A Project of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art
History of Early American Landscape Design

Difference between revisions of "Walk"

[http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/research/casva/research-projects.html A Project of the National Gallery of Art, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts ]
Line 1: Line 1:
 
==History==
 
==History==
As an integral element of circulation routes
 
through the designed landscape, walk is one
 
of the most common terms in American garden
 
descriptions. Walks were highly varied in
 
their composition, arrangement, and plantings.
 
While widths varied, a narrow walk limited
 
to foot traffic was often called a path,
 
while a broad, straight walk lined with trees
 
was often called an avenue (see Avenue).
 
Walks were configured in numerous ways
 
and composed of different materials such as
 
brick, shell, gravel, packed dirt, tan (or tan
 
bark), and turf. From most images of walks
 
it is difficult to discern their composition,
 
but contrary to brick paving, which was popular
 
only in colonial revival gardens, textual
 
references appear to indicate that gravel
 
was a surface commonly used. William
 
Forsyth in his 1802 treatise recommended
 
sand or sea-coal ashes on a foundation of
 
brick rubble or gravel for building a walk in a
 
kitchen garden. He noted the ease of maintenance
 
of such surfaces, which were
 
weeded simply by raking. It is interesting to
 
note that despite changing trends in garden
 
styles, treatises remained remarkably consistent
 
in their advice and instruction. Entire
 
passages were frequently borrowed or
 
adapted from earlier publications.
 
  
Walks were planted in a variety of ways.
+
As an integral element of circulation routes through the designed landscape, walk is one of the most common terms in American garden descriptions. Walks were highly varied in their composition, arrangement, and plantings. While widths varied, a narrow walk limited to foot traffic was often called a path, while a broad, straight walk lined with trees was often called an avenue (see Avenue). Walks were configured in numerous ways and composed of different materials such as brick, shell, gravel, packed dirt, tan (or tan bark), and turf. From most images of walks it is difficult to discern their composition, but contrary to brick paving, which was popular only in colonial revival gardens, textual references appear to indicate that gravel was a surface commonly used. William Forsyth in his 1802 treatise recommended sand or sea-coal ashes on a foundation of brick rubble or gravel for building a walk in a kitchen garden. He noted the ease of maintenance of such surfaces, which were weeded simply by raking. It is interesting to note that despite changing trends in garden styles, treatises remained remarkably consistent in their advice and instruction. Entire passages were frequently borrowed or adapted from earlier publications.  
They could have borders of low shrubbery or
 
plants, as in a painting by Charles Fraser
 
[Fig. 1], or be lined with pots or statues, as at
 
Vauxhall Garden in New York in 1816. Lombardy
 
poplars and other tall, straight trees
 
accentuated the linearity of axial walks and
 
the formality of urban avenues, including
 
Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C.
 
[Fig. 2]. Such spreading shade trees as elm,  
 
myrtle, and live oak formed arching
 
canopies over walks, an effect that John
 
James in his 1712 translation of A.-J. Dézallier
 
d’Argenville called “Close” walks. Although
 
this term does not appear to be used in  
 
America, the technique, which framed views
 
and invited cooling strolls, was described at
 
sites such as Boston Common.  
 
  
While their form varied widely, walks
+
Walks were planted in a variety of ways. They could have borders of low shrubbery or plants, as in a painting by Charles Fraser [Fig. 1], or be lined with pots or statues, as at Vauxhall Garden in New York in 1816. Lombardy poplars and other tall, straight trees accentuated the linearity of axial walks and the formality of urban avenues, including Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C. [Fig. 2]. Such spreading shade trees as elm, myrtle, and live oak formed arching canopies over walks, an effect that John James in his 1712 translation of A.-J. Dézallier d’Argenville called “Close” walks. Although this term does not appear to be used in America, the technique, which framed views and invited cooling strolls, was described at sites such as Boston Common.
served essentially the same functions: to
 
provide passage and to direct movement
 
through the garden; to focus a viewer’s gaze
 
toward an object, building, or prospect; and
 
to structure and divide the garden. In colonial gardens, the walk was often the principal
 
structuring element of the space, dividing
 
a small garden adjacent to a structure
 
into regular geometric shapes, such as the
 
walks depicted in an unidentified late
 
eighteenth-century garden [Fig. 3]. In more
 
naturalistic and picturesque designs that
 
became popular in the nineteenth century,
 
walks created routes by which visitors were
 
led to carefully sited garden structures or to
 
crafted vistas, as described in Thomas Jefferson’s
 
c. 1804 plan for his mountaintop
 
landscape [Fig. 4] or A. J. Downing’s 1849
 
plan for a country seat. In addition, walks
 
  
offered a means to organize the visual logic  
+
While their form varied widely, walks served essentially the same functions: to provide passage and to direct movement through the garden; to focus a viewer’s gaze toward an object, building, or prospect; and to structure and divide the garden. In colonial gardens, the walk was often the principal structuring element of the space, dividing a small garden adjacent to a structure into regular geometric shapes, such as the walks depicted in an unidentified late eighteenth-century garden [Fig. 3]. In more naturalistic and picturesque designs that became popular in the nineteenth century, walks created routes by which visitors were led to carefully sited garden structures or to crafted vistas, as described in Thomas Jefferson’s c. 1804 plan for his mountaintop landscape [Fig. 4] or A. J. Downing’s 1849 plan for a country seat. In addition, walks offered a means to organize the visual logic of a site by directing a visitor’s gaze to distant views or focal points within the garden, such as obelisks, pavilions, gates, or seats. Walks could also create the illusion of distance if their designers manipulated their dimensions and layout. This resulted in an impression of greater depth, a particularly useful effect in smaller urban lots. The dimensions of walks were determined by the scale of their settings and their use. Forsyth (1802), for instance, recommended that walks be wide enough to admit a cart in kitchen gardens, and Joseph Breck (1851)cautioned designers to leave enough room for persons to “walk comfortably in a social manner.”  
of a site by directing a visitor’s gaze to distant  
 
views or focal points within the garden,  
 
such as obelisks, pavilions, gates, or seats.  
 
Walks could also create the illusion of distance  
 
if their designers manipulated their  
 
dimensions and layout. This resulted in an  
 
impression of greater depth, a particularly  
 
useful effect in smaller urban lots. The  
 
dimensions of walks were determined by the  
 
scale of their settings and their use. Forsyth  
 
(1802), for instance, recommended that  
 
walks be wide enough to admit a cart in  
 
kitchen gardens, and Joseph Breck (1851)cautioned designers to leave enough room  
 
for persons to “walk comfortably in a social  
 
manner.”  
 
  
In pictorial representations, walks served  
+
In pictorial representations, walks served many of these same functions. In a perspective view of a building’s front façade, the viewer is often encouraged to focus upon the main entrance located at the terminus of a central walk or avenue [Fig. 5]. In the backgrounds of portraits, particularly those from the second half of the eighteenth century, artists often depicted glimpses through a window of their sitters’ gardens, in which walks were presented in perspective with converging sides to suggest the illusion of depth [Fig. 6]. In aerial views, walks were often the principle means of indicating the location and existence of a garden, since plants, changing topography, and surface treatments were less easily rendered in plan. In other images, the walk invites the viewer to dwell upon a destination, such as a garden seat or viewing point, or to venture further into the unseen garden, as in John Trumbull’s 1792 plan for Yale College. In all of these types of images, tracing the line of the walk conveys a sense of movement through the landscape, much as a visitor might have experienced surprising “discoveries” of views.
many of these same functions. In a perspective  
 
view of a building’s front façade, the  
 
viewer is often encouraged to focus upon the  
 
main entrance located at the terminus of a central walk or avenue [Fig. 5]. In the backgrounds  
 
of portraits, particularly those from  
 
the second half of the eighteenth century,  
 
artists often depicted glimpses through a window  
 
of their sitters’ gardens, in which walks  
 
were presented in perspective with converging  
 
sides to suggest the illusion of depth  
 
[Fig. 6]. In aerial views, walks were often the  
 
  
principle means of indicating the location and
+
In addition to being a common feature in early American gardens, walks were also the setting for much recorded activity. William Byrd II in his diary (1732) frequently mentioned his own perambulations in the garden, either alone or with gentlemen guests after he had entertained them with a meal. Charles Willson Peale described strolling through the gardens of Annapolis, Md., in language that echoes published accounts of British and European tours.1 Walks were social venues in public landscape designs such as Boston Common, the State House Yard in Philadelphia, a levee in New Orleans, the Battery Park in New York, Fairmount Park in Philadelphia [Fig. 7], and the avenues of Washington, D.C. They were places to see and be seen, and images of them in the second quarter of the nineteenth century portray their rising popularity as promenades for the general populace. Numerous descriptions and treatises of this period also praised the health-giving properties of these walks and the virtues of fresh air and exercise, particularly for the infirm, mentally ill, and urban poor.
existence of a garden, since plants, changing
 
topography, and surface treatments were less
 
easily rendered in plan. In other images, the  
 
walk invites the viewer to dwell upon a destination,  
 
such as a garden seat or viewing point,  
 
or to venture further into the unseen garden,
 
as in John Trumbull’s 1792 plan for Yale College.  
 
In all of these types of images, tracing
 
the line of the walk conveys a sense of movement
 
through the landscape, much as a visitor
 
might have experienced surprising “discoveries”
 
of views.  
 
  
In addition to being a common feature in
+
-- ''Elizabeth Kryder-Reid''
early American gardens, walks were also the
 
setting for much recorded activity. William
 
Byrd II in his diary (1732) frequently mentioned
 
his own perambulations in the garden,
 
either alone or with gentlemen guests
 
after he had entertained them with a meal.
 
Charles Willson Peale described strolling
 
through the gardens of Annapolis, Md., in
 
language that echoes published accounts of
 
British and European tours.1 Walks were
 
social venues in public landscape designs
 
such as Boston Common, the State House
 
Yard in Philadelphia, a levee in New Orleans,
 
the Battery Park in New York, Fairmount
 
Park in Philadelphia [Fig. 7], and the avenues
 
of Washington, D.C. They were places to see
 
and be seen, and images of them in the second
 
quarter of the nineteenth century portray
 
their rising popularity as promenades
 
for the general populace. Numerous descriptions
 
and treatises of this period also praised the health-giving properties of these
 
walks and the virtues of fresh air and exercise,
 
particularly for the infirm, mentally ill,
 
and urban poor.
 
  
 
==Texts==
 
==Texts==

Revision as of 15:17, July 27, 2015

History

As an integral element of circulation routes through the designed landscape, walk is one of the most common terms in American garden descriptions. Walks were highly varied in their composition, arrangement, and plantings. While widths varied, a narrow walk limited to foot traffic was often called a path, while a broad, straight walk lined with trees was often called an avenue (see Avenue). Walks were configured in numerous ways and composed of different materials such as brick, shell, gravel, packed dirt, tan (or tan bark), and turf. From most images of walks it is difficult to discern their composition, but contrary to brick paving, which was popular only in colonial revival gardens, textual references appear to indicate that gravel was a surface commonly used. William Forsyth in his 1802 treatise recommended sand or sea-coal ashes on a foundation of brick rubble or gravel for building a walk in a kitchen garden. He noted the ease of maintenance of such surfaces, which were weeded simply by raking. It is interesting to note that despite changing trends in garden styles, treatises remained remarkably consistent in their advice and instruction. Entire passages were frequently borrowed or adapted from earlier publications.

Walks were planted in a variety of ways. They could have borders of low shrubbery or plants, as in a painting by Charles Fraser [Fig. 1], or be lined with pots or statues, as at Vauxhall Garden in New York in 1816. Lombardy poplars and other tall, straight trees accentuated the linearity of axial walks and the formality of urban avenues, including Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C. [Fig. 2]. Such spreading shade trees as elm, myrtle, and live oak formed arching canopies over walks, an effect that John James in his 1712 translation of A.-J. Dézallier d’Argenville called “Close” walks. Although this term does not appear to be used in America, the technique, which framed views and invited cooling strolls, was described at sites such as Boston Common.

While their form varied widely, walks served essentially the same functions: to provide passage and to direct movement through the garden; to focus a viewer’s gaze toward an object, building, or prospect; and to structure and divide the garden. In colonial gardens, the walk was often the principal structuring element of the space, dividing a small garden adjacent to a structure into regular geometric shapes, such as the walks depicted in an unidentified late eighteenth-century garden [Fig. 3]. In more naturalistic and picturesque designs that became popular in the nineteenth century, walks created routes by which visitors were led to carefully sited garden structures or to crafted vistas, as described in Thomas Jefferson’s c. 1804 plan for his mountaintop landscape [Fig. 4] or A. J. Downing’s 1849 plan for a country seat. In addition, walks offered a means to organize the visual logic of a site by directing a visitor’s gaze to distant views or focal points within the garden, such as obelisks, pavilions, gates, or seats. Walks could also create the illusion of distance if their designers manipulated their dimensions and layout. This resulted in an impression of greater depth, a particularly useful effect in smaller urban lots. The dimensions of walks were determined by the scale of their settings and their use. Forsyth (1802), for instance, recommended that walks be wide enough to admit a cart in kitchen gardens, and Joseph Breck (1851)cautioned designers to leave enough room for persons to “walk comfortably in a social manner.”

In pictorial representations, walks served many of these same functions. In a perspective view of a building’s front façade, the viewer is often encouraged to focus upon the main entrance located at the terminus of a central walk or avenue [Fig. 5]. In the backgrounds of portraits, particularly those from the second half of the eighteenth century, artists often depicted glimpses through a window of their sitters’ gardens, in which walks were presented in perspective with converging sides to suggest the illusion of depth [Fig. 6]. In aerial views, walks were often the principle means of indicating the location and existence of a garden, since plants, changing topography, and surface treatments were less easily rendered in plan. In other images, the walk invites the viewer to dwell upon a destination, such as a garden seat or viewing point, or to venture further into the unseen garden, as in John Trumbull’s 1792 plan for Yale College. In all of these types of images, tracing the line of the walk conveys a sense of movement through the landscape, much as a visitor might have experienced surprising “discoveries” of views.

In addition to being a common feature in early American gardens, walks were also the setting for much recorded activity. William Byrd II in his diary (1732) frequently mentioned his own perambulations in the garden, either alone or with gentlemen guests after he had entertained them with a meal. Charles Willson Peale described strolling through the gardens of Annapolis, Md., in language that echoes published accounts of British and European tours.1 Walks were social venues in public landscape designs such as Boston Common, the State House Yard in Philadelphia, a levee in New Orleans, the Battery Park in New York, Fairmount Park in Philadelphia [Fig. 7], and the avenues of Washington, D.C. They were places to see and be seen, and images of them in the second quarter of the nineteenth century portray their rising popularity as promenades for the general populace. Numerous descriptions and treatises of this period also praised the health-giving properties of these walks and the virtues of fresh air and exercise, particularly for the infirm, mentally ill, and urban poor.

-- Elizabeth Kryder-Reid

Texts

Usages

Citations

Images

Notes

Retrieved from "https://heald.nga.gov/mediawiki/index.php?title=Walk&oldid=12734"

History of Early American Landscape Design contributors, "Walk," History of Early American Landscape Design, , https://heald.nga.gov/mediawiki/index.php?title=Walk&oldid=12734 (accessed December 8, 2021).

A Project of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts

National Gallery of Art, Washington