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Hardcover | Out of Print | ISBN: 9780262132312 | 272 pp. | 8.5 x 11 in | November 1988
Paperback | $42.00 Text | £28.95 | ISBN: 9780262631532 | 272 pp. | 8.5 x 11 in | August 1993

Instructor Resources

The Poetics of Gardens


There is a universality about the creation of gardens across time and in diverse cultures that has inspired this entirely different garden book: a playful and affectionate typology of gardens; a pattern book in which a score of landscapes and gardens are drawn, described, and analyzed not just as a bouquet of pleasures but as sources, lodes to be mined for materials, shapes and relationships, and ideas for transforming our own backyards.

The Poetics of Gardens is a celebration of places and the gardens they can become. Most of the 500 sketches, axonometric drawings, and photographs were created especially for this book. They explore the special qualities of places and the acts that can transform them into gardens.

The authors discuss the qualities that create the promise of a garden the shapes of land and water, the established plants, the light and wind, the climate and show how these can be organized to give a place a special meaning. And they pay particular attention to the "rituals of habitation" by which we imaginatively take possession of places on the surface of the earth.

The Poetics of Gardens examines great gardens made in other places, with other climates, at other times from ancient Rome to modem England, from Ball to Botany Bay, from the court of Ch'ien Lung to the magic kingdom of Walt Disney to explore their devices and record their images, scents, and sounds. The authors discuss the adaptation of the great garden traditions of the past to North American soil and call together the creators of these gardens to speculate about how their patterns and ideas can be appropriated, transformed, and composed into places that come alive for us.

About the Authors

William J. Mitchell was the Alexander W. Dreyfoos, Jr., Professor of Architecture and Media Arts and Sciences and directed the Smart Cities research group at MIT’s Media Lab.

William Turnbull, Jr. is Principal of William Turnbull Associates, San Francisco.

Charles W. Moore, one of America's best known architects, is O'Neil Ford Professor of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin.


“The authors begin by establishing some basic principles of gardening, then go on to discuss 20 gardens from places as diverse as ancient Rome to Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom...A provocative, challenging work.”—Washington Post
“The book is theoretical, challenging, and a literary delight. That three architects, two of them professors, could have produced a book so felicitously written, and without a single footnote, astonishes me. Their breadth of teaming is dazzling. The subtlety and clarity of their insights fill me with admiration.”—Christopher Reed, Horticulture


“Here at last is a book destined to restore a more affectionate and personal relationship with the garden. Charmingly written, profusely illustrated, this handsome book introduces the reader to the beauty and wide variety of gardens—from the landscape designs of ancient China and India to those of Capability Brown and Walt Disney and the modem American suburban homeowner.”
John B. Jackson, landscape historian