Bruno Šišić – Dubrovnik Renaissance Gardens: Genesis and Design Characteristics

Zagreb-Dubrovnik: HAZU, Zavod za povijesne znanosti u Dubrovniku: 2008, 248p.

ISBN 978-953-154-760-4

(Conclusion, pp. 199-201)

Your browser may not support display of this image.Dubrovnik Renaissance gardens and villas were, as a rule, designed and built by local craftsmen with the full participation of their owners, so they reflect the potentials, wishes, philosophy and creative capabilities of local residents.
Through comparison of Dubrovnik Renaissance gardens with the authentic models of their Italian counterparts, it can be concluded that Dubrovnik gardens are characterised by certain features related to the size, landscaping and articulation of their garden space. This results from natural and social differences and is consequently reflected in the quantity of particular natural and compositional elements, as well as differences in garden patterns. Dubrovnik Renaissance gardens were created in a dry, karst region, which results in the dominance of two compositional elements: stone and verdure. In Italian gardens, established on mild, fertile slopes on a hilly terrain, spring water has an equally significant role as stone and verdure.
Both Italian and Dubrovnik Renaissance gardens are geometrically shaped, but there are differences in this respect too. While the geometrical shaping in Italian gardens was carried out with consistent precision, in Dubrovnik gardens it is done more flexibly, with less insistence on the preciseness of geometrical shapes and symmetry.
The difference in design of the systems of principal garden paths or walkways is great. While in Italian gardens the principal paths were most often bordered by hedges and clipped verdure, in Dubrovnik gardens they were bordered by low stone walls carrying stone columns which supported pergolas.
This is the reason why in Dubrovnik Renaissance gardens verdure did not need to be artificially trimmed. Nor was its tectonic (constructional) function in the creation and articulation of the garden area significant to the same extent and in the same manner.
In each Dubrovnik Renaissance garden the pergola is a delightfully significant element. It is supported by colonnades made of slender carved stone monolith columns. In gardens characterised by a more complex landscaping design, pergolas comprise entire systems of green porches which articulate the garden spaces into open quadrangular shapes of garden verdure and intersecting walkways canopied by grapevines.
Generally speaking, Dubrovnik gardens were designed more modestly compared to Italian ones, which abounded in sculptures and sculpted water features. Dubrovnik gardens are littoral gardens, both with regard to their natural properties and the fact that, as a rule, they overlook the sea. Moreover, many of them were in immediate contact with it. This contact resulted in specific landscaping solutions, which resulted in the appearance of garden terraces, belvederes or organs (boathouses) attached to the house, garden and sea.
All of the previously stated had an impact on the distinctive and distinguished iconographic expression of Dubrovnik Renaissance gardens.
An investigation into the formal properties of Dubrovnik Renaissance gardens and the study of the factors which brought about their historical genesis leads us to the realisation that developments in agriculture, planning, utilitarian gardens and, in particular, gardens of leisure considerably contributed to their distinctiveness. All of this took place before Renaissance times in Dubrovnik and paved the way towards the authentic expression of Dubrovnik Renaissance gardens.
It can be inferred from everything stated above that Dubrovnik Renaissance gardens are characterised by numerous common features regarding their design and function. At the same time, these make them quite special and recognisably distinctive, both in comparison to the original model of the Renaissance garden – the Italian garden, and when viewing them within the framework of overall achievements in Renaissance garden art.
The fact that Dubrovnik gardens possess a number of common features with the distinctive mark of the region categorises them as a separate group with a typological uniqueness within the framework of Renaissance garden art, which can be named with the common term Dubrovnik Renaissance gardens.