Architizer. États-Unis

29 2020

Les Jardins d'Etretat

Étretat, France

The Jardins d'Etretat is a unique garden combining gardens and Modern art above the dramatic needle cliffs of Etretat.

In 2016, Alexandre Grivko transformed Thébault’s former estate into Les Jardins d’Étretat—a public garden that hosts both permanent and temporary collections of sculpture by international artists. The merit of this project lies in a harmonious coexistence of the old historical garden with contemporary architectural aesthetic ideas, eventually resulting in a neo-futuristic vision of the garden.

New styles and old conglomerates began to merge, in order to create, through improved lines and forms, a more comfortable space within gardens with sculpted trimmed plants. Due to this evolving search, a new special paradigm has emerged - the philosophy of parametric architecture that incorporated the denial of generally accepted static forms and exploration of new ones, as well as their subsequent modification with aid of computer technologies. Thus, parametric or motion architecture was born – the style that changed our notions about classical garden or other objects of architectural design.

The landscape architect of the gardens Alexander Grivko (Il Nature), while creating Les Jardins d’Etretat, has taken inspiration from several directions in art: the classic idea of French gardens, and the concept of avant-garde and minimalism. However, neofuturism has become the main stylistic trend, here it reflects the idea of the unity of man and nature, developing together, respecting the boundaries of each other.

The creative garden laboratory of Les Jardins d’Etretat carried out experiments in detailed modelling of trimmed plants and their geometric diversity. It also experimented with the arrangement of space in the style of comfortable minimalism.

Alexander made efforts to keep his work restrained and detached, avoiding excessive graphic linearity or, conversely, extra volumes, harmoniously combining naturally planted and figuredly trimmed plants into a single composition. In his landscape, the author allegorically presented a world where nature and men are one. The environmental thinking and protection of historical heritage are integral parts of the garden's mission.

The author was not afraid to experiment, combine different art, while creating a harmonious single space with all due respect to the history of gardens.

What's inside?

The 7,000 square meters garden incorporates quite exceptionally the geological and atmospheric density of this stretch of land between the sky and the sea. Les Jardins d’Etretat is made up of seven sections, which cascade romantically down the hillside towards the sea to provide to provide a multi-layered experience throughout the different areas of the garden.

Alexandre Grivko has designed sensory and very imaginative type of garden space, which immerses us into different worlds – with a change of perspective in every respect, with a great feel for the historical origins but also cautiously leading to the future. A space with precise topiaries which captures visitors with the topiary art of Baroque and Renaissance gardens and is equally associated with the modern gardens of Jacques Wirtz. Walls made of azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias form the background for romantic garden.

It was very important for us to respect the historic fabric of the site, the biodiversity and the beauty of the local ecosystem. Here you will find a great number of plants trimmed into shapes evocative of the natural features of Normandy region. Green spaces and round forms proceed in waves up to the sea, a forest of clipped yews, whose tops stick out into the sky, regarding the conifers on the French coast, while arcs and gaps symbolize ebb and flow, box tree crowns are reminiscent of oysters washed up on the beach, narrow-leaf phillyrea (Phillyrea angustifolia) look like chalk cliffs.

Les Jardins d’Etretat is made up of seven sections:

  • Jardin Avatar is situated at the entrance to Les Jardins d'Étretat. It is a gateway that leads visitors beyond the bounds of reality, into the magical realm of surrealism.
  • Jardin Emotions. Alexandre has managed to acknowledge the historical roots of the garden, while still adding new, innovative elements. This is the case in Jardin Émotions, which is inspired by Queen Marie Antoinette’s first French oyster farm that historically sat at the bottom of the Cliff d’Amont. The vision of the ocean floor became the main inspiration for this garden. Buxus sempervirens has been sculpted into mollusc-shape formations to reflect the oysters' underwater habitat.
  • Jardin Impressions is the heart of Les Jardins d’Étretat. The garden opens up on the iconic historical panorama of the ocean and the cliffs of Étretat, which have inspired many great artists such as Claude Monet, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Eugene Delacroix and Vassily Polenov.
  • In Jardin d'Aval, which was inspired by Alice in Wonderland, Alexandre looked to the garden’s history and restored the original orchid collection of Madame Thébault according to the archives that came with the purchase of the house. We’ve managed to find many of the specimens that Madame Thébault used to grow, including Cypripedium ‘Memoriam Shawna Austin’, ‘Victoria’, ‘Queen White’ and Lady Dorine’.
  • Jardin Zen embodies a harmonious coexistence of man and nature.
  • Jardin La Manche is in the centre of the garden, you will find Jardin La Manche, which is something of a maze with large-scale trimmed plants reflecting the crashing waves below.
  • Jardin d’Amont provides a panoramic view of the garden and the landscape beyond, and the topiary is designed to reflect the rock of the Alabaster coast.

Temporary exhibitions of contemporary sculpture coincide with annual summer season launches at Les Jardins d’Etretat and called Double Jeu. The major goal of these exhibitions is to develop a social, natural and artistic milieu aimed to stimulate creativity, improve ethical values, preserve the environment and protect historical and cultural heritage.

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