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Publisher The Monacelli Press
Foreword By Terence Riley
Perhaps because of its subtropical climate, unique within the North American continent, the Florida landscape is often seen as a separate and distinct chapter in the national fascination with the natural landscape. Yet the same dialectic between European gardening traditions and New World fascination with the wild is at play. Vizcaya, James Deering's Miami estate, was patterned after a grand Italianate villa with attendant formal gardens. While greatly admired, Vizcaya has been far less often imitated as Florida's landscape designers have instead chosen nature-or at least idealized visions of tropical nature—as their prime source of inspiration.
Raymond Jungles, thoroughly entranced by the wild, is one such landscape designer. The intensity with which he approaches his task is related, no doubt, to his exposure to the work and philosophy of the Brazilian artist and designer Roberto Burle Marx (1909–1994). Burle Marx was part of the generation of designers and artists who brought into being in Brazil a vibrant modern culture that has surpassed its European roots and achieved a distinct national character. Perhaps more so than his colleagues, such as the architects Oscar Niemeyer and Lúcio Costa, Burle Marx's innovations achieved a singular distinction, if only because the raw material of his profession—the incomparable flora of Brazil—had no equivalent in Europe or North America. Burle Marx's ability to combine the sensibility of a gardener with that of an abstract modern sculptor is evident in his words: “A garden is a complex of aesthetic and plastic intentions; and the plant is, to a landscape artist, not only a plant—rare, unusual, ordinary or doomed to disappearance—but it is also a color, a shape, a volume or an arabesque in itself.”
It was in Burle Marx's work that the young Jungles, a student landscape designer raised primarily in the Midwest, found not only a wealth of knowledge about subtropical plants and a unique aesthetic perspective but, as important, an attitude that provided both an ethical and a humanistic framework for landscape design. For Burle Marx, landscape design was a component of a broader investigation into the culture of the modern world, one without precedent save in nature itself. The extent to which Jungles has absorbed and synthesized these various attitudes is evident in the delicate balance between aesthetic delight and studied naturalism that is characteristic of his work. His promotion of native plant material and other environmentally sound horticultural practices underpins the formal with the ethical. Visitors to Jungles's gardens will also realize that his designs are not simply collections of botanical specimens but places of wonder and exhilaration. It is those attributes that most closely connect Jungles's work to the broader stream of the American attitude toward nature and the wilderness, the “uncastled landscape.”
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