoy your indoor/outdoor space. So the garden is no longer a place where you work but, rather, a place you simply relax. The best plants for Modernist landscaping include the sculpture-like yucca and other succulents such as aloe vera. Placement is important to keep the Modernist landscape going, so don’t overcrowd your garden with plants.
No Modernist landscape design would be complete without using stone. Hardscaping is an art in itself. It continues the uncluttered look of your outdoor space. Create clearly defined spaces with borders and fill them in with stones, small rocks, even gravel. Experiment with the color of the rocks, keeping them the same or create two-toned pathways. Outline a stepping stone path using concrete shapes with more small stones. Or use metal strips to border a paved pathway. You can have grass in your yard but keep it symmetrical, using squares or rectangles and bordering the green patch with pavers. Don’t forget to go Modernist when designing your patio. Using pavers gives a great visual (you can use unique patterns) and texture, and they’re low maintenance.
Pools have been around in the U.S. since the late 1800s but became trendy in California in the 1930s. You know, “swimming pools, movie stars.” This puts them right in the peak of the Modernist movement. Pools linked to Modernism continue the minimalist trend. Many are rectangular, surrounded by lawn or pavers, but some designers use plants and tall grasses as borders.
While clean lines are a favorite, the kidney pool originated with Modernism. The first one was designed by world-famous architect Alvar Aalto in 1939 in Finland. It came during a time when Aalto was moving from Minimalism to Modernist architecture expression. This led to U.S. landscape architects, Thomas Church (a friend of Aalto) and Lawrence Halprin, to build a kidney-shaped pool in California in 1948. So whether you prefer clean lines like squares and rectangles or a kidney shape, be sure your pool fits in with the rest of your Modernist landscape, keeping continuity with your pavers and plants.
Modernism never really went away, but it’s having a bit of a resurgence. If you’re interested but don’t know where to start, Tennessee has many good landscape architects. You’ll certainly be able to find one to make your Modernist landscaping dreams come true.
Leslie Fischer describes herself as a “slow-motion vagabond.” She finds a place she wants to live, buys a fixer-upper and flips it. She writes about real estate and DIY issues.