Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden

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Brooklyn, NY
United States
Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden

Landscape Information

Designed for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in 1914 by Japanese-American landscape architect Takeo Shiota, this was among the first Japanese gardens constructed in an American public space. The 3.5-acre garden combines the ancient hill-and-pond style, referencing mountains and oceans, with a more modern stroll-garden that reveals waterfalls, rocks, and wooden bridges along winding paths. The pond, which serves as the garden’s central organizing feature, contains an island and a traditional “Torii” viewing gate which are intended to focus the visitor’s attention inwardly. Borrowed views of the surrounding botanic garden are hidden and revealed by sculpted hills and groves of trees. Maples, cherries, and wisteria are planted for seasonal color, while pines and cypresses provide year-round cover. Stone lanterns and carefully placed rocks and boulders are focal points in the landscape and along the path, while a viewing pavilion, also used as a tea house, offers a panoramic view of the garden. A shrine built in 1960 replaced Shiota’s original, which was burned in 1939 by anti-Japanese demonstrators.

In 1999 and 2000 the garden was returned to Shiota’s design when Vollmer Associates stabilized and dredged the pond, repaired the eroded shoreline, and replaced the traditional wooden fence surrounding the garden. New plants have been added and the viewing pavilion has been updated for accessibility. Rustic materials used in the construction of the bridges, fences, and structures are sympathetic with Shiota’s original design intent.