The Landscape Guide


In Germany we find the first signs of a real reversal of taste in the last years of the nineteenth century. On the whole the dispute is on the same lines as in England, and is just as violent, though in Germany it is more pedagogic, and of a more decidedly democratic character. Two men made it the business of their lives to awaken the artistic sensibilities of the bourgeois, and to inspire the masses, who are so hard to move, with fresh life and thought; these were Lichtwark and Avenarius, and they may be said to stand at the very apex of the new movement. They wrote at much the same time. Avenarius makes fun of a “Piepenbrinkgarten” in his journal Der Kunstwart, apropos of two kidney-shaped beds of grass and other beds like a child’s “brezel ” (twisted) cake. Then Lichtwark in 1892, in his essay Makartbukett und Blumenstrauss, directs attention to the peasants’ gardens: at Hamburg, which he prefers to the English landscape parks. From now onward Der Kunstwart never ceased to admonish artists and architects, urging that it-was their business to bring  “fresh air” into the enclosures of the professional landscape gardeners.

The century had to come to an end before there was any real response. And now the architects themselves joined in the fray, both as theorists and as practical men. The most prominent among them was Muthesius, who had been drawn towards the English movement very strongly during a stay in England, when he made an intensive study of non-ecclesiastical architecture. In a course of lectures delivered by him in 1904 at Dresden and Breslau, on the subject of English houses, he attacked landscape gardening on similar and often identical grounds with Blomfield, finding it still the leading fashion in Germany. In these lectures Muthesius enjoyed the great advantage of having in his mind a style that had already made some progress in England, and which he could present to his audience.

His definition of the English garden is very characteristic of the trend of the German movement: “The garden of the present day shows a mutual interdependence of particular formal parts, which may be compared to the ground-plan of a house, only that rooms ( terrace, flower-garden, lawn, and kitchen-garden with greenhouses) are open on the top. Together with great variety in particulars, there is in the whole a form essentially regular and closed in; and all the separate parts lie horizontally, with their limits and boundary lines clear to be seen.” Very soon “Rooms in the Open” was to serve as the fanciful name for these modern gardens. Thus Muthesius feels the need of harmony between house and garden, not so much in regard to what was thought important in Renaissance days, viz. that the lines of the house which are visible from outside, both vertical and horizontal, the carvings and other ornament, should be repeated in a show-garden, and so in a sense should introduce architecture into the open; but rather he desires to have the inner part, the living-rooms of the house, reproduced as far as possible in any garden which he would consider ideally planned. Also in what he called the indoor furniture of the garden, the seats, the borders of hedge or pergola, the paths—all should show some likeness to the inside arrangements of a house. Similar demands were fulfilled after their own fashion in the Greco-Roman court-gardens.

About the same time there appeared Schultze-Naumburg’s book Garten, which was the second part of his Kultur-Arbeiten. This book, which belongs to the school of Avenarius and Lichtwark, with whom Schultze-Naumburg had worked from the beginning, shows clearly that the eyes of these men were really directed towards the gardens of small houses. It was a recognised aim of theirs to dignify the formal treatment of the “ garden room” by making it conformable to rules of æsthetic art. This object the author tries to attain in a pedagogic fashion by drawing a distinction between the Beautiful-Suitable and the Ugly-Unsuitable.

The whole tribe of landscape gardeners closed their ranks against these intruders into their province. If we turn over the pages of the Zeitschrift für bildende Gartenkunst, we cannot fail to notice a remarkable energy among the chief contributors, the landscape gardeners themselves. In 1887 there took place the first meeting of the “ Garten-Künstler der Lenné-Meyerschen Schule,” which expressed an active dislike towards their enemies the architects, with their stony hearts, with minds that harp on mathematical formulas, and ideas that can never transcend fixed rules.” The next year one of their champions shows more and more anxiety, because “ the fatal shears, without the least consideration for what their work is destroying, are for ever widening their path, and without a glance at the principles of art.” In these circles England was feared most, as it was seen that more and more of the English gardens were suffering disfigurement from the clipping- shears. " It looks as though,” says Fintelmann, “ gardeners were on the way to return to the days of Le Nôtre.”

 In 1904, angry and perturbed, they were still combating the assaults of Muthesius, but all the same the course of events proceeded surely. The longer the gardeners stood waiting and grumbling, the more energetically did the architects acquire possession of the gardens.

General attention was directed towards the works of architects when they began to hold exhibitions, in which they were of course the sole masters, In 1897 the first exhibition of garden buildings was held under the influence of Lichtwark. This was at Hamburg, the headquarters of the formal party; and here the exhibitors had to bring their own materials, and set them up, often with great trouble and difficulty. But it was at Düsseldorf in 1904, at Darmstadt in 1905, and at Mannheim in 1907 that proper models of architectural gardens were first publicly exhibited (Fig. 625).

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 Much was experimental, and there were many wild ideas at these early shows. Some men, like Peter Behrens, saw salvation in the new lattice-work, and his garden was mostly pergola and bordering. Läuger at Mannheim let the plant world retreat into the background, with his basins and statuary. Olbrich at Darmstadt on the other hand borrowed from landscape gardens the idea of coloured plots, and laid out miniature gardens.

At the beginning only effects suitable for an exhibition were produced; but the professionals soon saw that they would be thrust back, little by little, unless they admitted the enemy into their hitherto restricted circle, and unless they joined hands with the architects, both as learners and teachers, complying with their demands and working loyally with them. This volte-face was described in the journal Die Gartenkunst, when in 1906 the editorship passed into new hands, and under the guidance of an open-minded man the controversy was carried on with much struggling and many discussions from both camps, but with less bitter feeling.

A new generation of young German architects is now busy designing gardens, which will grow to be more and more like the people’s gardens in England. Their style is astonishingly fresh and original. They are mostly from the north and middle parts of Germany, from Hamburg and Bremen, Cologne and Leipzig. They are garden architects. Their knowledge of plants is very thorough, and of quite another sort from that of the architect proper, for they work according to the outspoken maxims of Schuitze-Naumburg, Muthesius, and Olbrich. Their gardens differ from the English in that there is less clipping of hedges. The hedge is not unknown in the work of Gildemeister at Bremen, Leberecht Migge at Hamburg (Fig. 625a), Eneke at Cologne and Grossmann at Leipzig, but it is restrained and is less marked as an architectural feature.

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 But all these gardens show that the hints of Muthesius are followed, that before all things they are living-rooms in the open, and that they deserve the name they are known by, “ Open-air Houses” (Freilufthauser) (Fig. 626).

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The public garden could not long remain uninfluenced by this movement, judging by its own history and the tasks which it had to perform. It was the smaller pleasure- grounds in France that first returned to the formal style, when the brief fashion for English squares had gone by. These were most adaptable because of the architectural style of their surroundings, and also because of their raison d’être, as ornamental places away from traffic, with their flower-beds like parterres, or as recreation grounds with places for games or meetings, as we see them in American towns; in either case a formal site with plenty of architectural ornament was most required. Nowadays practically none but formal places are laid out in the greater towns; yet we have to remember how recently battles were fought—such as the one over the Friedrichsplatz at Mannheim (Fig. 627), which was designed by the architect Bruno Schmitz—if we are really to grasp the fact that this movement is a new one.
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It was rather late when decorative flowers found a place in the real People’s Park; and even in England, always to the fore in such matters, it was only at the end of the nineteenth century that the experiment was made (in Regent’s Park) of introducing a flower-garden. In Waterlow Park, in Ravenscourt Park, and in Hyde Park, we have “ the old English garden."

In other countries, under the leadership of America, a different development appears. In the latest form of the park there hides a germ whence the old grove might come to life again, and possibly has done here and there. In the manifold forms of playing-fields there is a possibility of making separate gardens which might be, with a difference, what the boskets of Le Nôtre were in the old royal park. But since a People’s Park in a large town requires an open show-garden in the centre, which will have to cover far more space than even the great courts of Louis XIV., it is a necessity due to the spectacular demands of modern days to have also one great central view. The club house with its ornamental adjuncts in front now takes the place of the royal castle of former days. Some of the latest American parks on the gigantic scale, such as the one at Chicago, have completely adopted the formal style. In America the large grounds given up to ornament and parterres are introduced to help the view of the whole picture, but not at all in the same fashion as in England.

France also has adopted the idea of enlivening the old perspectives of her parks in a new way. The new part in Paris which leads from the Trocadero over the Champ de Mars to the Ecolè Militaire—thus partly carrying out a grandiose plan dreamed of by the first emperor—is regular and uniform, which perhaps is one of the signs of its newness. All the same, however, it shows some of the former grandeur of a French design.

The latest parks in Germany are making efforts towards future developments of a novel nature. In the parks at Cologne, which have developed under the auspices of Encke, a garden artist who early escaped from the fetters of the narrow landscape tradition, there is practically nothing to be found but the formal style. The Schiller Park at Berlin and the town park at Hamburg, both modern, are working out these great perspectives (Fig. 628).

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 Schumacher in particular, the designer of the Hamburg park, attempted to get an imposing effect by combining the large lines of the perspective (Fig. 629) and the ornamental grounds and playing-fields with picturesque plantations between them, especially by making edges of woodland to the club field. 

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In details we may recall Italian models once more, and adapt these to modern feeling. Ludwig Hoffman made a monumental entrance to the Friedrichshain, the old landscape park at Berlin, and this undoubtedly inclines towards the ideas of the Frascati Villas. The favourite triangle, formed here by two diverging streets, may perhaps have attracted the architect (Fig. 630).
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 The style of a pillared hall, rounded like a theatre, cutting off the wide water stairway (Fig. 631); reminds us in its distinctly classical form of such erections as the coffee-house at Villa Albani, the Gloriette at Schönbrunn or the colonnaded bosket at Versailles.

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 Perhaps one would like it better if this beautiful place stood at the end rather than at the entrance of a public park, for in that case the crowds would be somewhat dispersed on the broad walks after they left streets crammed with traffic and before they arrived at this retired spot, with its feeling of privacy pervading it in spite of all its grandeur. But the whole place has been thought out with a noble feeling for art both in the general plan and in the details; and it certainly marks an important step in the progress of modern garden development.