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Seeking for the essence of the garden in Gyokudo Museum -No.1


As autumn had proceeded, I visited the garden at Gyokudo Museum for the first time in a while. Then, following article describes the specialty of the garden.
Serenely located along Tama River, Gyokudo Museum is nearby Mitake Station in Ome Line running in Tokyo. Gyokudo Kawai considered as a great master of Japanese painting had lived in Mitake since 1944 until he passed away in 1957. As a memorial for his accomplishment in Japanese painting, Gyokudo Museum was completed in 1961.
Considerably, the best combination of two talents at that time, Isoya Yoshida as an architect and Ken Nakajima as a landscape architect, were in charge for the project. Interaction between architecture and garden harmonized with natural setting surrounded has become masterpiece. Here, I would like to examine the work of Ken Nakajima at his 40’s, considered at the peak of his career.

■Seeing the museum from the vicinity.
The Museum is located in distance of 4-5 minutes from Mitake Station. As looking at the museum under the Mitake Bridge and proceeding forward, vertical sequence of sudden dropping down was emerged. The technique in contrast of static and dynamic as well as arrangement of bird-eye view implies how the garden would be composed.

The open space at the entrance in serene ambience accompanied with stonewalls and steps made of river stones collected from the vicinity, is perfectly matched with the peripheral landscape. Artificiality employed in designs of the earthen wall and the masonry has emphasized the contrast to naturalistic setting in slight changes in angle of path and streams. The entrance hall is accessible by stepping straight up the staircase set at slightly higher than eye level from the open space set at lower elevation. The authoritative appearance of the museum is heightened with the gabled front in comparison with the emphasis of the horizontal line in the building structure.

■Technique in “vertical sequence”
The garden located at the north side of the museum building, closer to Tama River, is a flat and dry landscape garden. The garden, which has no specific observation point, is sequentially observable from the exhibition room at first, then, while walking through the eaves outside of the building. First of all, the way to link from the first exhibition room to the second exhibition room should be focused. Transition that visitors exit the first room to move forward to the next room, which sets lower than the first room, consequently provide a view to the garden. Compared with bird-eye view in wider scale at the approaching space extended from the train station, the space for first contact with the garden is produced in the small scale with a surprise. It is interesting to explore whether or not the technique like that was rooted with the architect or the landscape architect.

■“Nesting” technique in design
Important design concept to describe this garden is “Nesting” technique, which has been utilized in Japanese art world for long time. Natural stones found in Tama River has turned to be garden stones as well as a part of natural woods at the background crossed over the wall turned to be garden trees that have set the border between artificial and natural blurred. This is apparently opposite with the method called Shakkei (borrowed scenery) usually employed in Japanese garden. In other words, instead of designating as the background, it directly employs the natural elements within the garden. As the site enhance with the sound from Tama River, it blows your minds away to somewhere despite the fact to be remained in the garden.

Raft-patterned paving stones that imply the concept as Nakajima for sure assigned in the composition in purpose, struck to the spine so impressively. To framing structure of the garden with arrangement of the paving stone, which are parallel to the building while perpendicular to the mountain range, implies the concept that interacts details by nesting.

Currently, trees encroaching into the garden have grown big and thick, and hide the background that weakens the effect of nesting. However, it reminds the trick art of the Western painting that horses are nested in the forest. While there are some other garden works by Nakajima influenced with paintings, it is interesting to imagine that the creation of the garden was inspired by the trick art.  

Yoshiki Toda

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