A Japanese Garden Experience in Manitoga

The renowned Scottish landscape architect and ecological planning pioneer Ian McHarg was once quoted as saying that if Manitoga was built in Japan, it would have been a “national monument.” “Japan has many such sites, but the United States has only Manitoga, the temple to managed succession, inspired ecological design.”

Manitoga in Garrison, New York  has since achieved that distinction and more. It is a National Historic Landmark, an Affiliate Site of the National Trust for Historic Conservation and a World Monuments Watch Site.  Officially known as the Manitoga/ The Russell Wright Design Center, it is a place still strongly animated by the vision of its original owner and creator, Midcentury modern designer Russell Wright whose work was strongly influenced by Japanese aesthetics, not least in the way he conceptualized his home / studio (Dragon Rock) and the woodland garden around it.

Wright’s Japanese connection apparently runs deeper than is commonly thought.  He also contributed to the cross-fertilization of American and Japanese sensibilities in Modernist aesthetics by serving as an adviser to the post-World War II Japanese government on handcraft design that would resonate with the US export market, according to Japanese Modernist design scholar Yuko Kikuchi.

In Manitoga, which Wright considers as a pinnacle of his career, the Japanese touch is everywhere evident and seamlessly integrated into his nature-centered instinct for design and even his taste for theatrics as a former theater set designer.  Dragon Rock is said to be reminiscent of Japanese temple architecture, as executed by architect David L. Leavitt with whom Wright shares a fondness for Japanese design. Leavitt has worked in Japan with the architect Antonin Raymond whose students include the Japanese architect Junzo Yoshimura, creator of the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden in Philadelphia and the traditional teahouse at the Japanese garden in Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate, Tarrytown, New York.

While Dragon Rock has often been compared to the famous Fallingwater house of architect Frank Lloyd Wright (no relation), it seems to fall back more into the landscape, despite a name that’s evocative of a far more conspicuous presence.  From the green roofs — revolutionary for a structure built in the early 1950s — to the floor-to-ceiling windows and the tree trunk and natural boulders that define the interiors of the space, Wright was intent on blurring the boundaries between the outdoor and indoor spaces and synthesizing the natural with the man-made, a design sentiment that is also characteristically Japanese.  The name of the house itself, derived from the innocent fancy of Wright’s young daughter Annie who imagined a dragon shape in the rock formation, recalls the convention for naming rocks in a Japanese garden for mythical animals.

The great outdoors that Wright and Leavitt sought to bring in through this organic architecture is a 75-acre expanse that simultaneously evokes the experience of a stroll garden from Japan’s Edo Period (1603 – 1867) and taps into Wright’s penchant for drama as a former stage designer. Even as the house maximizes the view outside, the forest garden is also meant to be journeyed into.

fall-at-manitoga
Autumn in Manitoga

Here, the Japanese garden design principle of miegakure (hide and reveal) also becomes a device in Wright’s nature theater for building up a dramatic effect as one traverses through the path of the woodland garden.

Along each path, the landscape and its themes unfold sequentially. There is an introduction, a dramatic build-up, elaboration of a theme, and then a climax or a goal; the building of tension and its dramatic release – the whole design a musical composition.”     

A rock in the middle of the driveway, for example, slows movement and forces contemplation of the immediate surroundings. The sound of an unseen water feature at an entrance builds anticipation.

This theatricality also plays into the notion of a Japanese garden as an idealized re-creation or distillation of nature.  Landscape architect and Wright’s cousin Carol Franklin notes Wright’s manipulation of naturally occurring elements, particularly native plant species, to create the moments of denouement in the garden: a moss garden on top of the quarry pond, masses of mountain laurels and dogwoods in bloom, a fiery corridor of backlit autumn foliage.  Design historian D.J. Huppatz also speculated about Wright’s use of “borrowed scenery” (shakkei) to provide points of interest along the walking paths.

And then, there are the rocks. In the course of the 35 years since first acquiring the property as an abandoned granite quarry in 1942, Wright bided his time studying and working with the natural rock formations in the area to distill its essence as a “place of great spirit” (the English translation of “Manitoga,” an Algonquin word). A mountain stream was diverted and a 30-foot, multi-level waterfall created to form a swimming pond. There are also a variety of rock groupings and stepping stone paths found all over the property.  These rocks, ancient as they are in these parts, found a new purpose in the nexus of the natural and built environment in Manitoga.

Manitoga is part of the Garden Architecture Tour on October 7, 2016 co-hosted by the North American Japanese Garden Association and the Japan American Society of Greater Philadelphia. The tour is part of a two-day event on October 7 and 8, “Modernism, Japanese Carpentry and the Garden: Preserving the Architecture of Junzo Yoshimura.” For details and to register, visit http://najga.org/Philadelphia-2016


SOURCES:

Brown, Jane Roy, “Learning From Dragon Rock,” Landscape Architecture, Sept. 2005, https://www.asla.org/lamag/lam05/September/ecology.html 

Hobens, Barbara, “Philipstown Gardens: Inspirations from Manitoga,” The Highlands Current, April 2, 2011, http://highlandscurrent.com/2011/04/02/philipstown-gardens-4/

Huppatz, D.J., “Manitoga and Japan” http://djhuppatz.blogspot.com/2010/03/manitoga-and-japan.html

Kikuchi, Yuko, “Russell Wright and Japan: Bridging Japonisme and Good Design Through Craft,” The Journal of Modern Craft, Vol. 1 2008, Issue 3  http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2752/174967808X379434?journalCode=rfmc20

Mendelsohn, Meredith, “Manitoga: Force of Nature,” Garden Design Magazine  http://www.gardendesign.com/new-york/garrison-manitoga.html

www.visitmanitoga.org

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A Japanese Garden Experience in Manitoga

North American Japanese Garden Association To Host Philadelphia & New York Heritage Tour & Workshop

Two-Day Event Focus On Modernist and Traditional Japanese Design In the Garden

Philadelphia, PA – On October 7 and 8, the North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA) is teaming up with the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia (JASGP) to explore the adaptation and preservation of Modernist and traditional Japanese design in several garden settings found in New York and Philadelphia. NAJGA is a non-profit that promotes the art, craft and heart of Japanese gardens in USA and Canada.

The coach heritage tour on October 7 will feature prime examples of Japanese and Mid-century modern architecture in two garden estates: Kykuit at the Rockefeller estate in Tarrytown, New York with its century-old Japanese garden, and the Manitoga / The Russell Wright Design Center in Garrison, New York with its Japanese-influenced woodland garden. Also included with the tour registration is a box lunch and free admission to the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden in Philadelphia, which will be the assembly point for the tour.

“Autumn is one of the best times to be in a Japanese garden and as the leaves turn and fall away, we are better able to isolate and appreciate the architectural aspects of the garden, particularly the buildings that exist in its context,” says NAJGA board president and JASGP executive director Kim Andrews.

The work of revered Japanese architect Junzo Yoshimura will be a prime focus of this event. Aside from being the acclaimed designer of Shofuso, he also built a traditional teahouse for the Japanese garden in Kykuit. The tour will include a lecture about Yoshimura’s works as well as a viewing of the exterior of the Marcel Breuer House in Kykuit.

On October 8, Yoshimura’s legacy at Shofuso will be further scrutinized through the lenses of an ongoing heritage preservation project in a workshop that includes a Japanese carpentry demonstration, practicum on historic preservation reporting, and hinoki roof demonstration. Shofuso’s heritage preservation project aims to uphold Yoshimura’s rigorous standards for designing Shofuso using traditional Japanese design, and one of its most major components is the restoration of the roof made from the bark of the hinoki cypress. Heritage preservation experts and craftsmen skilled in traditional Japanese techniques will serve as lecturers and facilitators during the workshop.

“Our ongoing effort to meet the preservation challenges presented by Yoshimura’s uncompromising standards is also an excellent learning opportunity for everyone else interested in heritage conservation and the modern adaptation of traditional Japanese design,” says Andrews. “Knowing about how to properly report on conditions for heritage structures, for example, is a must for community custodians of these structures inside and outside the garden setting.”

The two-day event will be occurring during one of the busiest weeks in the Philadelphia design scene as it is also part of the 2016 DesignPhiladelphia festival (October 6 to 16), the oldest open-source event of its kind in the United States, and of the Docomomo US Tour Day 2016 (October 8), an annual event for raising awareness of and appreciation of buildings, interiors and landscapes designed in the US during the mid-20th century.

This event is open to the general public. To learn more and to register, visit http://najga.org/Philadelphia-2016.

North American Japanese Garden Association To Host Philadelphia & New York Heritage Tour & Workshop

Florida Conference Explores Japanese Gardens As Places of Health, Wellness and Social Change

The North American Japanese Garden Association and the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens To Host Experts from Six Countries

The North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA) is bringing together international garden specialists from Japan, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, China and Australia for two days of learning, exchange and camaraderie that focuses on understanding and utilizing Japanese gardens as nature-based therapeutic settings. NAJGA is a non-profit promoting the art, craft and heart of Japanese gardens in the US and Canada.

NAJGA’s 3rd biennial conference, “Towards A Healthier World: Japanese Gardens As Places For Wellness and Transformation,” will take place on March 7 and 8, 2016 at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, Delray Beach, FL. The conference is open to the general public and will appeal to persons interested in Japanese gardens, and in broader issues of how landscape can positively transform lives and society.

Click HERE to visit conference webpage.

Conference logo with photo

The more than 40 conference presentations include research findings, case studies, best practices and garden histories related to designing, fostering and utilizing Japanese gardens as havens of healing. Speakers will talk about a wide range gardens from backyard gardens, public and university gardens, spas and other leisure industry venues, to hospices and hospitals. For garden practitioners who wish to improve their level of understanding of Japanese gardening, there will be topics related to Japanese garden design, maintenance, and fostering more creative engagement with the garden.

Click HERE and HERE for a preview of conference presentations and meet the speakers.

Photography Workshop, Garden Talk and Tours

There will be a twilight photography workshop by noted landscape and garden photographer David Cobb on March 7. Cobb is the photographer of the book Quiet Beauty: The Japanese Gardens of North America, 2013 Home & Garden book of the year for the Independent Book Publishers Association. Other special events include a lecture at the banquet by multi-awarded Morikami garden designer Hoichi Kurisu on Japanese garden design and healing, and a chance to participate in the Morikami’s pioneering “Stroll For Well-Being” program. A March 6 pre-conference bus tour visits garden and museum locations in Delray Beach and West Palm Beach.

“Wellness and Japanese gardens have been inextricably linked for centuries and there is now a growing global movement to understand the therapeutic value of nature-based settings,” said NAJGA Board President Kim Andrews. “NAJGA will connect these two historic developments through a conference that paves the way for practical applications in personal wellness and supports the well-being of whole communities.”

Palm Beach County Parks and Recreations Director Eric Call welcomes participants to Morikami. “Ensuring health and wellness opportunities for both mind and body is a core service of the department and I can’t think of a more beautiful and tranquil setting (for the conference),” he says.

Special thanks to our conference partners and sponsors:

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MORIKAMI_LOGO         PJG logo       Anderson JG_logo

KSM-logo-web2       ZEN_logo_CMYK_KO

Kurisu,LLC Logo JPEG     Logo Fondation du jardin et du pavillon japonais de   Mtl

Florida Conference Explores Japanese Gardens As Places of Health, Wellness and Social Change

Using Earthen Walls for Japanese Gardens in North America – by EMILY REYNOLDS

Emily Reynolds is the author of the book “Japan’s Clay Walls,” , a founder of the Japanese Earthen Plaster Exchange (JEPE) and a member of the North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA)

Earthen walls have been a defining characteristic of man-made structures in Japanese gardens for many centuries. We often miss this important element, because the clean and flat aesthetic appeals to our modern taste.

Ryoan-ji's Earthen
The centuries-old, thick earthen walls of Ryoanji’s famous rock garden are infused with oils.

But using Western finishes on Japanese structures in gardens leaves something to be desired. They lack a softness, a seamless integration with the natural surrounding and an element of health. While Japanese gardens across North America are being established, and while many more enjoy the challenge of fostering their landscapes, an appropriate wall finish for structures deserves consideration.

Katsura Imperial Villa
The earthen walls of a tea house in Katsura Imperial Villa blend with the view. 

The Japanese Earthen Plaster Exchange (JEPE)  seeks to become an educational resource and bridge-builder for harnessing the traditional advantages of earthen walls in Japanese gardens and other places we consider as sanctuaries of well-being.  By remembering to include the earthen wall in the Japanese garden, we deepen the healing experience. This is not only a visceral or esoteric thing, it is science! Science tells us that we need negative ions for optimal health — from maintaining feelings of general well-being to actually boosting the immune system.   Clays contain negative ions, and release these to their surroundings. Waterfalls also expose us to negative ions. Paints do not. Cement stuccos do not.

JEPE also aims to promote the authenticity of Japanese gardens in the United States, Canada and beyond.  Earthen finishes, either clay-based or lime-based, are the only authentic and appropriate choice for Japanese garden structures.   While thoroughly earthen walls are the tradition, an earthen or earthen-like finish will still benefit the whole atmosphere of the garden, whether applied over an existing surface, or for a new structure.

Thick earthen walls often separate various areas in the garden landscape.  The
Thick earthen walls often separate various areas in the garden landscape. The “go-sen,” “five lines” on these walls denote a temple dedicated to imperial and noble families.

Support the JEPE Campaign. JEPE needs the support of the Japanese gardening community to realize its aims. Please go to igg.me/at/thejepe and make your support known between now and April 22, the end of our campaign. With a simple $1 contribution, you will be counted among our advocates.

You may also visit the Japanese Earthen Plaster Exchange (JEPE) website: www.thejepe.org and the Plaster with Wa blog: www.plasterwithwa.wordpress.com.

Using Earthen Walls for Japanese Gardens in North America – by EMILY REYNOLDS

Invitation to a most memorable trip to Japan in 2015 | Koichi Kobayashi

Invitation to the most memorable trip to Japan in 2015 (update Dec.2014) | Koichi Kobayashi – Academia.edu.

You are invited to join a select group of people to participate in building a memorial Japanese Garden to commemorate victims of the March 11, 2011 tsunami / earthquake in Tohoku, Japan. This garden building project is organized by Japanese Garden Association as a 5 year program. You will receive training from traditional Japanese gardeners who supervise building and will meet young gardeners from all around Japan as well.

 After garden building, we will visit gardens and temples of World Heritage designation,  coastal cities undergoing recovery and a coastline area which is designated as a new National Park. Travel will start from Seattle on October 8 through 22 ending in Tokyo.  Optional travel goes to Kyoto/Osaka.

There are many of you who have benefited overtime from being associated with Japan or apprenticed and studied in Japan, yet some of you including myself,  do not know how to assist Tohoku, Japan in their recovery  in some meaningful and constructive way.

There is a unique opportunity to assist in building a Japanese Garden near Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. This garden, when completed, will be a memorial and prayer for victims of disaster and commemorate their efforts in recovery and future development.

Design and building of this garden is organized by the Sendai Chapter of the Japanese Garden Society. It is being built on a five year program with a completion date set at 2019 to coincide with the Society’s 100 year anniversary.

 This is an excellent opportunity for those thinking and pondering how best to participate in recovery in Tohoku. You could attempt to do that in signing up  for a work study and volunteer program being developed by Koichi Kobayashi with an assistance from Japanese Garden Society and NAJGA.

 With this program, participants will engage in assisting building a commemorative Japanese garden under Japanese expert’s supervision, visiting and learning conditions and people of cities devastated.

 This is the base program for thirteen days. There could be an optional tour to Kyoto, for five days. Program start will start on October 8, 2015 in Sendai with October 8 departure from Seattle. Cost will be around $4,800.

If you are interested in joining, please send your name, address, email, work place, profession etc. to Koichi Kobayashi. kobayashik206@gmail.com. Ph. 206- 2869644

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