The Silence of Gardens: Designed Landscape as a Sign and a Stimulus at the Beginning of the 21st Century

In: Learning to See: The Meanings, Modes and Methods of Visual Literacy

Over the course of history a shift occurred in the perception of gardens. Nowadays, the majority of viewers possess very limited visual literacy to interpret historic gardens. That brings various changes to ‘garden social semiotics’: 1. typological codes prevail over semantic and symbolic codes, 2. spaces become open signs for viewers’ semiotic activities, 3. at the same time they are prompted with linguistic and visual meta-codes ensuring proper ‘reading’. This semiotic situation calls for new ways of designing spaces. Among others, there is a way of concentrating on the psychosomatic level of experiencing gardens and designing them as perceptual stimuli. In this article, this possibility is considered both theoretically, using the tools of neuroaesthetics, especially a notion of ‘aesthetic primitives’ introduced by Richard Latto, and practically – with an example of Getty’s Central Garden designed by Robert Irwin.

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