Creating sanctuary within an inhospitable world is one of man’s inherent needs. Even in the desert,
Man’s sole means of survival is determined by whether he can find oasis: a fertile place within the vast
expanse of the dry desert which provides the contrast of water and shade.
In medieval times, Man feared the unknown world of the dense wilderness and used the enclosed
garden – hortus conclusus- as a means to protect himself from nature and to create his own internal world
Today, in the 21st century, Man is contending with the harsh conditions of the contemporary urban
landscape: “a hybrid landscape in which the distinction between city and environs is erased” (Aben and
de Wit 1999:250). which continues to develop horizontally and vertically. This contributes to presenting
and creating fragmented and unstable conditions, which need to be addressed.
Rob Aben and Saskia de Wit (1999) are authors of the book, The Enclosed Garden: History and Development
of the Hortus Conclusis and its Reintroduction into the present-day urban landscape. Both writers believe that if
the urban wilderness of today can be likened to the feared natural wilderness of the middle ages, then
the hortus conclusus or enclosed garden typology could serve as a landscape design tool which provides
man with sanctuary and relief from the city.
The enclosed garden typology has withstood and transcended a variety of geographical, climactic and
cultural conditions over many centuries. Its adaptability and survival lies in its ability to be the “mediator
between dwelling and nature, building and landscape” (Baker 2012:22).
Despite its relevance as an architectural and landscape design tool, it is not commonly considered
for use in the present day practice of landscape architecture. Nor is it used by designers to solve the
problems which exist in the current urban landscape. It is for this reason that Aben and de wit (1999)
have thoroughly documented and analysed the development of the enclosed garden typology from its
time of origin, to the present day. In addition to this, they have devised four new theories of enclosed
garden typology (based on historical precedent), which they believe, provide suitable spatial design
principles which can be applied to the contemporary urban landscape.
The theory of enclosed gardens has validity due to the fact that it critiques the current urban
environment. Investigating and testing this unfamiliar theory of enclosed gardens is thus a relevant
topic for landscape architectural research.
This dissertation will perform a series of spatial design experiments which will apply and test these
theories in order to determine the enclosed garden’s relevance as a successful urban landscape design
tool and whether it should be used in the context of Johannesburg’s open space system.
Dissertation (ML(Prof))--University of Pretoria, 2015.