Feeling Gardens

October 5, 2009

in Articles, General Interest

by Amanda Patton

Over the last few years I have become interested in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), which is a tool for understanding people, their motivations and personality traits by understanding the language that they use.  One part of NLP is to categorise people as visual, auditory or kinesthetic (feeling); it’s easy to discover which category people belong to when you listen to their choice of words – “I see what you mean”, “I hear what you’re saying” or “I know what you mean”.

As an artist, I have always thought of myself as a visual person, until having coffee with an NLP expert a year or so ago.  When he asked, “which would you say you are?” I replied “visual, of course!”  A long pause followed when he just looked at me and then he said, “are you sure?”  It was a simple observation on his part (and an easy one, I have realised by listening to myself, as my language is constantly peppered with how things make you feel) but the revelation has changed totally the way that I approach my design work and the gardens that I am creating.

It’s obvious when you think about it that an artist must be kinesthetic – art isn’t just visually appealing, it must move you, shock you, create emotion in you in some form.  And so with gardens, they must move you on a deeper level than just being visually pleasing.  While it plays a part in creating a garden, I have realised that the visual is not an end in itself, but one of several tools that can be used to create feeling and emotion.

Perhaps this is all so obvious that everyone already knows it, but to me this is so exciting, so new, that I am looking at everything I design and every garden I visit with very different eyes.  This discovery has led me to analyse all the elements that contribute specifically to atmosphere, such as the manipulation of natural light, the proportions of open and enclosed space, the emotional impact of colour. I went to the Westonbirt Festival of the Garden a few years back and was struck then how several of the gardens had a palpable atmosphere (it’s not something I’ve felt at Chelsea, is this because we can’t enter the gardens or because we are too concerned with the visual at Chelsea?)

In designing a Show Garden for Bradstones to be staged at Hampton Court this July, it was the creation of atmosphere that has been the guiding force for me.  Every design decision I have made within the garden has been taken on the basis of, “how will this make the visitor/viewer feel?”  In deliberately setting out to manipulate emotion, I hope to create spaces within the garden that are uncomfortable and unsettling – and by creating the antithesis of a ‘feel good’ garden, I hope to highlight the relevance of how our designed spaces, gardens or otherwise, make you feel.  Surely there is no more important or significant contribution to people’s lives that a designer can make?

Amanda Patton – writer, designer, illustrator

Amanda Patton’s website

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