Designing a Garden
Monk's Garden at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Michael Van Valkenburgh; essay by Laurie Olin
The intimate Monk’s Garden at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston embodies the design principles that inform the work of noted landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh.
In Designing a Garden, Van Valkenburgh presents the design of the Monk’s Garden at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, an intimate, walled garden that Laurie Olin has described as “a masterpiece, and not a minor one.” The book documents the evolution of the garden’s design, which is based on the concept of meandering paths through a dreamlike woodland to create a contemplative space. Sketches and models show how the idea was worked out, and lush photographs reveal the completed garden through the seasons.
Van Valkenburgh’s text explores the origins of his love of landscape and plants in his family farm in Upstate New York and how this has influenced his intuitions as a designer. He shares the full background story of the Monk’s Garden, focusing on the experimental nature of design work as well as the challenges and satisfactions of the small scale and the historic and cultural context. Designing a Garden provides a unique first-person account of the design process from the most prominent landscape architects in the country.
Praise for Designing a Garden
Winner of ASLA 2020 Communications Honor Award
"If you haven't seen the Monk's Garden at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, you need to plan a trip there to experience a masterpiece of mystery that will spur you to contemplate the design for months to come. In Designing a Garden: Monk's Garden at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Landscape Architect Michael Van Valkenburgh takes you through every detail of the design process -- a lesson you'll refer to time and time again."
“From the first sketch to planting plans and photographs, the book clearly demonstrates the design process and teamwork necessary to complete a project. ‘Like anything else, the best way to learn how to design a landscape is to make one’, and this book is an excellent record of the process.”