Hedonistic Gardens – A Return to Utopia

November 15, 2009

in Articles, General Interest

18th century pleasure gardens by Malcolm Uhlhorn

Historically, the great pleasure gardens of the 17th and 18th century developed from a desire to shake off the philistinism and austerity of the English civil war and of course to improve people’s health, create a sense of well being and opportunities for pleasure, all great aspirations for the 21st century especially in the light of today’s economic morass.

Vauxhall and Ranelagh pleasure gardens were hugely successful in their time and became the powerhouse of garden fashion and in an increasingly visual age showcased the art of illusion with theatrically applied trompe l’oeil and perspective treillage.

The stylish, verdant avenues were the perfect place to promenade, see and be seen, providing a catwalk for the finest fashion and an opportunity to spot the celebrities of the day. They were also socially important as they attracted people from all strands of society in a seasonal egalitarian and diverse melting pot of eating, dancing, socialising and the latest in musical taste.

We have created the society we deserve, as we emerge from this treacle pudding of a recession should we not be trying to shake off this national endemic of philistinism and austerity and be thinking as to how we could embrace the pleasure garden concept today?

The conditions and the mood have to be right, most of the jigsaw is already here, we have some world class designers, we certainly have the theatrical and musical skills, and we have superb urban parks in our cities. Have we the flair, the determination, the will and the money to make the principle of a “Hedonistic Garden-A Return to Utopia” work?

I think so.

My hypothesis is:

‘Could it be argued then that feasibility of the return of the Pleasure Garden with some transferred 18th century characteristics to compete in today’s leisure market is a reality’?

Is there evidence to suggest that there are any gardens today that already carry and flaunt those C18th characteristics?

Malcolm Uhlhorn – studying for a Bsc (Hons) Garden Design, Sparsholt College

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