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September 2008


MEET THE ARCHITECT

Simon Johnson
By Alexa Stevenson

THE BRITISH LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT BRINGS HIS CLASSIC STYLE TO CONNECTICUT

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Why did you choose landscape architecture? I come from a farming background; the land was very important to us, and I've always loved architecture. I've always been drawn to the relationship between the landscape and architecture—what works and what doesn't. The principle stimulus was that architectural interest and I've always loved plants and planting. It's been a passion for as long as I can remember. I turned an obsession into a profession. Where did you study? In London at the Chelsea Physic Garden at the English Gardening School. What's your design philosophy? What I'm trying to do is to find the right balance between what people think they need and what's best for the place—those two things don't always coincide. I have to analyze what they want from their garden and landscape and make it work for the house and make it beautiful. [Image] You've worked all over the world. Of the gardens you've come across, which is your favorite? It's one I've never actually seen, other than a black and white photograph. It is a garden in the South of France by André Le Nôtre, landscape architect and Louis the XIV's gardener. It's the only domestic-scale garden Le Nôtre ever made. It's an exercise in the classical traditions of proportion and scale, and conservatism—being absolutely aware of when a garden is sufficient and not being tempted to put one more thing in. This is a failing in a lot of young designers today. What's your role in the 24-home private community Windermere on the Lake? I was originally brought on to help with the gardens around the house, but as time has gone on I've become more of a site landscape architect—helping with the big picture, not just the small. In addition to the different custom garden plans for the homeowners, I've created a master site that offers homeowners incredible views, so it feels like it's yours. The amount of light is just amazing and the houses are sited to enjoy the vistas. Who or what has had a profound impact on your work? Russell Page for the clarity of his thought and vision in his book, The Education of a Gardener. What makes a landscape work? It should be appropriate to the architecture. The house and its surroundings should sit comfortably together. The landscape should be subservient to the house—work with it rather than work against it. Proportion, harmony and good editing are also important.

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