Sunday, 27 February 2005

Gardening green

I'm a BlogClicker member (sign up here), because I like the randomness of blogsurfing without the ridiculousness of Blogger's Navbar, which inevitably launches fake blogs selling pharmaceutical products and teens with thecursors that change into a crosshair. One thing that intrigued me was this guy's effort to turn his backyard into a "wildscape" - a good way to "go green", I think, and one that's not so often talked about.

The "wildscape" idea made me think about the big difference between parks and gardens in England and those in France - English green spaces tend to be woodsier and wilder, French ones tend to be more manicured. (You could say you see the same pattern in London's irregular street patterns and Paris' Hausmann-designed geometric patterns.) I know nothing about landscape architecture, but presumably it would be a big philosophical split in the field, as (quick Googling here) this little article implies.



Nicely parallels conventional wisdom about Chinese v Japanese v Korean gardens: Chinese gardens tend to be grand and elaborate; Japanese ones, compact and intricate artifice; and Korean gardens, wild and au naturel.

I'm not well-versed in European history, but I'm quite sure that the simplest reason why early Victorian London resisted any form of urban renewal would have been the unchecked growth precipitated by colonialism and the Industrial Revolution, neither of which influenced Paris significantly at the time of Haussmann's urban renewal plan (which incidentally nearly drove the Napoleonic Empire into bankruptcy). Any kind of major city rearrangement would have severely disrupted the booming economy and caused massive displacements of the working-class, who were already living in deplorable conditions. Imagine 30,000 factory workers camped out at Hyde Park for 15 years while their dormitory was being torn down and rebuilt. Tolerated as they were, that would have been too much for the stiff upper lips. No disruptive Haussmann-esque urban planning grandeur, thank you very much.

I suppose also that colonialism encourage creative people to project their labors abroad in the many colonies of the British Empire, rather than hang around too much at home.


Thanks, I didn't know that about Chinese, Japanese, and Korean gardens.

One thing I like about the London city centre layout is that it is clearly organic - various cities and towns expanding into each other.

About colonialism causing people to project their labours abroad - perhaps, but it doesn't seem like they went to foreign cities and imposed a very regularised urban design there either. Or very manicured parks - the layout of Singapore's own Botanic Gardens seem very much in the British style.


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