Photo by Sedrick Green
“Green Escapes” book from Phaidon - The Guide to Secret Urban Garden around Europe
9 august ‘22
Learn about secret gardens that are all around the world with the book Green Escapes, and get the insider scoop about hidden gems that are open to the public.
Words by Lucia Peirone Torti
Photo by Magic K
With summer on the horizon, our gardens never looked so beautiful. From an urban park paradise to the secret garden of your dreams, it’s time to step outside and enjoy the best of nature in all its guises. Cities everywhere are graced with charming but little-known, off-the-beaten-track gardens and green spaces, offering urbanites in the know a chance to immerse themselves in nature. These often small, well-kept secrets are not as grand as those on the tourist trail but are equally delightful and rewarding to visit, if you know where to find them. Green Escapes is the revelatory insider's guide to these secret gems. Each of them open to the public, the gardens range from pocket parks, courtyards, and rooftop terraces, to community gardens and more.
" Green Escapes is the revelatory insider's guide to these secret gems. "
Green is the color of happiness in this insider’s guide to the best secluded patches and pocket parks in cities around the globe. Toby Musgrave – who contributed to the BBC radio series “The British Garden” – leads us down the garden path to more than 260 charming but little-known green spaces where urbanites and travelers can linger for two minutes or two hours. Often small, the spots may not be on the tourist trail, but all are open to the public. The sunkissed list, with 350 illustrations, is one of our favorite summer picks.
Photo by Olga Prudnikova
Photo by David Henry
With over 260 publicly accessible gardens, pocket parks, and green spaces in more than 150 cities –from Tokyo and Venice to Chicago, Sydney, and beyond–, the featured gardens include Elevated Acre, a rooftop haven overlooking New York's financial district; Theatrum Botanicum at the Cartier Foundation in Paris - a garden artwork by Lothar Baumgarten; and the Vasconcelos Library Greenhouse in an abandoned factory in Mexico City. We’ll present them here for you to travel and relax with your imagination!
Photo by Kostiantyn Stupak
Elevated Acre, the hidden rooftop park
Located on 55 Water Street, the Elevated Acre is one of the city’s most underrated parks.
With views of the New York Harbor and the Brooklyn Bridge, you can have fun trying to search for the hidden escalator that will take you up to this rooftop park. Serving as a quaint spot to read a book, take in the harbor views, or to picnic on its open lawn, this park is sure to give you some well deserved R & R away from the bustling neighborhood below it. Designed in 2005 by Ken Smith and Rogers Marvel Architects, it consists of an amphitheater, a public lawn, Sky55 (their currently closed restaurant) and a boardwalk over the East River. This park remains one of the only privately owned elevated spaces in the city open to the public. Hours to enjoy this hidden gem run from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. until Wednesday, September 30, and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. starting Thursday, October 1, through the end of April. Good luck finding your way to this wonderfully secretive oasis!
Theatrum Botanicum, the garden as a metaphor of the universe
The Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain is an institution and an art center in Paris focused on the promotion and display of the most diverse forms of contemporary art and cultural expression. Founded in 1984 by Alain Dominique Perrin, chairman of the luxury brand Cartier, the Foundation is housed since 1994 in an iconic building designed by French architect Jean Nouvel on Boulevard Raspail, in Paris’ 14th arrondissement. For the Cartier Foundation, Nouvel designed a 113,000-square-foot building marked by large glazed facades through which the flexible and naturally-lit interior spaces of the center area are put in direct visual relationship with the garden which surrounds it. Entitled “Theatrum Botanicum'', its name is taken from books dating back to the Middle Ages where monks would take inventory of medicinal and aromatic plants; and designed by German artist Lothar Baumgarten, the garden is actually a giant art installation – made of trees, shrubs, and flowers – which evolves throughout the seasons.
Since its creation in 1992, the garden, a permanent work in progress constructed around the idea of offering the visitor a spectacle of nature that is both calculated and wild, has integrated the notion of passing time, with an emphasis on seasons and years. The survey showed that the public perceives the Fondation Cartier garden as a space which embodies a particular logic. When the people surveyed were asked to describe this logic, the most recurring idea was that the garden had a natural or untamed logic behind it, even if many visitors emphasized that it was clearly well-organized or guided.
Photo by Magda Ehlers
Vasconcelos Library Greenhouse, the coolest contemporary library in Latin America
The Biblioteca Vasconcelos is not just a building for books, it is much more: garden, cultural space, presidential campaign, and territorial transformation. The structure was conceptualized by architect Alberto Kalach, known throughout Mexico for his modern, sweeping designs. The library complex’s execution cost almost $100 million at the time and includes the main building (housing its collection), a set of outdoor gardens, a green house, and a bookstore. The building’s most outstanding design element are the bookshelves that stretch out into the center of the main hall, appearing as if they are floating overhead. Lots of reflective surfaces, including hundreds of yards of glass, add to the building’s ethereal, spacey ambience.
The library was named after Jose Vasconcelos, who was, among many things, president of National Library of Mexico in the 1940s and one of Mexico’s greatest reading and education advocates. Following in his footsteps, the Vasconcelos library offers all kinds of cultural and educational events, from storytimes to book presentations to author lectures. Appropriately, while the indoor space of the library houses the country’s human knowledge, its botanical gardens hold the country’s natural knowledge, with dozens of plant species endemic to Mexico.
Image source: Architectural Review
Image source: Architectural Review
Please, let's go for a walk!
Reading the book is a calm oasis in day-to-day run, and includes user-friendly images, maps, and visitor information, as well as handy icons and indexes so the gardens can be identified by their type - courtyard, edible, historic, museum, rooftop, and more. Informative texts describe each garden, its design and planting features, and provide historical context. Now, next time you travel, take a leaf from his book and make room for green spaces on your itinerary, next to hunts for the best craft beers, local grapes, truffles, beaches, fine dining, shopping and museums!