The Assertive House Servant: Mr. Barrett’s Garden on Lake Geneva
Landscape architecture: Bureau, Genf (CH)
Location: Genf (CH)
On the banks of Lake Geneva, with a view of the Swiss Jura mountains, this 5,000-m2 plot represents a topographical challenge: it features a consistent slope downward from its access point to the west to the lakeshore to the east. The task consisted in creatively redesigning the angles of view towards the lake and the mountains. At the same time, the house should sacrifice none of its sheltered character. The team surrounding Daniel Zamarbide have succeeded with their constant emphasis on the horizontal plane. Starting from the walnut tree to the west, the design elements level off regularly towards the east and open up the view for the private riverbank access.
Sparse planting loosens the strict appearance of the existing building, which features a dark façade and compact cubature in the Swiss Heimat style. Just as it does in its cinematographic model The Servant, the landscape architecture here appears as a self-assertive outbuilding: it motivates a contrastive dialogue between the house and the garden.
The design concept was inspired by Roberto Burle Marx’ garden at Villa Cavanela. With his view of gardens as art, Burle Marx was a pioneer of modern landscape planning. He rejected any symmetry or perpendicularity; rather, he created generous, curved perspectives. His gardens are paintings transferred to the ground, consisting of curved lines and abstract islands of colour. They form a counterpoint to the strict, formal designs of the classical modern.
The plant plan for Mr. Barrett’s Garden develops from the texture and colours of the species employed. The organic shapes of level beds and pathways complement the geometric design language of the architecture. Occasional pieces of furniture, terraces and a sauna are accents in the open landscape. In a way similar to Romantic landscape gardens, they divide the garden into various areas, each with its own atmosphere. Graceful in design and durable in choice of material, these interventions fit naturally into the green setting.