A study of the symbiotic relationship between
humans and the gardens they tend to.
We are pleased to introduce a special edition of Plants + People conversations—each captured last autumn while traveling across Japan, and featuring a trio of individuals who uniquely embody the tenets of Japanese gardening in practice and philosophy.
If you ask Enzo to list a few of his favorite things, he’ll tell you that they include “sunlight filtering through the trees” and “visualizing the wind.” Such is the casual wisdom of the landscape architect, artist, & founder of Enzo Garden Works, whose practice is a mindful consideration of the way gardens can integrate into and become organic extensions of architecture, be it in our dwellings, public spaces, or works of art.
Based in the mountain town of Karuizawa, Enzo is a veritable tree whisperer, selecting trees and vegetation to suit specific projects as a painter might deliberately select hues of verdant emerald or brilliant crimson (it should come as no surprise that Enzo’s work has also appeared at renowned art exhibitions, including Milano Fuori Salone). As an observer of his work, a clear throughline is tension: between the controlled and the wild, the minimal and the lush, the carefully constructed and the deliberately undone.
Read on for a glimmer of our visit with Enzo, and more on forging a deeper connection to place; childhood memories in the countryside; and the importance of iterating on tradition for our shared evolution.
Unfortunately, I don't have my own garden at home, but there is a small rock garden in the office.
In the area where I was born and raised, there is a clear river that is famous in Japan. I have many fond memories of playing, running, and fishing in the riverbed as a child, and the scenery of the river has become a landscape of nostalgic memories.
I created the rock garden in my office with that image of the riverbed in my mind. Since it does not contain plants, we do not have any particular plans throughout the year, but we arrange the placement of gravel and sprinkle it with water on a daily basis to welcome our guests.
In Japan, the tradition of gardening has been preserved since ancient times and is still being passed down—ranging from garden designing to maintenance. I studied landscape architecture in Kyoto, which preserves these traditions, and during my student days I was exposed to many different traditions, but one thing my teacher said that has stuck in my mind is: 'Look at the architecture.’ With these words in the back of my mind, I don't just focus on the garden, but consider the architecture as part of one holistic space. If everyone understands the intentions of architecture and thinks about creating comfortable spaces to inhabit, we will be able to create comfortable spaces everywhere in the future.
What does it mean to you to feel "planted"?
Let's say you planted one tall tree in your garden. Then that tree expands in three dimensions, giving us a sense of height in the garden or offering a new view of the outside. Trees, unlike humans, cannot move on their own. That's why I try to give each tree I plant a meaningful role and place. I believe that is the meaning of planting.
Japanese maple. The supple branches, gentle fresh greenery, and autumn leaves that captivate people are so beautiful.
What does your planning process look like? Where or how do you typically start in your creative process?
We understand the architectural space, give consideration to the surrounding environment, and proceed while listening to the client's wishes. If that element is unreasonable, we will consider the client and make a better proposal. We consider the general direction, including the architecture, and what theme, atmosphere, and materials will suit the design. Then, we place the trees and stones on the drawing & will begin searching one by one for the actual trees.
Beyond plants, what are other parts of the garden that you like to use to tell a larger story?
I like light, shadow, and the sound of water. When planting trees close to a building, I value the sunlight filtering through the trees onto the walls and floors. The fleeting eeling felt by the swaying surface and hearing the sound of water makes the everyday feel extraordinary and brings you even closer to nature.
What formal principles of arrangement or design do you follow, if any?
The boundary between architecture and garden is very important. Amaochi, a place where rain falls from the eaves of traditional Japanese temples, is a place where a line is drawn between the architecture and the garden to separate each other's territory. The architecture and garden areas are connected by laying gravel. Something that separates and connects these different worlds is what we call a Kekkai (barrier), and we use it in various places in our daily lives. I also use a method of connecting the garden and architecture with a Kekkai, which is to create a horizontal line between the architecture and the garden.
How can we each increase our garden literacy?
It's about being proud of the city we live in. In order to create a city people can be proud of, I think it is important for architects and landscape architects to work together to give over some of their private gardens to the cityscape. I believe that by doing so, we can make the cityscape greener and create a city people can be proud of.