Japanese Tea Garden in the Desert

Day After Construction of a Japanese Tea Garden

In previous posts I have set up the background  of the project, describing  the site, the existing elements and  my design criteria and overall approach. Now that the project is completed in terms of the installation, I wanted to reflect on the evolution from design to completion.

Being a design & build landscape designer and contractor, I get the reward of actually seeing my designs installed. In this case, the design was a separate process for which I did charge a fee to my clients. Of course, a design that sits in a folder and never gets built is just an exercise. Knowing this, I always give my clients an incentive to contract with me to build each fee based design by giving a partial credit towards construction.

Here is the final design that I used as a guideline to build the project.

PDF of Japanese Tea Garden Design

I specifically use the term ‘guideline’ because anybody who has experience with placement and arrangement realizes that a two dimensional plan is only one way of perceiving the space in which you are working. The real 3 dimensional physical space of the site changes how things are perceived and should be the overriding factor for implementing the design of most Japanese Gardens.

Overall, the design is rather simple. The purpose of this garden is to emulate the traditional aspects of an authentic Japanese Tea Garden.  It functions as a transitional garden setting for the enjoyment of the Tea ceremony guests.

In this case, we had the benefit of working with existing structures including the Tea House itself (the destination), an entrance gateway (the Torii), a free standing covered waiting area (Koshikake Machiai) and a wooden bridge.  Having these structures in place, it was rather straightforward to create a pathway (Roji) from the main entrance to the Tea House. The challenge was to create a certain experience imbued with symbolism and ambiance in keeping with the principles of Japanese Garden design.

Perhaps the video clips will give you an idea of the space and the ambiance. Although these images were taken immediately after project completion, they show much of what I am describing.

There is no single focal point, but rather a series of  views that capture some unique element or feeling as one walks along the stepping stone path.  Adjacent to the waiting area, the old river rock retention basin was converted into a dry pond or lake with boulders forming steep cliffs.  A section of the pond has a gently sloped area where river rock simulates a beach effect and serves to leads one’s eye down the stepping stone path. The stone lantern is situated at this transitional point along the path overlooking the pond and beach pebbles.

The one design feature that I would consider remarkable is the addition of the ‘formal Karesansui garden’ as I call it. Inspired by the Ryo-anji garden in Kyoto, Japan, I located the 12′ x 20′ garden in an area that could be directly viewed from within the Tea House looking across the river rock swale.

Thus it was not so much a focal point from within the exterior setting of the Tea Garden, but from the inside of the Tea House.  Although it could be considered to be the highlight of one’s journey along the stepping stone path when you start from the Torii around the corner of the house as it is not visible until you reach the area of the stone lantern.

Go to this page to see a series of before and after pictures of the garden.

And below see a slide show of all the pics I took upon completion:



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