TYPES OF GARDENS: Modernist Gardens

Modernist gardens are usually defined by their asymmetry. These gardens have free-flowing space with shadow and light used. These kinds of gardens have complex views unlike the rather controlled vistas that formal, classical gardens have. Most modernist gardens have one or two views that are emphasized. But visitors may not see them the same way since garden designers do not design them to be interpreted the same way. This is because modernist gardens have a partial enclosure of space within hedges and walls. The difference between verticals and horizontals is strengthened with the use of sharp lines. Water is also used architecturally as a reflective surface.

There is a minimal material in modernist gardens. The garden floor is composed of slate or limestone with a little decoration or even none at all. Smooth rendered concrete is used for the paving and the walls.

GARDEN DESIGN - Modern garden

Planting is restricted in modernist gardens. A lot of these gardens have just lawns, hedges and trees interspersed with major architectural specimens.

Modernist gardens have a majorly rectilinear geometry with emphasis on the horizontal line. There are also examples of designs based on ovals and circles. Regular grids can be used to relate the garden with the house further blending the exterior and interior together.

The Modernist Garden Design Style

The modernist garden must create, define and celebrate space. Garden designers must take cognizance of this fact when creating their garden designs. There is an emphasis on the enjoyment of outdoor life and leisure. Plants are architectural elements in this kind of garden. Specimen trees, clipped hedges and large blocks of planting provide simple screens and architectural elements. These complement horizontal expanses of stone, water, timber and concrete.

The modernist garden is quite popular in the United States especially in places like California where gardens are encouraged as outdoor rooms due to the climate. Modernist gardens employ the architectural philosophy of Modernism where planting is seen as just one element of the whole composition and not the major reason for the creation of the garden. These have led to the development of a lot of elegant, beautiful spaces.


Modernist gardens have a style that can be utilized in any garden no matter its size. They are great for use in crowded cities as a form of escape or relief from the rigors of city life. They do not rely on decorative artifacts. They utilize proportion and scale to bring drama to life.

A lot of modernist gardens are based on a geometric plot with a sense of movement provided by the horizontal line of rectangles. The dynamic horizontal lines contrast with the verticals of walls, hedges, trees and cut across space to bring together various sections in a garden.

Garden designers select materials for their surface qualities in modern gardens. The materials include gravel, limestone and polished concrete. They produce expansive surfaces with specimen trees and reflective water serving as gaps. The materials used in these gardens require great architectural precision with high-quality finish. Most urban modernist gardens utilize simple planting, clipped hedges and fine lawns. Sometimes, contemporary garden designer use a palette that is more complex.



Modernist designs usually feature a central axis but this feature is quite rare. Lawn rectangles, paving, water and interlock planting can be used to create patterns that are irregular but well defined.


Contemporary Furniture

Modernist gardens employ garden furniture with architectural styles. The sculptural Barcelona chair and other design classics set the tone for simple tables, exotic recliners and benches that match.

MODERNIST GARDEN DESIGN - Contemporary Furniture - Modern Furniture

Block Planting

The plants used are quite limited and they are planted in large masses and blocks. Perennials and grasses are often interplanted to create movement and catch the light.


Modern Materials

Clean lines of concrete, timber, glass and steel emphasize the precision of the manufacturing process. Surfaces are enhanced with subtle lighting and paving joints are minimized.


Reflective Water

Garden designers create modernist garden designs with reflective pools that bring light to a garden and create undisturbed surfaces to a garden. Technology has now evolved to allow water pools to get filled to the brim or even overflow. This way, the impact and the expanse of the reflective surface can be maximized.


Also read: TYPES OF GARDENS: Mediterranean GardenTYPES OF GARDENS: Formal Garden