Exterior Worlds
Modern Garden Design
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Modern Water Gardens

Modern water gardens combine the organic with the mathematical and the abstract.
The purpose of anything modern is to place the mind of man over the forces of nature. Since we typically associate nature with greenery, the use of plants around a modern water garden has to be minimal and highly selective. Hard straight lines, sharp right angles, abrupt intersections, stark rising forms, and linear movements that occasionally fan at into a radius all work together to establish stark, Spartan view of the world. Water then introduces to this structure a sense of life that has been reduced to its most raw and elemental base. Carefully placed outcroppings of greenery in the form of dark green shrubs, small trees surrounding by gravel, and darker grasses such as Mondo all blend together to create a feeling of emerging potential that stops itself before becoming too lush and organically comforting.

With a modern water garden, we want the viewer to find their own comfort rather than a comfort that has already been built for them.

Perhaps this is why modern water gardens work so well in commercial atriums and courtyards. They establish fluidity within clear boundaries and draw the attention away from stress into a realm of tranquility and relaxation. This makes them very popular in break areas in office parks where employees need to go from time to time to refocus their thoughts in challenging tasks of the day. They also provide ideal study environments in colleges and universities. Students welcome an alternative to cloistered cubicles and cold library walls that will get them outside but still help them maintain their focus on academic responsibilities. This is why modern gardens in both office parks and schools almost always have some sort ofcustom fountain. A fountain adds movement to the foundational elements of life and completes the feeling a meditative environment removed that has been removed from time and suspended completely in the present moment.


The water features are frequently made from natural stones such as marble or granite that have been quarried and polished. When be build a shell or coping from these materials, the structure of the modern garden will often glisten just as much as the water within it. Quarried slabs of granite can be carefully arranged in symmetrical patterns that fit together into recognizable geometric shapes. Rectangular gardens can be constructed near homes, architectural walls, or outdoor buildings. They can also be built perpendicular to other linear structures and be used to connect two entire areas of the landscape major landscape design elements as a sort of visual bridge. Functional areas can then be built around the garden. Patio seating areas, sidewalk structures, and stepping stone walkways encourage physical movements that follows the natural progression of the eye as it moves through the landscape.

When constructed in this manner, the modern water garden becomes the focal point of activity in a modern landscape design. When we bring the event to the edge of the water, the blend of tranquility, sophistication, and emergent vitality generates an atmosphere of sophistication blended with a curious mix of calm repose. Polished stones, flowing water, gravel, small trees, and geometric plantings of dark green vegetation all convey a moment of separation from normal time and space which makes the occasion feel all the more special.

Water features will always have a streamlined sense about them. Flow is important because it symbolizes the stream of human consciousness that flows through the mind. It also helps prevent the water garden from looking too forced in its rugged construction and angular design. Water flowing like a fountain, stream, or waterfall will soften the surrounding features of rock, gravel, and polished coping just enough to add a feeling of harmony to the terrain of hardscape and accent softscape. Such a setting within a contemporary landscape helps conversation, celebration, and appreciation all flow together into a unified conscious awareness and intention of presence.