Thanks to Rubió i Tudurí, Santa Clotilde Gardens benefit from a design that was able to adapt carefully to the truly difficult relief of the terrain.
General design of Santa Clotilde Gardens
In the first place, the design begins with lines of sight that recreate architectonic lines with curtains of trees. In this way, continuity is achieved between the garden and surrounding nature, without losing the autonomy of the space. In this sense, the sea plays a vital role in the gardens: it helps to create continuity, unlike the English landscaping model, which usually presents the garden in isolation from its environs.
Another aspect of the garden, differentiating it from other European gardens, is the absence of surrounding walls, which were substituted by gentle earth banks. This obtains greater oxygenation of the garden and appeals to the natural aspect. It differs from the Italian model, which uses walls of trees as barriers around the perimeter.
The technique used here is to make steps in the land with terracing, where the paths cross by means of ramps and steps between the different heights. The buildings are in the highest part of the land and crown the gardens that descend towards the sea, which is an undeniable aesthetic criterion from a conical perspective.
The gardens are arranged around the main stairway, known as the Stairway of the Mermaids, which goes from the terrace around the house to the sea and is crossed by three paths. The central steps and paths meet in a large space that resembles a Mediterranean amphitheatre with classic symmetry. The slopes of the land allow visitors to see how the garden meets the sea from different strategic vantage points. In this way, the coves of la Boadella and Santa Cristina look like the natural prolongation of the different terraces.
In the design of the gardens, of nineteenth century inspiration as remarked above, not only the architecture aims to achieve a work of art; the elements of the garden respect a similar criterion. Three elements contribute to defining the Santa Clotilde’s particular style: the vegetation, the sculptures and water.
Regarding the vegetation, Rubió i Tudurí decided that most of the species used should be autochthonous and characteristic of the Mediterranean climate. They were planted beginning in the 1920s, and consisted both of trees and shrubs with perennial leaves (pines, cypresses and cedars) and of deciduous trees (lime and aspen). With this variety he succeeded in creating great diversity in the colours, by contrasting the shades of green in the perennial trees with the variety of colours in the deciduous species, whose leaves change colour depending on the season. However, the gardens also include some species from other latitudes which he decided to adapt, such as Himalayan cedar (Cedrus deodara), Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica), small-leaved lime (Tilia cordata) and Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa).
The design of the proposed vegetation, the selection and specific position of the plants aimed to achieve a series of effects, particularly two: on one hand, the careful contrast with the natural woodland on the eastern side of the entrance to the gardens; on the other, in order to transmit the nineteenth century notion of domesticated nature, the use of topiary art in some places. This refers to the technique of systematically pruning different plant species to create architectonic spaces and artistic elements.
Another aspect to highlight in the design of the vegetation is the use of some elements with a symbolic significance. Three of these can be noted:
This decision alludes to the model of Renaissance gardens, acknowledging it as a source of inspiration. The chromatic effect of the green masses of trees and smaller plants, nearly all with perennial leaves, predominates in the gardens. This is a strategy to give the plant ensemble rigorous homogeneity, only altered by the whiteness of the sculptures.
Use of ivy
Some examples of this species were planted in the countersteps of the stairways, with a very attractive result. This is a technique that efficiently integrates the stairways into the gardens, naturalising them and transmitting a unified notion of the space. After experimenting with this technique in Santa Clotilde, Rubió i Tudurí, used it in many other gardens.
Use of bay trees
Bay is a tree that has traditionally been linked with Lloret de Mar, as the name of the town and its coat of arms indicate. In contrast, a plant should be mentioned that is characteristic of many Mediterranean gardens but which was not planted in Santa Clotilde: palm trees. When he was planning the vegetation, Rubió i Tudurí had to discard it because it would have been a strange species in a place that took as its initial point of reference the model of Italian gardens, inspired by the Renaissance.
Main spaces in the structure of Santa Clotilde Gardens
Rubió i Tudurí’s talent created the gardens in a very particular style, thanks to the way in which he adapted to design to the relief of the terrain. The architect began with a series of visual strategies based on the three main elements in the gardens: vegetation, sculptures and water:
- Symmetries and visual concentrations: an appropriate use of the plant fences, which make walls, and particular elements, the position of the sculptures, to direct visitors’ eyes towards a series of strategic points, such as the descent of the main stairway to the sea.
- Dialogue between the gardens and the environs: the Mediterranean Sea and the rugged coast in the surroundings help to create a great visual effect.
- Use of the vegetation: Species and colours are another resource to enjoy the view. The effect of the contrast is enhanced by the blue of the sky, the permanently green vegetation and the white sculptures.
All together, a series of visual strategies were deliberately used by Rubió i Tudurí to provoke the active participation of the visitors in the gardens. The position of these elements subtly invites frequent movements and changes of position, in search of the different perspectives of the landscape. The gardens can be visited according to thirteen points – successive stages from the entry point. These points can be grouped according to their typology: promenades and paths, squares, vantage points and steps.