Name of project: Morita Garden

Garden surface: 4 ha

Construction year: 1995-1998 / 2007-2008

Location: San Martín de Los Andes, Argentina

Architect of house: Guillermo Rey, Pablo Velasco, Eduardo Negro


This garden was my first commission outside Chile. It is the summer home of a family from Buenos Aires. The property has over 200 hectares and has an interesting topography with a practically untouched native roble beech forest.

From the house, placed in front of a clearing like a lookout point, the river Chimehuin can be seen in the foreground. The view is then lost in an infinite succession of distant hills covered with abundant native forest, composed of a few varieties of evergreen tree species and some that are deciduous in autumn. The river is constantly audible, especially when it is swollen. The long walks lead to extensive forests of Andean mountain cypresses and radales in which roble beeches and Antarctic beeches can be appreciated, especially in autumn. The fields are covered with coirones and pampas grass that sway with the wind like natural ground cover. All is framed by the peaks of the Andes, permanently snow-capped in winter.

The garden itself has been developed around the house and its main objective is to merge seamlessly into the natural landscape. To achieve this, I first designed a paved area that served a supportive role and, given the slope of the terrain, acted as a nexus between the house and the garden. I then drew the grassland in curves following the twists of the topography, between the trees and shrubs that had remained after the removal of the exotic species. The effect was as if a liquid has been spilled, trickling down from the highest part of the land to the river’s edge, and thus determining the spaces for the plants.

The design of the vegetation was structured around shrubs of similar textures and colors to those of the surroundings, with the aim of leading the eye toward the distant perspectives. The cypresses and maitenes that existed in the clearing were integrated into the undergrowth that advanced to their base, as if their own shadows were being cast on the ground.

In the center or heart of the garden, identity is provided by the implementation of a landscape that produces associations similar to those of the distant setting of which it forms part. I used few species of shrub here. And although they are not native, they look similar in color and texture to those of the surrounding forest, especially in autumn. Each plant in the landscape has its match in the garden: the Andean mountain cypress is paired with creeping junipers, deciduous Antarctic beeches with glossy abelias and spiraea, while the evergreens of the landscape, maitenes and radales, with cotoneaster, hebe buxifolia, and prickly heath.

This center is the only part that has a formal, maintained lawn. As one moves away, whether by joining the access roads, going down to the river or heading off towards the neighbouring fields, the main garden blurs, becoming looser and wilder at every step, until the walker finds himself immersed in the natural and untouched landscape.

The main access to the house is structured with roble beech groves, while the road that runs parallel to the river to the north creates a mysterious impression, structured as it is with coihues and Antarctic beeches planted very close together, generating a natural forest that is somber and intimate. However, the owner also wanted a cutting garden, something that at first seemed difficult to incorporate in such a stark landscape. The solution was to create a circular pergola, hidden in an existing thicket of radales that was accompanied by fruit trees, roses and other flowers. The place became a secret garden.

After some time, I was commissioned to build a garden for the homes of two of the owner’s daughters, requiring me to connect the houses with each other. Climbing upwards along a narrow path, a different landscape and a new view of the river appear, bordered by yellow willows in autumn and by stretches of neneos and natural pastures. With the idea of making these gardens more sustainable, requiring less maintenance, and remaining closely linked to a more open environment with fewer trees, dressed in neneos, michay and pastures, I decided to leave large areas populated with long grasses as well as varieties of coihues, like Magellan’s beech, raulíes, Antarctic beeches, roble beeches, oaks and lengas. In autumn, the blond grasses contrast with the red-orange hues of the deciduous trees. In this case, the wide, right-angled and grassy paths are the meadows that allow one to walk and contemplate the trees and the forest. To create intimacy in the gardens near these two houses, I placed other trees and shrubs, such as cherry laurel, photinia, crimson spires, and large expanses of lavender.

Considering that the owner is Japanese, as a culmination of this walk I designed a small garden with the special characteristic of being a fusion between a Patagonian and a Japanese garden. It consists of a wooden deck surrounding a space of stones of different sizes, linked with grasses and ground-cover. As in the Japanese garden, the surrounding landscape is interpreted to a different scale. The larger stones can represent the mountains; at night, the bed of white sand can reflect a bath of moonlight, and the round stones evoke the presence of the nearby river.