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wabi sabi image

Wabi-sabi is a comprehensive Japanese aesthetic centred on the acceptance of transcendence and imperfection.  It is the aesthetic behind many traditional Japanese art forms such as ikebana (flower arranging), traditional Japanese pottery, the tea ceremony and zen gardens.  According to Leonard Koren, (Wabi-sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers’, 1994), wabi-sabi is:-

a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete;

it is a beauty of things modest and humble;

it is a beauty of things unconventional.

Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, roughness or irregularity, simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy, and appreciation of the integrity of natural objects and processes.

How might this aesthetic be translated into western garden design when, as seen at Chelsea every year, we are now so used to chasing the new, the perfect, the shiny and the aspirationally expensive?


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