ON THE FORMATION AND CONDUCT OF GARDEN HISTORY
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The author states that garden history has established two unavoidable trajectories. The first is the investigation of the design and formal evolution of individual sites; this involves land holdings, patronage, available design skills and above all a focus upon formal moves, usually drawn first on paper and then transferred onto the ground. Art and architectural historians found this approach congenial and even familiar. The second trajectory sought to elucidate why sites were created in those ways: what were the motives of patrons, the education and inclinations of designers (including their knowledge of earlier forms), all of which tended towards a focus upon the meaning that a designed site held for its original creators and owners. Philosophers, historians of science and literary critics were particularly drawn to this mode of history. Both those approaches privileged the design of original sites, but what they did not generally seek to understand was how subsequent generations saw or (perhaps) remodeled the original designs. Garden history has been growing and developing rapidly over the last 30 or 40 years. The range of the subject along with the sheer quantity of work now produced in the larger history of landscape has increased by leaps and bounds. One must acknowledge here the considerable contributions – in both number and intellectual thrust – that have emerged in Europe (France most prominently, but Italy also) from a whole range of landscape architects, philosophers, geographers, and cultural commentators and historians of all sorts. Recognition of the ineluctably multi-disciplinary nature of garden historical enquiry, and the contributions to the subject therefore from an increased number of specialists in other fields, make every new endeavour potentially more challenging.
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