ARCADIA - MODEL, MUSUM AND PLAYGROUND

One early summer morning in 2002 I took the bus to the Haga Park in Stockholm to take photographs. I had the notion that the 18th century park was similar to landscapes I had experienced in fantasy roleplaying games. There were no other visitors in the park on that day, and without references to 2002, it appeared as a collage of historical and distant worlds. The Turkish kiosk, the Chinese temple and the Roman tents created their own spaces. The ruin marked the presence of time. Later I read about the garden hermitages of the 18th century that were simple houses for a Spartan way of life. In Stockholm in 2002, rumour had it that a person called The Moss Man had constructed a hermitage-like house close to the Kaknäs tower without a building permit. That same winter I heard that homeless people lived in the cave in the King’s park in Malmö. I thought of New Urbanism, the contemporary architecture movement, and of projects such as Celebration, Poundbury and the Swedish project Jakriborg. In these projects, an eclectic style was used. I came to think of functions and purposes with this and imagined a kinship with the created worlds of the Haga Park. I decided to deepen my knowledge of the garden architecture of the 18th and 19th centuries. This work is the result.


”Unite in a single garden all times and all places.”

-Louis Carrogis (Carmontelle), creator of Parc Monceau, 1778


By the mid-1700’s, ideas appeared in the field of garden art, that went against the strict ideals of the Baroque gardens. The Romanticist gardens were arranged to resemble wild nature, but they were not wilder or more natural, nor less planned than their Baroque predecessors. The Romanticist gardens referred to Arcadia, a world created in bucolic poetry and in landscape painting.  Arcadia expressed a faith in the animated garden, awoken by the philosophers, scientists, artists and mystics of the time.


The atmospheric landscapes of Arcadia, portrayed through the gardens of Romanticism, seldom bore any resemblance to the neighbouring areas. The idea was that the gardens should be picturesque. The sites were tidied up and furnished. A philosophy expressing a will of going back to nature seems to have marked a criticism of civilisation as well as a growing environmentalism. Dead trees and artificial ruins were constructed in the gardens. City budgets were depleted in efforts to create knight’s castles and underground lakes. China and the Orient inspired exotic constructions, alluding to fantasies of faraway cultures. At the same time, local history was put forward as an expression of a growing passion for feudalism and heathen times.


Romanticist garden architecture indicated a re-mystification of the secular world of the Enlightenment. The garden was an ideal world as well as an escape from reality. In many ways it has similarities with society of today: New Age, Living History, Storytelling, Virtual Reality, New Urbanism and Live Roleplaying Games. Using games, people of the time tried to avoid alienation and at the same time – consciously or un-consciously – alternatives were created. The garden became a tool with which to shape, re-shape and question society, identity, time and space. Free zones, where subjective storytelling took place, were created there. In the form of games, fact and fiction were equalled in a collective virtual reality.


”At a time when humour and fantasy are at last beginning to creep back into our architecture, after a boredom and sterility of the Modern Movement office block, we can begin to see (the architecture of Romanticism; author’s note) in a truer perspective: not simply as an extravagant joke, but as a highly original and considered work of art.”

-HRH The Prince of Wales, 2002


The Romanticist garden was the essence of the world-view of the 18th century. It was a nostalgic flashback, a dream of tomorrow and a reflection of those times. The identity of the garden, Arcadia, was a hybrid of fiction and reality and a living icon, full of references and symbols.


Was there anything in the Romanticist gardens that reminds us of society today? Could it somehow function as a model of interpretation of tendencies of our time? In this text I outline some ideas, where Arcadia and the Romanticist gardens are turned into creators of meaning. Scientific texts as well as scientifically un-confirmed conceptions, has formed the basis of my assumptions. As implied in the title, emphasis is put upon Arcadia and the garden as model, museum and playground: model as in exemplary and reflective, museum as in conserving, and playground as in searching and fantasising.


”Fun. Dreams. Magic. It’s who we are. Our guests come here to be amused, startled and delighted, and there is no reason that unique experience should stop once they leave the magic of our Theme Parks. That’s why we’ve sought out some of the best architects in the world to help us expand our vision to resorts and buildings beyond the Theme Parks. We are making a daring new statement in architecture. One of impact and imagination, a big ”WOW!”  The 3-dimensional dreams (…) are intended to take you on their own unique emotional journeys where something unexpected and surprising turns up around every corner. Each tells a story and each story is a new adventure you’re invited to share.”

-Michael D. Eisner, chairman of the board and managing director, The Walt Disney Company


The strive for self-fulfilment, formulated by the philosophical currents of the 18th and 19th centuries, was an important part of the background of Romanticism. Self-recognition was an expression of the newfound interest of the unique value in man – a thought that was also visualised through garden architecture. People strolled along winding pathways; they learned from and were inspired by the historical and faraway sceneries of primitivism and civilisation. Hence, the gardens helped create the formulation of ideas of individual truth.


However, actual self-fulfilment was naïve wishful thinking – and still is. Identity is the fusion of experience and a wished-for reality. The creation of identity often is the result of game-play – the game heralds being. To me, role-playing and architecture hold an exceptional position in games of identity and in the creation of identity. A combination of the two is discernable in the picturesque architecture of Postmodernism as well as Romanticism. The most obvious examples of this can perhaps be found in Romanticist gardens and parks. They seem like well-worked fantasy worlds, where every setting, character and building had their place and symbolism. The hermit in the cave was expected to be an anti-social thinker; the farmer in the fields was thought to be down to earth; the knight in his castle was supposed to be brave. The sceneries and characters were archetypes to identify oneself with and be inspired by.


Garden architecture as a form of art was progress friendly. Experiments with style were encouraged. 18th century garden architects were often reformed artists. However, the garden architects, as opposed to the landscape painters, created landscapes rather than depicting them. The garden was created through the collective efforts of different forms of art. Hence, the Romanticist garden might be described with Richard Wagner’s term “Gesamtkunswerk”, meaning total work of art or complete-art work. Wagner’s patron, the Bavarian king Ludwig II, had made the fairytale castle Neuschwanstein and the park Lindenhof. Ludwig had grand plans to make Bavaria more “Wagner-like”. For example, he rowed his swan-shaped boat in his underground lake as Lohrengrin, a knight from one of Wagner’s operas.


My choice of technique, the black and white photography, is based on my belief that the colourless picture, as opposed to the colour picture, evokes fantasies about the model. It reminds me of how scale-models of architecture create images of the full-scale works. Black and white photography also has the ability to surpass differences in light temperature and the shifting seasons, which I had no intention to show. I view my pictures as documentations of ONE landscape. Put together, they form a typological description of an Arcadia that, though geographically divided, is kept together through fantasy.


The manifestation of Arcadia – the Romanticist garden – consists of living material. This makes it variable. Some of the environments I have documented here are thus not meant to depict what they depict today. Since their creation these environments have, due to the artificiality of the gardens and because of restorations of the sites, become structures in a Romanticist style. For instance, “the cave” and “the ruin” of the Haga Park were originally created to serve other purposes.


The gardens, as they appeared in the 18th century, were probably quite different the sites depicted in the photographs. The term Virtual Reality seems easy to apply. Although frequently utilised in the field of computer-generated worlds, the term “virtual” also has a place within the natural sciences, where it describes something that is fictitious, but still presumably or seemingly real. In this context, Romanticist gardens make good examples as they exist in a conventional set of concepts. In Stockholm, most people are, for instance, familiar with sites such as the Haga Park or Drottningholm with its Chinese Castle. 


[Herdedikt] min anm.


Descriptions of shepherds, pastoral or bucolic poetry, was genre in literature that treated the simple life in the idyllic Arcadia. The dream of Arcadia has often been interpreted as an escape from reality, but could just as well be seen as social criticism and an alternative to a de-mystified world of science. Arcadia, having first been described through poetry, was giving visual representation through 17th century landscape painting. In turn, this style of painting was a source of inspiration to Romanticist garden architecture, giving Arcadia physical representation and hence a sense of reality.


Originally, Arcadia was a mountain landscape on the Greek peninsula Peloponnese. Its upland nature, barbaric shepherd culture and isolation was an appropriate scene for poetry from Classical Antiquity and onwards. Eventually, it became more of a fantasy world and a representation of Paradise. Shepherds and shepherdesses whose gods were Venus, Pan, Diana and Cupid inhabited Arcadia in art and literature. Pastoral life was happy but not problem-free. Bad weather and love problems reflected life in its most primal form. Arcadia was seen as complete in its incompleteness.


The conception of the shepherd world has been used for different purposes throughout history.  The fact that pastoral poetry and its inhabitants was a western ideal for more than 2000 years means, however, that there was more to this than Romanticist fantasies. The limited visual change in Arcadia throughout history also implies a lasting use of symbols. But which were the motives for behind this description? Was Arcadia created only through poetry, or was there an actual strive towards this world of shepherds – towards a better life and a better world?


Throughout history, man has searched for an earthly paradise. It has, however, always been distant and hard to reach in other ways than through fantasy. The Romanticist garden might be seen as an attempt to evince this paradise. The garden representation of Arcadia gardens was the free zone for the last piece of wild nature, threatened by urbanisation and industry. To the decreasingly powerful and socially limited upper classes, Arcadia also became a human free zone. Hence, aristocrats in shepherd costumes were not merely actors in a decorative comedy. Lost power created the need to reclaim it and the rules of social life created the need for freedom. Arcadian citizenship supplied this. The shepherds’ costume with its staff and pipe allowed the aristocrats to leave their everyday roles, and let high culture be united with an undemanding rural life.


The free zone’s audience evoked its possibilities. The nobleman, strictly brought up, created a room for uncomplicated love and friendship; the mystic created a place for rituals; the utopian created an ideal society; the encyclopaedist created a living museum. Different themes showed different identities and ideals, which together made out something unique – which was much strived for in Romanticism.


The Romanticist garden also functioned as a projection surface for general conceptions of other times and places. Much like an encyclopaedia, the garden treated Classical Antiquity as well as mediaeval times, China as well as national countryside. Here, conventional mediation of knowledge was aided by role-playing and stage design, reminding the audience of the life in other places and in other times. This ought to have had some effect on the notion of the originals of these descriptions.


Arcadia opposed the strive for power and fortune of civilised society. In practice, this meant that Arcadia, both as idea and in reality, opposed the everyday life of its users. However, the financial, cultural and social situation of nobility – and later the middle classes – was a necessary requirement to stay in this dreamed-of reality. Arcadia was the antithesis of society – but could only exist through its protection.


Paradoxically, the created pastoral environment was not untouched nature. However, the conflict between art and artificiality was yet to be seen. Arcadia was accepted as fiction. In pastoral descriptions, there nevertheless was a movement towards something beyond fiction. Shepherd life was about living in harmony with nature: to be natural. These ideas were taken from Classical Antiquity. Programmatically, Arcadia offered a class-free, democratic life without material needs. But its political potential, as well as its attraction, was probably not found in the description of the programme, but in the fact that it was possible to live in Arcadia – as long as one turned one’s back on society.


As the middle classes took over as society’s bearer of culture, they distanced themselves somewhat from the traditions and the patterns of Classical Antiquity, which had been used by the nobility. The pastoral was the main keeper of these ideals and with the new set of morals and a new approach to nature, its importance diminished a little. The Romanticist garden architecture evolved into zoos, open-air museums, theme parks and garden cities. In time, park like structures were applied to unplanned “wild” contexts. Arcadia turned into nature reserves; the shepherds became wilderness tourists and the garden pavilions sport cabins.


We have already pointed out that the need to create situations will become one of the cornerstones in every new civilisation. This need of total creation has always been inseparable from the need to play with architecture: to play with time and space.

- From “Internationale Situationniste” no 1 1958 by Gilles Ivain


During the Renaissance, people began searching for origin and meaning in nature and in cosmology. The interest for the occult grew. Despite progress in the field of astronomy, the interest in astrology flourished. Together with the interest in magic – even among natural scientists – this created alternative worldviews. Marginalized occult movements such as hermetics, Rosicrucians and alchemists arose or lived on since the Middle Ages. Their teachings were practised within small, often private circles, where knowledge was acquired through gradual initiation. The Renaissance also changed the notion of past and present. From Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, people lacked conception of the movement of time. During the 15th century, ideas of the origins of time arose. Hence, the notion of the past and historical was born. Earlier, people had lived according to the ancient understanding that one should imitate one’s forefathers in order to prevent the anticipated decay of the future. People spoke of a lost Golden Age. Arcadia was the realm of this Golden Age. A Silver Age, a Copper Age and an Iron Age subsequently followed the Golden Age. Life had constantly deteriorated. The cyclic worldview of the mystic teachings was seen as tools of the re-creation of the Golden Age.


During the 16th and the 17th centuries, the worldview changed. Christianity lost its worldview monopoly, which made way for science. Slowly, natural science separated itself from the church and rational teachings of Enlightenment grew. Scientists tried to create a continuous universe. As this ideas spread, modernity abandoned the mythical tales that previously explained life. Prior to the Enlightenment, religion created divine goals that the means were adjusted to. In the enlightened society that followed, the means remained, but people could find no purpose to them. The divine order had become mere order.


Romanticism is, in some ways, related to the Postmodern condition. Together, they constitute an analogy that implies a cyclic order. Romanticism, when viewed as an epoch, is usually seen as a cultural interval between the late 18th century and the mid 19th century. It was, in part, a protest against the reason and order of the Enlightenment. Instead it stressed the value of subjectivity, fantasy, emotion, super-sensuality, and a visionary spirit. Romanticism contained numerous opposites: feeling and thought, nature and culture, dream and reality. It recognised and praised the divergent and viewed the individual as a creative solitary, whose passion, striving and fantasy were ultimately an expression of spiritual experience and truth. Romanticism praised folk culture as well as ethic and cultural differences. It had a craze for the Middle Ages, the exotic, the monstrous, the morbid and even for the Satanic. The interest in mysticism, once thriving during the Renaissance, was resurrected.


The faith in rationality has been questioned on numerous occasions, once through Romanticism, but also in the Postmodernist theories that were drawn up during the latter part of the 20th century. Traditions were combined in design to make individual and collective ideals legitimate. The one-sided worldview of the Modernist movement was seen as a passed historical stage. Reality had become realities. Today’s New Age movement often finds its inspiration in India and in nature religion. However, there are much greater similarities between New Age and Romanticist neo-spiritualism. Romanticist philosophers viewed nature as a co-operation of various spiritual forces that science could neither perceive nor explain. Reality was a whole, macrocosm, whose parts, microcosm, reflected the whole. Spiritualism was an individual experience, which was not rooted in sacraments, dogmas or institutions.


Naturalness is a quality that is hard to define, but often described as desirable. The scientific worldview of the enlightenment led to the Romanticist worship of what was seen as natural. Nature became a role model for human life. Nature derives from the Latin word natura, which means birth or creation. In times when nature was seen as threatening, people tended to prune it in order to show their superiority. Movements that saw nature as a source of truth were against this. The nature of Romanticism was viewed as an innocent creation. It was neither good nor evil. The philosophers of the time looked upon nature, not culture, as the source of goodness. Nature was perceived as irregular, but at the same time pleasant with its multitude of expressions. It was animate, which gave it a place apart. However, the garden could never be compared to real nature, but could only remind people of its magnificence. In spite of this, people cared for the knowledge that was generated through man’s meeting with nature. As a result, a passion for the worker was born, especially farmers. For instance, in France, noblewomen started breast-feeding their children.


No works of art, no matter how elegant and captivating they are, could compare with those that Nature paints with “careless wild” brushstrokes; the neatest, elegant installations of the formal garden seem insignificant in its narrow limitation next to nature’s grand compositions.

- From an essay by Joseph Addison in “Spectator” 1712.


The Roman emperor Nero is supposed to have established a park, imitating unspoiled nature, as early as in the 1st century AD. In the year 12 BC the Roman justice of the peace Caius Cestius built his grave monument in the shape of an Egyptian pyramid. In 4th century China, a gardening philosophy, imitating wild nature, emerged.


In Italy, in-between the High Renaissance and the Baroque, a style in art, called Mannerism, arose. During this period, religious schisms and Protestant Reformation occurred and America was discovered. In this time of changes, people found safety in fantasy worlds. Mannerist gardens embodied these worlds. For instance, the Bomarzo garden has a display of mythic beings such as giants and dragons in a landscape full of ruins, graves and temples. This particular garden is rather certainly a model for later Romanticist park architecture. The somewhat dilapidated Italian Renaissance gardens was important places to visit for the 18th century Englishmen who travelled to Italy, probably to find inspiration for similar garden projects back home.



The geometrical gardens of the Baroque consisted of avenues and cut bushes, which in a rectangular pattern framed and elevated the dwelling house. One of a few elements of the Baroque gardens that was kept in Romanticism was the cave. The caves of the Baroque were not often very cave-like. Instead, they appeared as ordinary buildings with patterned stalagmites and moss. Eventually, the plan of the cave was expanded to imitate mine settings. To accomplish this, load-bearing structures, created according to natural mountain shapes, were needed. In China, European visitors found cogent arguments against these gardens. To these travellers, it seemed as if the Chinese thought that interferences with nature should be few and invisible.


An eclectic use of style was important in Romanticist garden architecture. The term eclecticism is derived from the Greek word eklektikos, which means choosing. In architecture, the term refers to the coming together of different styles and motifs. In the Romanticist garden, different imitations of buildings were blended without restraint. Fore instance, smaller Japanese gardens were sometimes laid out within larger park installations.


The notion of the Romanticist garden as a single concept is somewhat simplified. Instead, the term is used to encompass a number of styles in gardening that were used during approximately the same historical period – and sometimes within the same parks. The concepts and terms are diffuse and, in practice, there is little different between English gardens, Anglo-Chinese gardens, picturesque gardens, landscape parks and associative gardens. The styles influenced each other and hence created a multitude of expressions.


In England, the model for the Romanticist garden was initially the nearby pastureland. Looking at these presentations, one was supposed to associate them with the important wool industry that had emerged there. As a result, the new gardens grew out of anxiety over the ebbing out of the natural resources of the countryside. This applied very much to the hunting-grounds of the aristocracy. The garden was an attempt to save and preserve nature. This hints on an environmental consciousness as well as the emergence of a museum function. The walls of the gardens were torn down, thus merging the parks with their surroundings. The garden became an artificial landscape, competing with the beauty and the other attributes of nature. Re-produced nature should be asymmetrical rather than geometrical. Symmetry was avoided as it was seen as the work of man. Billowing serpentine shapes served as visualisation of nature’s disorder as opposed to the constructed order of civilisation. Together they formed a harmony between expressions, synonymous with the conception of beauty. However, the serpentine was also a mathematical figure. This means that the Romanticist garden consisted of certain shapes and patterns – just as the Baroque garden had been. The difference was that the Romanticist rules were derived from the view on nature of the time.


The associative gardens were composed according to 17th century landscape paintings. Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin were artistic role models. Their fantasy-evoking images of the Roman Campagna were tantamount to the notion of an ideal landscape. The originator of the style was the artist William Kent (1685-1748).


The landscape park imitated and stylised the English landscape as it appeared to its viewers. These parks were created by enhancing desired nature scenes and by replacing or hiding unwanted ones. Clusters of trees, so-called Clumps, were assembled to give rhythm to the vast lawns. The landscape parks did not usually contain any associative buildings such as temples or monuments. The reason for this, perhaps, is the fact that the inventor of this type of park, Lancelot “Capability” Brown (1716-1796), was a trained gardener and not an artist. Compared to the already heavily exploited countryside, the landscape parks were very useful. There was a shortage of timber in England since the 16th century, which might have been the reason of the popularity of these areas. In these environments, simultaneously functioning as parks, hunting grounds and timber stock, business was combined with pleasure.


The Anglo-Chinese garden criticised the lack of imagination of the landscape parks. It was thought that they reminded too much of nature to be called art. The Chinese gardens, seen by those travelling east, represented a new ideal. Their chief advocate, William Chambers (1722-1796), felt that three different kinds of gardens could be seen in China. The Graceful parks were harmonic and idyllic; The Sublime parks surprised their visitors with panoramic views, whereas The Frightening parks spoke to the Romantic state of mind with their caves, cliffs and waterfalls. The Anglo-Chinese parks did not imitate the Chinese ones, though. Instead, they were visualisations of fantasies about Eastern culture, architecture, philosophy and nature.


The word picturesque can be derived from the Latin word pictor, which means painter. Hence, the word originally denoted certain subjects, suitable for paintings. The term signified aesthetical diversity. By the mid 18th century, the meaning of the word went through a slight change. It then began to describe the emotional states, brought on by the experience of natural environments as well. It was said that the experience itself was picturesque. The descriptions often contradicted the norms and values of the time. For instance, a lack of artistry and simple-mindedness were, according to a picturesque point of view, perfectly positive qualities as they were expressions of a natural simplicity.


It was important that the Romanticist gardens were picturesque. A landscape painting could thus stand as model for a garden, which in turn was suitable to be model for a painting. As a result, some even meant that garden art was a form of landscape painting, with bushes and gardening tools replacing paint and brushes. Inspiration was found in theatre décor and set designers created many gardens. The theatrical gardens were also meant to inspire action. Flaneurs were actors as well as audience. As an example of this kind of co-operative acts of creativity, one could mention a party, held at night, in the park of Versailles in 1784. At this occasion, the ladies were asked to dress in white in order to catch the lights of lanterns and fireworks more effectively.


... last year, I discovered a most peculiarly shaped rock, suitable for a cave, in the park. This cave is now completed and splendidly beautiful, thanks to the devices set up there. (…) At my arrival, a flag was hoisted on the fortress ruin on the small island across the lake from the cave. Men, dressed as the Vikings of old, arrived from the fortress to the cave in a small boat, richly decorated with flags. In the cave, all our gentlemen sat tippling, whereas only a single one of them guarded the entrance. (…) The inscriptions on a rune stone not far from the cave, tells us that a man named Kettil erected it in remembrance of his father. Hence the cave is now called Kettil’s Cave, and since the cliff outside it is in the shape of a rune stone, the duke had an inscription made.

-           From a letter from Princess Hedwig Elisabet Charlotta to Princess Sofia Albertina, 1802.


The Romanticist gardens were planned to evoke wakefulness, associations and reactions. The visitor was supposed to be tempted to stroll around through the different sceneries of the gardens. This idea opposed the single perspective of the Baroque gardens. Therefore, the Romanticist gardens might be seen as questioning the hegemony of the one-point perspective. The surrounding landscapes were background to the scenery of the gardens, but at the same time it was part of the garden. Picturesque environments were created through the accentuating of existing landscapes.


Three-dimensional structures, such as huts, temples, pagodas and ruins, so-called Fabriques or Eye-Catchers, were built. These visual points were placed next to winding paths, on top of hills or by the water. They were focal points symbolising man’s place in nature (the garden). Different kinds of plants and trees were used symbolically. Spruces and Scots pines were placed next to the hermit’s hut; weeping birches were planted next to graves; lilacs grew in oriental settings. There were even suggestions of placing dead trees in the parks. This idea of showing nature in a stage of decay indicated an early form of environmental awareness. Existing views and pieces of terrain were also included in the plans of the garden sites. Out of place objects, such as water pumps, were hidden behind thick foliage or exotic façades. A similar way of thinking is utilised in the Storytelling Architecture of theme parks (initiated by Disney’s Imagineering). Another example is the New Urbanism area in Poundbury, England, where a power facility has been disguised as an ancient temple. Furthermore, parts of the parks were given names after mythological places, such as Siam, Elysium, Styx or Valhalla. Today, a similar use of names can be seen in Michael Jackson’s ranch Neverland or the Biotope facility Eden Project in Cornwall, England.


It was important to overcome the difference between the park and the surrounding landscape. The idea was to make the parks seem larger than they actually were. Instead of walls and fences, the designers of the gardens rather used dry ditches, so-called ha-has. As the parks and the surrounding landscapes merged, the boundaries between artificial and authentic nature dissolved.


In addition to the spatiality of the parks, a sense of time was equally important. The shifting seasons and weather as well as the passing of days and nights were all welcome changes. The sites of the parks (pavilions and scenes) were placed away from the dwelling houses to create a sense of travelling. Through strolling, the visitors of the parks created a relationship between their own bodies, time and the rooms of the park. The presence of graves also contributed to a sense of the passing of time.


Mountains and cliffs were viewed as threatening parts of nature in the 18th century. In the gardens, they functioned as boundaries between different spaces, but they were symbolically as well, creating stories and narratives. People often used existing mountain formations to save money. The cave represented a kind of original architecture. Here, one could get a sense of nature turning into architecture as opposed to the ruin, where architecture returns to nature. Together these kinds of buildings formed a cyclic movement: matter becomes form and form becomes matter. This was seen as a metaphor of spiritual and material transformation, deriving from initiation themes of freemasonry and alchemy. Therefore, the cave sometimes had ritual purposes, for instance in Parc Monceau, Wörlitz and Rosersberg.


The Hermitage, the home of the hermit, was a building resembling nature. It was often a hut or a timber cabin. The huts were simple constructions made from roots, branches and logs. They were placed along almost impassable paths in a gloomy part of the park. The hut was, next to the cave, seen as a kind of original architecture. It represented a yearning for something far away from modernity and it was based upon conceptions of architecture, predating Classical Antiquity. The idea was to show the development of architecture from hut to temple, from primitive to civilised. Additionally, the hermitage was an expression of the fascination of exotic cultures. The publishing of Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe (1719) contributed to this. Dark-complexioned persons worked at the courts of Europe at the time. They were associated with the origins of man. This “savage” also inspired to the construction of so called African huts or Otaheiti huts in the gardens. Otaheiti was a distortion of Tahiti, but also formed associations with The Isle of Felicity, which was thought to be located in The South Sea. Today, hut-like structures can be found on all large holiday resorts, where tourists go to sunbathe by the sea.


The main character of the hermitage, the hermit, was hard to portray. Often, a doll was used, but sometimes actors were hired to endure life as a hermit. Landlords also dressed themselves up as hermits to philosophise or to hide from their demanding public lives. It I said that the members of the court of Bayreuth, Germany, often retired to a garden hermitage, where they acted as monks. In an effort to unite with nature, the Norman village of Le Hameau was built in the Versailles Park. It was constructed under Marie Antoinette in 1783. Here, the ladies of the court played at a mill, a dairy or together with the peasant family who lived there. Philosophy, arguing in favour of the simple and ingenuous country life far away from the unhealthy environments of the cities, inspired such constructions. The country life dream of the upper classes was also an escape from the nobility’s increasing alienation from society.  Le Hameau was recently restored and farming is done there today. The embellished country life close to nature and animals can be compared to the 4H-farms of today (4H stands for Head, Health, Hand and Heart).


China and later Japan was seen as financial, cultural and social role models during the 18th and 19th centuries. Through advanced shipbuilding, trade, literature and archaeology, the Chinese and Japanese people travelled through time and space, through fantasy and reality. The journey as a metaphor for escape, gave travellers the possibility to criticise society and present alternatives. Descriptions of China and the journeys taken by the East India Company and Linnaeus’ disciples were all possible reasons to the erection of a Chinese castle in the Drottningholm Park under king Adolf Frederick in 1753. The castle was a birthday gift to queen Louisa Ulrika and at its inauguration, their son, Gustav III, was dressed as a Chinese man and spoke in Chinese. In the gardens, the Eastern tradition of having tea in the open air, so called Garden Parties, was adapted.


The Oriental was a common form of exotism. The thoughts on the Orient were not all positive. Europe had been to war with Turkey, and, as a result, the Turk could represent the antagonist. In time, as the political threat waned, Turkey became a cultural influence. Turkicism became fashionable, and people began dressing up in an Oriental style and cut their beards according to a Moorish fashion. A piece of Oriental architecture, the kiosk (from the Turkish word kiösk, pavilion), took up a place in the Romanticist garden as well. Guards were placed next to the Turkish tent in the Drottningholm Park, and they were dressed in uniforms of a Turkish design. The Orient formed associations with the fairytales of The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, especially those of an erotic nature. Therefore, the Oriental palace The Royal Pavilion in Brighton, England, might be seen as representative of its financer and owner, the loose-living Prince George of Wales, whose improper marriage was much talked about.


The shrines of Classical Antiquity inspired the garden temples. The Greek and Roman role models were devoted to gods and goddesses, whereas the Romanticist garden temples did not have any marked religious function. Beauty was their primary function, but the references to Classical Antiquity created desired associations.


Neo-hedonism first occurred long before the neo-paganism of the New Age-movement started. The ancient Celts have had a strong appeal to alternative mythologies ever since. Their priests, the druids, were wise men with magical powers. National Romanticist druid orders were formed during the 18th century, glorifying the British mythical past through heroic tales and legends. Architectonic structures, such as stone circles and dolmens, were erected.


A domestic exotism in the Nordic cultural sphere was the newfound interest in the culture of Lapland. Laplanders and reindeers were popular gifts, forming an illustrative part of the gardens and some preferred cots to temples. A Lappish exotism of our days remains in the open-air museum Skansen in Stockholm, where Laps still can be seen. The Swedish heathen Romanticism had its roots in Gothicismus and Rudbeckianism. Some Romanticists even advocated suicidal precipice instead of burial in a cemetery. The artificial rune stone, located near Kettil’s cave in the Rosersberg Park, is a good example of national heathen Romanticism. At the inauguration of the cave in 1802, the members of the court were dressed as Vikings.


Gothicism originally referred to barbarism. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the term was used abusively to describe works of literature that did not follow the Classicist rules of the time. By the mid 18th century, Gothicism was still seen as somewhat reactionary, although the quotation of mediaeval culture became increasingly fashionable. In England, the Gothic Revival architecture was formed, displaying the nobility’s nostalgic view on feudalism. However, the neo-mediaeval castle architecture did not serve only as a monument of the lost power of nobility, but also had a function in dwellings, enclosures or as status symbols of the middle classes. In England, the domestic Gothicism served as an effective alternative to chinoiserie.


In Sweden, king Gustav III often portrayed himself as a knight in the spirit of king Gustav Vasa. There were dynastic reasons for this. Not unexpectedly, a mediaeval style was practiced in the restoration of Vasa’s castle Gripsholm. Jousts and so-called divertissements were held. These games were a kind of masquerades, but at the same time they were meant to evoke a heroic spirit, needed to defend the nation. Gustav III was heavily influenced by mysticism and Freemasonry. Knights of the games assumed names from history and mythology and slew many-headed dragons and fantasy monsters to gain the admiration of the ladies. The entertainments had names such as “The Conquest of the Galtar Rock”, “Genghis Khan” or “Penetrating the Enchanted Forest”.


The Freemasonic orders declared themselves keepers of the secrets of the Knights Templar. They are, in at least two cases, said to unveil the secrets of the Holy Grail through symbols in the gardens. Freemasonry is a secret society, which had its time of prosperity in the 18th century. It is claimed to have originated in sculptor and stonemason guilds, travelling between mediaeval cathedral constructions. The first modern Freemasonic order was formed in London in 1717. It was an intellectual society with many members among garden architects. A number of Romanticist gardens were reportedly used as Freemasonic meeting places. Spiritual walking-tours were made along meandering paths between ritually charged sites.


Ruins are often seen as bearers of history. Rome and Greece were important destinations for educational journeys during the 17th and 18th centuries. Ruins could often be seen in the landscape paintings of the time. As the paintings were spread as souvenirs throughout Europe, ruins started to appear in the gardens, at first as painted backdrops and later as full-scale constructions.


In the form of memento mori, these sites of engineered decay symbolised the fragility of the civilisation project. As actual Roman ruins exist in England and in Vienna, it may appear strange that artificial ones were built there. Perhaps artificiality could hammer home the conception of Antiquity in a more effective way. In England, there were even architects, exclusively devoted to designing ruins.


The relative freshness and dubious geographical placing of the ruins sometimes harmed their credibility. Moving real ruins into the gardens or building parks around existing ones took care of this problem. Despite criticism from antiquarians, some ruins were made to look more beautiful. It was thought that the ruins were a work of nature – not of art. For example, the garden Studley Royal in England was created around the remains of the mediaeval Fountain Abbey.


The artistic use of architectural heritages is still occurring today. Restorations and reconstructions always bring with them artistic choices, often based on politics. Visby is a Swedish example, where colourful visions of the Middle Ages have affected the final result. Another example is Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche in Berlin. This church, having been bombed in 1943, was kept as a ruin and restored as a war monument.


Constructions and monuments, associated with gardens, are often found outside the boundaries of the parks. These kinds of structures are often called Follies. The name indicates sumptuous structures, which are based on fantasy, and seldom have any other qualities than aesthetical beauty. However, a distinguishing quality of the Follies is that they were not seen as merely beautiful, but were made part of the non-artificial landscape surrounding them. They were expressions of the desire for nature as art, and they stood as the final outpost of civilisation. Nature was a borrowed landscape, which through the addition of Follies, turned into gardens. In this way, one cultured wild nature simply by looking at it.


History, threatening this world of twilight, is also the force, capable of submitting space to the experience of time (…) In this mobile room of games, and with the rules chosen freely, the autonomy of a place, without an exclusive affection for a world of its own, might be found. Through this, the reality of the journey, and life as seen as a journey, containing its own meaning, might be re-established.

- From “The Society of the Spectacle”, Guy Debord, 1967


Games make it possible to act out dreams one fantasises about as real. One plays photographer to practice for a future career choice, but also to produce better photographs in a liberal way. The games also help when one’s self-image would otherwise restrain the creation of identity. The question is, do games confirm norms and rules, or do they contribute to change them? In relation to Romanticist gardens, games might ask the question whether new styles, eclecticism and exotism are progressive or reactionary movements. Do the construction of Chinese pavilions confirm that China is a faraway land? Or does it rather manifest China as something physically present? Comparable examples are Chinese restaurants and Chinatowns. Such places utilise re-produced aesthetics, creating double metamorphoses. Reality turns into fiction, and then changes back into reality.


Within the created sphere of the Romanticist garden, many small worlds are allowed to co-exist. Together these worlds create a zone of tolerance, where phenomena, which would have serious consequences outside the garden, might be re-shaped, re-established, welcomed or not welcomed. This world of game play may thus be part of reality or detached from reality. It is, first and foremost, a realisation of a fantasy and not necessarily an expression of reality. Furthermore, it shows us that naïve depictions of various cultures and epochs might well affect the world. As opposed to the so-called experience culture, the Romanticist gardens were created by a rather homogenous group of upper-class people. The gardens were not built for commercial reasons and were not meant to attract a large audience. 



Arcadia as a place of living history creates a contemporary time by its use of new styles and reconstructions. Its main ingredient, game play, bridges the gap between past and present. The historical architecture of the Romanticist gardens was not used to claim the sovereignty of the present, neither to return to elements forsaken. Perhaps the term pseudomorphosis might explain the creations. The term describes how new ideas and phenomena take familiar forms in periods of transition between the apprehensible and the non-apprehensible. The presence of things past and remote in the gardens created places, in which to form identities. In some cases, the pastoral descriptions were laid out to act locally and establish themselves on home soil. In other cases, it was used programmatically to connect a single garden with a collective whole. Hence, Arcadia was indeed one place, though created in different rooms.


Romanticist gardens are similar to the playgrounds of today. There, fantasies made concrete are compatible with notions and ideals of all sorts. Had the different scenes of the gardens been more uniform – for instance portraying China or Rome alone – they had probably appeared less disharmonious, but also less allowing and diverse. Perhaps the manifoldness of fictions in the gardens is their strength. Basically all sorts of dreams are allowed to become reality there.


The pastoral game found their parts among familiar characters. The shepherd, the hermit and the knight all got different parts in Arcadia, but they harmonised with one another on the outside as well as on the inside. They were “authentic”. The games visualised an identity through the choices of characters, or in the discrepancy between the character and the ego. Physical and mental insight united the person with his or her character. The quest for an escaping authenticity is also present in our days. However, authenticity is not only subjectively unique, but also has the ability to unite people through common experiences and a sense of continuity. As time, space and identity are seen as cultural constructions, physical experience becomes the preferred evidence of real being. Confirmed agreement is synonymous with authenticity and origin. Subjective belief is replaced by collective physical insight. The lonely ego has become a comprehensive we.


The “historical task to established the truth in the world” can be completed neither by the isolated individual, nor by the manipulated mass, but now as always by the class that has the ability to dissolve all classes by reinstating tall power to the de-alienated form of realised democracy…

- From “The Society of the Spectacle”, Guy Debord, 1967


The Romanticist garden simulated boundlessness and timelessness.  There, wishes and desires were exposed, through interaction with symbols of the future and the past. In the name of Arcadia, identities and realities in the form of collages were created. The collage was a technique, politics and a thought.


In the architectural discussions of today, differences are recognised between what is seen as progressive and what is said to be reactionary. In the gardens or Romanticism, these two qualities were inseparable. They were progressive and prophetic as well as reactionary, traditional and nostalgic. In practice, the terms are equal; both use images as their main tools, images of how it once was and images of what will one day come to pass. In the gardens, traditional archetypes illustrated prophetic and abstract goals. Worldviews were utilised eclectically without being confirmed. The images were liberated and used in creating new worlds. Utopias were allowed to exist without oppressing. Adopted extremes created unexpected compositions, which probably is the same as being genuinely progressive.


The collage explains my standpoint. In creating a collage, you take what you have got and create something new from this. The collage acknowledges the power of multiplicity. The Baroque gardens emphasised their sense of unity and total design by subordinating the parts to the whole. The Romanticist garden counteracted all sense of order by allowing the unique character of all parts to come forth, and also by showing the un-hierarchal relations between them. The first represented one central vision, whereas the latter strived towards different, often contradictory, goals. The Baroque model is hardly compatible with the Romanticist model. The Romanticist model, however, may well contain the Baroque model. In somewhat simplified terms, the Baroque garden may be seen as monistic whereas the Romanticist is pluralistic, the Baroque garden may be seen as utopian whereas the Romanticist garden is democratic.


I view the composition of small autonomous units in the Romanticist gardens as worthy of imitation. All societies, as well as all identities, are basically relational. The collage consists of relations between fragments. This is the most reasonable reality. It recognises its construction of fictions, ensuring its variability. It utilises traditional language, but does not admit to the value of tradition. It offers a multitude of hybrid expressions, which evokes attitudes, which in turn generate self-determination. When possible, it produces self-realisation. I prefer smaller zones in a contradictory but allowing whole, to all-embracing, social – utopian in other words – projects. In the collage-like world of the Romanticist garden, the most abstract of all times, the future, was made concrete. What was yet to come was drawn up through conventional conceptions. By referring to what was absent, it affected what was present and influenced the future.


Martin Karlsson, Stockholm, July 2005.

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