Mundula / An Investigation of the Significance of Wilderness in Western Culture through Garden Design

An Investigation of the Significance of Wilderness in Western Culture through Garden Design

Author: Silvia Maria Mundula

Supervisor: Alessandro Rocca, Professor

Research stage: Initial doctoral stage

Category: Paper

Affiliation: Politecnico di Milano


Wilderness is a theoretical notion based on cultural values and therefore always open to re-evaluation. My thesis investigates the links between contemporary aesthetics in wild gardens and the questions arising from the Anthropocene crisis, such as the blurring between nature and artifice and man’s culpability, and concentrates on those gardens, which, for instance, allowed Elizabeth Meyer to talk about “a strange beauty.” The Anthropocene crisis needs design solutions at a planetary level.[i] Landscape design cannot change society, but it can alter an individual’s consciousness, restructuring one’s priorities and values.[ii] In the case of the wild garden, this idea seems particularly apt for its clear link to ecological themes; however, since the concept of wilderness is in itself ambiguous, such idea is still open to question. Therefore, the aim of this thesis is to explore this issue in depth by studying the diversity of approaches to the project of the wild garden in western countries, to highlight areas of conflict and to pinpoint areas where more research is needed.

[i] “Any such planetary level design should be contextualized in a wider realization about the political economic stakes of the environmental disaster and its possible solutions that involve an entanglement of politics, nature and design” Parikka, Jussi (2018): «Anthropocene» in Rosi Braidotti and Maria Hlavajova (Eds.), Posthuman Glossary, London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, p. 52.

[ii] Meyer, Elizabeth K. (2008): «Sustaining beauty. The performance of appearance. A manifesto in three parts» Journal of Landscape Architecture 5 (spring), p. 6-23.

Keywords: Wilderness, Garden, Perception