Albert Kahn's Ideal Garden

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Albert Kahn's Ideal Garden
Albert Kahn's Ideal Garden

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Video: Garden Albert KAHN in winter - Paris 2023, February
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Albert Kahn's garden is unique among all the many gardens and parks in France: it is not only a carefully selected collection of plants, but also an allegory of the consolidation of humanity through the combination of gardens of different styles.

The entrance to the garden lies through the museum of its creator - Albert Kahn. It is worth familiarizing yourself here with the history of the garden and the biography of its author - all this will come in handy later when solving puzzles in a Japanese garden.

Entrance to the Albert Kahn Museum
Entrance to the Albert Kahn Museum

Entrance to the Albert Kahn Museum

Garden layout
Garden layout

Garden layout

The history of the creation of the "Archives of the Planet" and the ideal garden

As a person who travels a lot in connection with his business and is interested in the culture of different countries, the successful banker Albert Kahn (1860-1940) long cherished the idea of ​​creating an ideal garden that would reflect all the brightest impressions of his life and unite the best examples of garden and park art. In 1893, he buys a piece of land on the southwestern outskirts of Paris at the 4 September Quay, 6 (later the address changed to Rue du Pont, 10-14). The garden is conceived as a map of the world, the focus of the most beautiful corners and impressions from travel to different countries.

Garden plan (1 - Museum, 2 - Japanese Village, 3 - English Garden, 4 - Vosges Forest, 5 - Golden Forest, 6 - Swamp, 7 - Blue Forest, 8.9 - French Garden, 10 - Palmarium, 11 - Modern Japanese garden)
Garden plan (1 - Museum, 2 - Japanese Village, 3 - English Garden, 4 - Vosges Forest, 5 - Golden Forest, 6 - Swamp, 7 - Blue Forest, 8.9 - French Garden, 10 - Palmarium, 11 - Modern Japanese garden)

Garden plan (1 - Museum, 2 - Japanese Village, 3 - English Garden, 4 - Vosges Forest, 5 - Golden Forest, 6 - Swamp, 7 - Blue Forest, 8.9 - French Garden, 10 - Palmarium, 11 - Modern Japanese garden)

Acquaintance with the philosopher Henri Bergson, a man of global thinking, held in the same year, leads Kahn to the idea to devote his life to the idea of ​​unification and cooperation of peoples and countries.

Kahn is a man of action. A trip to Japan in 1898 and a new philosophical understanding of nature, characteristic of oriental culture, are reflected in the creation of the society "Around the World" under the newspaper "Le Monde", where he attracts young talented journalists and students from different countries. At his own expense, Kahn sends them to different parts of the planet with the sole purpose of capturing and describing the maximum of events. The society's motto is “Observe. Know. Provide ". An obligatory requirement for the participants is to be able to photograph, which at the end of the 19th century was a laborious and complicated process and required the transportation of heavy equipment. Particular attention is paid to those places of the planet that are threatened with extinction.

The amount of information collected is growing rapidly, and in 1906 Kahn built a separate building in his garden to store the archives and meetings of the expanding society.

In 1909, Kahn again went to Japan, from where he went to China. After the trip, he calls on the geographer Jean Bronch for help and entrusts him with the scientific leadership of the society's projects, the coordination of trips and the systematization of incoming reports and photographs. The growing volume of information acquires a new quality and is formed in the thoughts of the creator into a new brainchild - "Archives of the Planet". From 1909 to 1931, Kahn finances the work of reporters in 48 countries around the world. Its archive contains 72 thousand plates of color (!) Photographs (an innovation of 1907, which the Lumiere brothers shared with Kahn) and 170 km of film. Among other materials - and reports on the battles of the First World War.

The banker invests his money in the Planet Archives, helping the victims of the war, organizing a committee of public and political affairs, which publishes a huge number of newspapers covering the real state of affairs in the world. All his activities are aimed at reconciling society, solving acute urgent problems and uniting the world.

In parallel with the collection of information about different parts of the planet, a huge work is underway to create an ideal garden, symbolizing the unification of the world. The garden becomes the embodiment of Kahn's ideas, he spends all his free time here and jealously does not allow strangers here. Kahn's guests who visited the garden were Albert Einstein, Rabindranath Tagore, Anatole France, Auguste Rodin and many other outstanding personalities of that time.

But the economic crisis in 1929 ruined Kahn. By a court decision in 1932, he was declared bankrupt, and the garden was subject to sale at auction in parts. However, the Seine District Department, at the request of Kahn's friends, buys the entire garden in 1933. Kan is already 73 years old, and according to the decision of the Department, they leave his home for life. In 1937 the garden was opened to the public for the first time.

Politicians also understood the significance of the Planet Archives. Immediately after the occupation of Paris in 1940, the order of the ideologist and head of the foreign policy department of the NSDAP Alfred Rosenberg follows: all documents located at the address: 4 September Embankment, 6, are subject to seizure and sent to Berlin for special storage until further notice. It is not known what the Nazis were looking for in the Planet Archives, but they were discovered only 50 years later, as it should be for secret documents. In 2007, a five-part film was shown on one of the BBC channels, telling about both the archive itself and the life of various parts of the Earth at the beginning of the 20th century captured in its materials.

Now, having met in the museum with a rich biography of Albert Kahn, we will go to the garden.

French garden

Albert Kahn renews the purchased 3.9 hectare plot of land entirely, leaving only Atlas cedars.

The birth of the garden begins with the invitation of the famous landscape architect Achilles Duchamp, who is entrusted with the creation of the French garden. According to his plan, the garden consists of three parts: a parterre, a rose garden and an orchard. The talent of the architect combined in one project the traditions of the classical French parterre of the Le Notre era and the Art Nouveau era of the early 20th century.

The austere square of the parterre is bordered by a stunted monochrome colored border, which changes its color depending on the season - in July it was red thanks to blooming begonias. The adjacent square is given to roses interspersed with fruit trees. There are tiers of roses all around: flowering bushes, towering hats of standard roses and an arcade entwined with climbing roses. The varieties of roses are selected so that they are in harmony with the flowering of fruit trees, and in summer they stand out brightly against the greenery of the orchard.

French garden parterre
French garden parterre

French garden parterre

Rose garden
Rose garden

Rose garden

Arcade
Arcade

Arcade

The presence of such an unexpected component as an orchard in a classic French composition is an innovation of an architect who linked classic and modern. The trees of the French garden are decorated in the form of palmettes, they not only bear fruit, but also decorate the garden, obeying a strictly man-made order. Apple and pear palmettes surround the square of the orchard, in the center of which fruit trees grow on a flat lawn, formed in the form of a glass, a ball, a pyramid.

The background of this scene is a row of neatly trimmed linden trees that separate the English garden with its green lawn, small river and hills.

A little later, at the turn of the XIX-XX centuries, the view from the parterre will decorate the translucent building of the Palmarium, which is full of tropical plants and symbolizes the Oceania island in the general garden scheme.

View of the palmarium from the orchard
View of the palmarium from the orchard

View of the palmarium from the orchard

Albert Kahn carries out the further development of the general project of his dream garden himself, together with the chief gardener Louis Picard. They outline a series of gardens that flow into each other: an English garden, a Vosges forest and a Japanese garden. A dozen workers, led by Picard, set about creating the perfect garden.

English garden

The original English garden was flat. For the rapid formation of the landscape, large trees had to be planted. One of these giants was a chestnut tree 12 m high, it successfully took root and still delights visitors with its appearance.

The redevelopment by head gardener Michel Farry in the mid-20th century resulted in a hilly landscape more typical of the English landscape. At the same time, a large amount of land and stones, seedlings of beech, oak and pine were brought in.

The architect has at his disposal a lawn plain, a quiet stream, a small pond with an island, solitary trees, picturesque groups of shrubs, a cottage and a bridge. From these elements, he creates an atmosphere of peace and unity with nature.

All seasonal changes are well emphasized in the garden: in spring, the attention of visitors is focused on the central part of the garden, where bulbs and shrubs bloom on the lawn, and in autumn - on the bright foliage of trees surrounding the lawn - gingko, linden, plane trees, figs, silver maple. The gold of the English garden crowns contrasts with the bright maple foliage in the Japanese garden.

River
River

River

We walk along a small gravel path to the place where it is crossed by an artificial river with a small island. The passage across the river is originally designed in the form of a stone, in the thickness of which winding crevices, as if pierced by water, are laid, along which water, without interfering with the walking, continues on its way. Further, the river flows under a picturesque, rustic-style bridge hidden in greenery.

Lawn
Lawn

Lawn

Bridge
Bridge

Bridge

A small cottage, reminiscent of traditional Norman-style houses, completes the landscape, making it habitable and homely.

Vosges forest

Leaving the path from the English garden, we immediately find ourselves in the Vosges forest. Here on 3000 sq. m represents the whole variety of the Vosges, a mountainous region in the north-east of France. This landscape was from childhood close and dear to Kahn, who was born in Alsace.

The forest was badly damaged by a hurricane in 1999: more than 150 trees were uprooted and severely damaged. During the reconstruction in 2000-2007, which was directed by the landscape architect Christian Lemoit, it was decided to make the Vosges Forest even closer to the natural original. From the vicinity of the village of Marmoutier, where Kahn was born, 150 tons of pink granite and a large amount of black soil were brought, 650 trees and shrubs were planted. The granite blocks were carefully transported along with the moss growing on it.

In the Vosges forest, three different zones are distinguished, characteristic of different heights and parts of the Vosges ridge: the Vosges hills (which corresponds to about 450 m above sea level) with oak forests and lawns, the Low Vosges (450-750 m) of the northern part of the ridge with spruces, firs, ferns and forest flowers and the High Vosges of the southern part of the ridge (750-1200 m) with beech groves, mountain ash and meadows lying at the mountain peaks.

High Vosges
High Vosges

High Vosges

Low Vosges
Low Vosges

Low Vosges

The owner was especially fond of the Golden Forest, symbolizing the plains of Alsace. It got its name for the autumn golden color of the foliage of weeping birches and the bright colors of young spruce shoots in April.

Passing from the Vosges forest to the Golden, we seem to descend from the mountains. The landscape and vegetation are changing, and now we got to the lowland - a wetland, or simply Swamps.

Two small bodies of water with characteristic vegetation - water lilies, marsh irises and reeds - are worthy of Monet's brush. Wetlands play a huge role in the nature of our planet, but people are rarely able to appreciate their beauty, the more important it is to show the charm and defenselessness of such places.

Swamp
Swamp

Swamp

The swamp is surrounded by firs and cedars: we smoothly move into the Blue Forest. Surrounded by firs and cedars, bright spots of blooming rhododendrons, azaleas and hydrangeas create the effect of festive lights.

Blue forest
Blue forest

Blue forest

Hydrangeas in the blue forest
Hydrangeas in the blue forest

Hydrangeas in the blue forest

The Blue Forest got its amazing name for the color of the needles of the trees. It was based on the Atlas cedars, preserved from the moment of purchase of the site. Blue spruces from Colorado were added to the cedars. The blue forest was formed on the basis of the coloristic principle, thus uniting two continents - Africa and America.

Japanese garden

The Japanese garden is bordered by the French and English gardens. From the English garden, separated by a wall of bamboo, which in Eastern culture symbolizes inflexibility, willpower and spirit, you can get here through the gate. The garden consists of three components: a Japanese village or garden of contemplation, a tea garden, and a modern Japanese garden that embodies the life of its creator.

Japanese garden gate
Japanese garden gate

Japanese garden gate

Spread over an area of ​​7500 sq. m, this garden is not just a set of beautiful views, each of which is well thought out and calculated, but also the symbolism inherent in them, which we will try to discern and decipher.

This site appeared on the map of Kan's ideal garden after his visit to Japan in 1898. For his success in international cooperation, Kan is honored to be introduced to the emperor, who, upon learning of his interest in Japanese gardening art, gives him garden lights and several bonsai for his garden in Paris.

Lantern in a Japanese village
Lantern in a Japanese village

Lantern in a Japanese village

Lantern in a Japanese village
Lantern in a Japanese village

Lantern in a Japanese village

The Japanese Village consists of two traditional Japanese houses donated to Kan by the Prince and Princess Kitashirakawa, who were delighted after visiting the garden. They were delivered from Japan. The composition of the village is conceived as follows: one of the houses is the main one and its terraces serve as a viewing platform for this site. Now access to the houses is prohibited, and the skill of the landscape designer can only be appreciated from the paths of the garden.

Japanese village
Japanese village

Japanese village

Shrubs by the teahouse
Shrubs by the teahouse

Shrubs by the teahouse

The volume and perspective are emphasized by tapeworm trees: Japanese maple, magnolia, cypress. In the perception of the Japanese, stones are an integral part of nature. According to tradition, they should be immersed 2/3 into the ground. Particular attention is paid to topiary art, from bonsai to shaping shrubs and trees. The scattering of clipped bushes near the house reminds of a scattering of boulders, thus drawing a parallel between the living and the inanimate. In Eastern culture, the circle is a symbol of Heaven, and the square is the Earth. The circle in Buddhism is the wheel of samsara, i.e. the cycle of birth and death. This is why there are so many rounded shapes in Japanese gardens, each of which has its own hidden meaning.

Any Japanese garden must have stones and water. Often there is a dry stream or river, where gray pebbles symbolize water, and brown stones or pebbles represent the shore.

Dry stream
Dry stream

Dry stream

The design of the tracks is a special article, because each of them reflects a journey through life. Here you will find pebble patterns on the path and semicircular elements - symbols of clouds - next to the steps. The steps of the path, decorated in a traditional Japanese style, with flat stones or sawn wood, not only artistically complement the picture, but also allow you to walk in rainy weather.

Japanese lanterns and individual flat stone steps leading up to the teahouse are a reminder of the need to focus before the tea ceremony. The path to the tea house is never straight and smooth, you need to walk along it slowly, stopping and enjoying the thoughtful beauty of the garden. A lone lion on the way to a teahouse means protection from the penetration of any evil into the territory it protects. The tea house is hidden from prying eyes by the plants of the tea garden, there are no bright catchy flowers near it that can distract attention.

Track
Track

Track

The path to the tea house
The path to the tea house

The path to the tea house

The now erected teahouse is somewhat larger than that of Kan's; it was inaugurated in 1966 with the participation of the Master of the Ura-Senke Tea School Shoshitsu Sen XV.

During the reconstruction of the Japanese garden in 1988, it was decided to create a section of the garden dedicated to its founder and reflect his life path in the architecture of the modern Japanese garden. The design was entrusted to landscape architect Fumiaki Takano. Within two years, a new Japanese garden was created on the site of the Japanese and Alpine gardens.

According to the principles of Tao, the garden point was chosen where the lines of life (yang) and death (yin) intersect. The life line begins with a pyramid of birth, or rather a cone of white pebbles about 1.5 m high - this is a symbol of birth, in one direction the cone continues with a channel lined with white pebbles, along which a stream of life flowing from the cone gurgles. Expanding, the stream flows into the main pond - the river of life - bordered with black and white pebbles. Everything is like in life: now a black stripe, then a white … The pond is full of flowers, light, it symbolizes youth, the period of financial success and spiritual growth of Kahn.

Birth pyramid
Birth pyramid

Birth pyramid

Pond
Pond

Pond

On the other side of the pond, the allegory of Mount Fuji rises, which serves as a viewing platform and allows you not only to see the corners of the park, but also to realize the twists and turns of fate. At its foot in the pond is the Yatsuhashi Bridge, one of the most striking examples of symbolism in garden architecture. This is a bridge of a broken configuration, in which individual elements may not be fixed, it means a difficult path to comprehend the truth and at the same time the frailty of physical existence, and also warns that turns of fate lie in wait in everyone's life.

Mount fuji
Mount fuji

Mount fuji

Yatsuhashi bridge
Yatsuhashi bridge

Yatsuhashi bridge

So Kahn's meeting in 1898 with Japan and its culture contributed to the renewal of his worldview. Opposite Fuji, on the opposite side of the pond, is the death cup, a conical pool of black pebbles. Being very close to the Pyramid of birth, it symbolizes both the brevity of being and the continuity of generations.

View from Fuji to the river of life and the bowl of death
View from Fuji to the river of life and the bowl of death

View from Fuji to the river of life and the bowl of death

Death cup
Death cup

Death cup

In the next section of the pond near Fuji, a rounded platform with a mighty Himalayan cedar and a huge weeping beech juts into the water, they symbolize the masculine and feminine principles - yang and yin. They can also be seen as Kan's acquaintance with the Japanese imperial family. The site continues with small terraces, symbols of rice fields. On the opposite bank, a row of vertical walls of pink pebbles symbolizes the Archives of the Planet collection. Composed of many separate stones, they together form strong walls, just as archives, composed of many separate reports, together form a single testimony to the life of an era. At this point, the banks of the pond are connected by a red bridge - a copy of the sacred Nikko bridge, and the river of life makes a sharp turn and narrows.

Yin and Yang, Planet Archives
Yin and Yang, Planet Archives

Yin and Yang, Planet Archives

The terraces of the "rice fields" are cut through by a waterfall, which rapidly descends from the steep bank, at the place where it flows into the pond, it continues with a path of large boulders, along which you can cross the shallow river of life. A little further there is a second, the same "crossing". This site symbolizes the time of the financial crisis of 1929. But the real collapse overtook Kahn a little later - in 1932, when he was declared bankrupt.

Waterfall
Waterfall

Waterfall

Collapse and bankruptcy symbols
Collapse and bankruptcy symbols

Collapse and bankruptcy symbols

This stage of Kahn's life is reflected in the next section of the pond. The river of life grows shallow. The sloping coast continues with sharp-angled stone ledges, like breakwaters protruding into the water, against which a stream breaks. Opposite them, a bulk cone juts out into the pond, half overgrown with grass, the upper part of the cone is made of pebbles. Steps descend to it from the steep bank, and in the middle of the ascent a conical pebble pool awaits us, repeating the cup of death opposite Mount Fuji. The repetition of elements in a Japanese garden emphasizes the importance of symbols.

Death bowl in the middle of the stairs
Death bowl in the middle of the stairs

Death bowl in the middle of the stairs

Descent from the cup of death to the cone of collapse
Descent from the cup of death to the cone of collapse

Descent from the cup of death to the cone of collapse

Before passing under a second wooden bridge, much more modest than the red one, the river bends around a small triangle-shaped islet, one side of which is represented by a curved line with two pebble cones at its apex. This is a Zen garden, as it looks from the bridge. It presented itself to me as an adult's recollections of a life lived - from the pyramid of birth to the pyramid of collapse - with an unfinished curve of the future. A pair of pebble cones in a Zen garden can be interpreted as a symbol of a crane, meaning in Buddhism a highly soaring independent human spirit striving for the heights of knowledge.

Zen garden
Zen garden

Zen garden

Further, the channel widens, and the shallow river of life turns abruptly and flows under the bridge to a spherical depression - the spiral of death, and ends its course, going underground, where it returns to the point of birth. Semicircular tiles in the death spiral symbolize flowers and rebirth.

Death spiral
Death spiral

Death spiral

In order to keep the Japanese garden in a condition corresponding to the project, a person was needed who was familiar with the worldview of the Japanese and their culture. In 1990, the head gardener Michel Farry was sent on an internship in Japan to the imperial gardener Master Sano, who created the UNESCO gardens in Paris.

During Kan's lifetime, a real Shinto shrine and a four-story wooden pagoda stood in the Japanese garden. Now these objects are lost.

The uniqueness of Albert Kahn's garden is the combination of landscape gardening art and philosophical understanding of nature. From here you leave with a feeling of the harmony of the world. How do you see your ideal garden?

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