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Japanese gardens emphasize and peace, space, purity

Fernhill Wetlands water gardens creator visits Pacific class


NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Well-known landscape designer Hoichi Kurisu came out to Forest Groves Fernhill Wetlands last week to talk about his inpiration and style choices for the spots water garden.Hoichi Kurisu’s goal is to bring an unspeakable peace and joy to those who step into his gardens.

That’s why he’s designed gardens around the nation for decades, including the scenic water garden at Fernhill Wetlands in Forest Grove, created with principles of Japanese gardens in mind.

Just like the wetlands are designed to purify dirty “toilet water,” the gardens are designed to purify visitors’ hearts, Kurisu told a Pacific University “Philosophy of Art” class last Thursday, April 7, as students toured the wetlands.

Every moment, nature changes and affects ever-changing minds, Kurisu said, so an open, receptive mind is needed to experience the full effect of the gardens. Our minds are contaminated daily with anger, jealousy, ego, rushing around and peer pressure, he explained to the class. The gardens clean up “this black water. It is the same through nature, symbolically and psychologically,” he said. The Fernhill Wetlands water garden plant are not very old, but they are starting to grow and fill in the space.

“The goal is to design a space where more people come and become better human beings.”

Time spent in the gardens, hearing the gravel crunch with each footstep and alternating between the cool shelter of shade and the stark warmth of sun, is designed to connect visitors with nature. Traditional Japanese gardens and the garden at Fernhill “do not say, ‘here I am — look at me.’ That’s ego,” Kurisu explained. In fact, one of the telltale signs of the Japanese-garden style is a precise design that appears natural-looking, so he chooses plants that appear like they belong in a certain space. Whether they’re native or non-native, Kurisu uses plants that fit that aesthetic template but will also thrive in the setting.

Japanese garden design also works in symmetry with nature, where everything in nature has a natural direction and flow, he said, and it’s important to use that when designing a garden.

He also emphasized the power of space. Principles of Japanese landscape focus on the beauty of not just what is present, but also what is absent.The gardens feature several bridges, approached by meandering pathways.

In Pacific’s Philosophy of Art class, students discuss the common intention of artists to communicate with the public and perhaps change the world in some way through their work.

When a work of art is released to the public, Professor Dave Boersema explained, there’s a lot involved in the understanding, interpretation and critque of art. This applies to landscape design as well, so he thought the field trip and talk would be a good way to study that art form.

Only two of his students — both Forest Grove natives — knew about the water gardens before last week’s trip.

“I go to the wetlands often just to walk around and be in a peaceful, calming setting; enjoying the wildlife that is there and the pleasant surroundings,” Boersema said. “It really does feel like a purifying experience to just be there and soak in the serene atmosphere.”

The garden is quiet and features many young plants, birds, fish, a waterfall and bridges.

There are several shady spots in the precisely landscaped garden that provide shelter from the sun and rain.

The garden is quiet and features many young plants, birds, fish, a waterfall and bridges.