Japanese garden expert praises Langtree restoration work

A leading academic on the design of ornamental Japanese gardens visited Liverpool's Festival Gardens to assist in the restoration process of one of the key features at the 67-acre site.

Prof Masao Fukuhara from the department of environmental planning at Osaka University of Arts reviewed the restoration work which has been carried out to the gardens, originally created in 1984 by Japanese landcape design company Hakone Ueki for the International Garden Festival.

Prof Fukuhara said: "Japanese Gardens follow strict Japanese design values and are designed to simulate formations which occur in the natural world.

Prof Masao Fukuhara and Martin Mellor"This garden in Liverpool is of international significance as it was the first genuine Japanese Garden in the UK and it came about as a result of collaboration between a number of different parties.

"We are delighted to see the restoration work finally taking shape and I'll be looking forward to reporting my findings back to interested parties in Japan."

Prof Fukuhara's visit was arranged by site owner Langtree and Angela Davis from the Japanese Society North West, who aims to re-establish the link between the Japanese Garden, its original designer and the Urban Greenspace Development Foundation: the Japanese Government body which arranged for the garden to be created.

Now in his 80s, Ohira's original garden was closed to the public in October 1984 after the Garden festival finished and fell victim to vandalism and neglect.

Stephen Barnes, development director at Langtree, said: "In many ways the Japanese Garden is the jewel in the crown of what remains of the Festival Gardens site.

"It has been vandalised extensively and sadly its azumaya [small wooden building] was burnt to the ground sometime in the mid 1990s. However, we are determined to bring it back to its original state along with the other formal gardens as part of our redevelopment plans for this important mixed use site."

The restoration of the Festival Gardens is being delivered by Langtree with funding from a £3.7m grant from the North West Development Agency.

The ongoing long term management of the gardens, which are expected to open to the public in the spring of 2011, will be delivered by the Land Trust. Euan Hall, chief executive of the Land Trust, said "The Japanese Gardens represent a key part of Festival Gardens, sustaining them for future generations is absolutely essential and we welcome Professor Fukuhara's input to help us realise that ambition."

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I am, at the moment, painting a re-creation of the Japanese garden and cannot find enough photographs to complete it. So, using my imagination, I am having to fill in a few blanks with how I imagine it would have looked in 1984. I did visit the garden, in 1984, as a 12 year old boy. I can’t wait to visit again in 2011. I would be interested to see a final plan for the garden because, unfortunately, the map on the dedication stone and the bird’s eye view on google maps aren’t the same.

By John Jackson

In response to John: please visit http://www.festivalgardens.com/ for the latest info on the restoration of the Festival Gardens. BBC online also has an excellent archive of photography and other info from 1984 available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/liverpool/content/articles/2006/11/30/local_history_garden_festival_feature.shtml

By Steve Sanders

BBC links are great. John might also want to look at the festival gardens page on Langtree’s website http://www.langtreegroupplc.co.uk/festivalgardens they have 16 page brochure to download with lots of interesting site plans and photos.

By Tracey H

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