English voice of solemnity

Orpheus at Boughton
for The Duke of Buccleuch


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Kim Wilkie is one of Prince Charles’ favorite garden designer. His firm describes their philosophy as, “Each place has its own special character and identity – a continuous conversation between the physical form and the lives lived and shaped within it.” As landscape architects we try to understand the memories and associations embedded in a place and the natural flows of people, land, water and climate.

Kim Wilkie’s firm tells of a design process in which their ideas spring from the character and use of the site – each is different and inspired by the individual combination of memory and imagination.

Boughton Park is an early eighteenth century garden of land and water; avenues and vistas; rhythm and reflection.

The current Duke of Buccleuch has begun the massive task of restoring the gardens and commissioned us to create a new feature on the empty space opposite the great Mount.

“We have designed a space that emphasizes the scale and mass of the huge earthwork, to create an Orphean Hades to complement the Olympian Mount.”

An inverted grass pyramid descends seven meters below the level of the restored terraces. Walking around the landscape, the new design is invisible, but drawing near to the mount, a gentle grass path spirals down to a square pool of still water deep underground. The water reflects the sky, and is a little like an inverted James Turrell occulus.

Kim proclaims a need to realize new forms in old types of landscapes. By combining manytypes of venerable forms Kim readdresses the tradition of line of site. He takes the old world garden from horizontial divergence into  a new spectrum of vertical variation and interest. Yes, in other old world gardens the view can find a view from an elevated position. Perhaps a  palace balcony with gilded balustrades or a bluff with a view through a meadow, but never a grass temple mound. Kim takes this variation to the subterrean level aswell, creating a void in the sight line, while introducing a new interface with the sky through reflection.

Kim’s design focuses on one method, iconic in to the English. The lawn takes on a new rhythm and creates a new way for Duke to enjoy a vista, beyond the pre-determined. flat. plain. lawn.

“The landscape is not seen for itself, but as a commentary upon the human condition, as a speculation upon the tension between order and disorder.”

(JMW Turner)

Mr. Wilkie speaking about Landscape Architecture and its future:

photo source:http://www.kimwilkie.com/



  1. I like the message of having “a need to realize new forms in old types of landscapes,” but I think it would apply to landscapes in general. We live through the days gliding through the environment and we lose focus on details, get bored with the landscape, and become numb to our surroundings. The landscape is dynamic and there are always new things happening, we just need to look for it; we need to appreciate it.

    This design presents the landscape as something we’re familiar with, a hill, but it invites you to explore it further, and once you take the steps to appease curiosity you’re rewarded with a unique earthwork that one would not have expected. I think the natural environment is amazing and beautiful but sometimes we need imposed design to help us realize and appreciate what surrounds us.

    1. I wouldn’t say impose, rather integrate a design with the natural landscape.
      Again, it is all a matter of which function the clients, or end user wishes to gain in the landscape.
      Whether this is play, mediation, food production, or showcasing opulence and power.

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