The garden of Alexandr Tolokonnikov

 

The Japanese gardens in Russia

The area of the garden is 11 ares

The year of the beginning of its creation is 2001

I saw the garden on Alexanders webpage several years ago. The photos were quite small, so it was difficult to make out the details, but I do remember my feelings of delight, surprise and, finally, unbelievable happiness because of the fact that this place is situated in Russia, to be more exact, in Novocherkassk. At that time I wasnt able to understand all the depth of the authors project, I just grasped some separate pictures. Actually, I didnt know much about Japanese gardens then. So I was incredibly interested in seeing the garden in a new fashion.

A Japanese garden is only a part of a spacious private park (50 ares). In Alexanders words, The plan of the garden was initially based on the idea of monad Yin-Yang, the combination of an English garden- extravert and a Japanese garden - introvert. Later there were some additions. He might have got the idea while travelling. Alexander pointed out that he liked plenty of gardens all over the world, but there were only two he was amazed by: the park in Pavlovsk and Saiho-ji in Kyoto, also known as Koke-dera- a temple of moss. As far as I understood, he made up his mind to join and express the feelings caused by both gardens.

The garden of Alexandr Tolokonnikov

Its necessary to walk along the corridor under a white pergola to get from the English part to the Japanese one. The pergola is covered in the rich greenery of lianas and shrubs, and the passageway looks as if it prepares a person for a new story. There is a Japanese garden behind the gate of reed and bamboo. However, it isnt revealed before us immediately. We have to follow the path, framed with thick screens of trimmed plants on both sides. We can hardly see what is around us due to those dense thickets. The path makes several turnings Stop! At this moment I begin doubting whether Ive correctly defined Alexanders garden as a tea garden. Then I remember Jiko-in (Temple of soft light) in Yamato Koriyama (1663). In that garden a talented designer, an aristocrat in retirement Katagiri Sekishu used several techniques, creating some psychological illusions, which helped prepare a visitor for the main goal- peace and meditation. They are studied in detail in the book Japanese Gardens by Gunter Nitschke. I can see similar ways of psychological influence on people in Alexanders garden.

The garden of Alexandr TolokonnikovThe garden of Alexandr Tolokonnikov

One of the first techniques is a tunnel effect. Visitors quicken their pace automatically walking through it. Such a brisk walk leaves an impression that the road is a lot longer than it really is. (Nitschke) The second trick is zigzag turnings which create an artificial roundabout route and make the distance between the beginning and the end of the path bigger.

The garden of Alexandr TolokonnikovThe garden of Alexandr Tolokonnikov

At last, the third one is a stop in space. Alexander places a bench just where one can see some light in dense thickets. Its psychologically correct as people would like to sit down and look at huge beautiful rocks, one of which is set almost opposite the bench. The time, spent on rest, and the change of the scenery also have an influence on our perception of the garden. Next there is a lovely view over a dry garden. According to Alexander, this is a picture of the beginning of a water flow which symbolizes the beginning of life. The stream takes the beginning in the cleft of the mountain and gradually turns into a cascade, nourishing a pond where carps and turtles live. As were moving forward, the dry garden has been in our field of vision several times, giving us an opportunity to admire it from different angles. In the end, when the dry stream becomes a waterfall, a sound effect is added. The noise of the waterfall livens up the dry landscape, letting your imagination run wild.

The garden of Alexandr TolokonnikovThe garden of Alexandr Tolokonnikov

There is one more unusual element, which cant be overlooked. Its a stone pyramid. Alexander called the place a place of strength. One should visit this garden and stand next to the composition to fully understand what it feels like. Nevertheless, looking at the photo and seeing the sun rays meet on the pyramid, lighting up the stone at the top, I guess the energy of the place even affects through the computer monitor.

The garden of Alexandr Tolokonnikov

While moving on, we can see the path changing. In one place its covered with gravel, so we can walk on it pretty fast listening to nice calming rustle under our feet and not looking down. Then its replaced with stone regular-shaped pavement, which consists of the elements having various shapes and size (nobedan). These paths are the most comfortable for walking. But we also come across step-by-step stones, which make us slow down and watch where we go. The path could suddenly disappear, forcing us to stop to walk on separate stones or cross the threshold. Thus, not only does the author of the garden lead us along the road, he takes control over our pace and our feelings as well.

 

The last part of our journey is a zigzag bridge through the forest (yatsuhashi).

The garden of Alexandr Tolokonnikov

It starts at the entrance gate and again Alexander employs a technique which was also used by the author of Jiko-in. Im talking about the contrast. Walking through the shady forest where the trees surround a narrow path, sometimes nearly barring our way, we instinctively feel worried. Suddenly the trees part, it gets light and we can see a tea pavilion.

The garden of Alexandr Tolokonnikov

The author appeals to our emotional world again, but this is nothing in comparison with what is waiting ahead. We take off shoes, walk on soft mats and come into the gazebo. We freeze. This is what weve aimed for. Clear smooth water, twinkling in the beams of light, embodies beauty, peace and harmony. Even the wind tries not to spoil the silence hardly touching the stems of sedge. On the other hand, the picture isnt motionless. The island of the crane creates an illusion of a movement. The composition is so vivid that it seems as if the island is floating, carrying a huge pine-tree. On the opposite side there is another gazebo, but its practically impossible to catch sight of it, especially in summer, when the plants almost completely cover it. The size of the pond (about 130 square metres), its shape, the trees, touching the water with their branches, bright silhouettes of carps at one moment appearing at the surface, at another vanishing in water, silent rocks-all these elements create a mystery. You want to stay here for an extremely long time, giving up the reality and little by little getting absorbed into your inner life.

The garden of Alexandr Tolokonnikov

So Alexanders Japanese garden represents a sequence of influences on viewers, built in time and space. The stroll around the place is the first step switching your perception onto another level, preparing for the culmination- meditation, tea ceremony or just relaxation in a tea pavilion. Changeable weather, light and seasons determine the unique pictures we perceive, whereas the multiple meaning of the symbols fire our imagination.

The garden of Alexandr TolokonnikovThe garden of Alexandr Tolokonnikov

You can see the author in each nook, each rock, path or a bench, as though we keep talking. This is one more technique employed by Japanese designers: the presence of the creator is not only as an architect or a gardener, but also as a mystic. Speaking about the latter, I cant help mentioning a statue of Buddha, which is situated next to the entrance to one of the summer houses. This is stone Buddha. I like him a lot. I sometimes think its me or a close friend of mine, said Alexander.

The garden of Alexandr TolokonnikovThe garden of Alexandr Tolokonnikov

Why did Alexander succeed in making a real Japanese garden despite not being from Japan? Maybe its due to the fact that he is not only a landscape designer, but also a professional coach, a wushu master and a traveler. Maybe he loves these gardens sincerely, not to mention feeling and knowing them. I think only a man who is in love with Japanese gardens might say: If I were asked to compare a Japanese garden with something, I would compare it with the breath of a sleeping baby and a sleeping old man. Meeting with this garden is like reflection of oneself at the dawn of life and in the end of life.

The garden of Alexandr TolokonnikovThe garden of Alexandr Tolokonnikov

The garden of Alexandr TolokonnikovThe garden of Alexandr Tolokonnikov

The Japanese gardens in Russia

Photo: Alexandr Tolokonnikov

Text: Irina Andrianova

 

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