Christian Préaud has been fascinated by nature since he was a child. Now, the trained architect and landscape designer runs the Paris-based Atelier Jardins, which creates dazzling garden in locales such as Switzerland, France, and Morocco. Here, the designer shares his inspiration and creative process with writer Sienna Vittoria Lee-Coughlin.
Published in S/ magazine, Summer 2016. Read it here.
S/: Where do you get your inspiration?
Christian Préaud: Mostly from my childhood memories. The rays of sunlight through the bamboo grove, the broken-up shadows on the sand of the alley. The giant cypress sitting in the middle of the lawn, its branches offering shelter for long bird-watching hours. The smell of wet moss under my feet mixed with the smell of cut leaves when trimming the box tree. Also the smell of the fire at the end of the day, the smoke in my eyes blurring for a minute the vision of the accomplished task: the cloud-shaped bush, almost perfect, the raked ground around it, a moment of perfect harmony and contentment.
Tell me about an artist or designer that has inspired you.
One of my favourite contemporary French painters, Pierre Soulages, said something that has always stuck with me—something that has always kept me confident that inspiration is never far. He said: “It is what I do that teaches me what I seek.” Simple and obvious.
Walk me through your creative process when creating a garden.
I am a strong believer that garden-making calls for a lot more than a good knowledge of plants, and that a garden serves a much wider purpose than just being “pretty.” It is architecture meeting nature in order to shape a little piece of the world into a client’s fantasy or paradise. It is a dive into human psychology, and a chance to experiment with every form of artistic expression: shaping the space, sculpting the land, painting with matter and colours, and composing rhythms to accommodate the seasons.
How do you make sure that the landscape design is cohesive with the architecture of a building?
For me the garden is really the outside extension of the indoor living space, so every aspect of daily life can, and should, take place in it. This is why I believe that garden design is, before anything else, an architectural approach. Through the process of working on the landscape, Atelier Jardins renders the existing building’s spaces—indoor and outdoor—better connected. They have a sense of continuity, are more harmonious, and better serve the needs of the people who live in it.
What makes the perfect garden?
Love and harmony, like everything else…