Sunday, November 10, 2013

Chicago :: Osaka Garden (1893)

6401 S. Stony Island Ave., Chicago 
Landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmstead 
Fair architect, Daniel Burnam

Osaka Garden is located on Wooded Island and the 
Paul H. Douglas Nature Sanctuary, in 
Jackson Park part of the Hyde Park neighborhood. 

One thing people forget is the history of this little garden.

It was built in 1893 for the Chicago World's Fair Columbian Exposition by the people of Japan. 
Called Ho-o-den, Phoenix Temple, to honor the  fortitude of the people of Chicago after The Great Chicago Fire of 1871

Ho-o-den, Phoenix Temple, was the representative pavilion and garden celebrating Japanese culture. 
This was located on the southwest corner of the Island, with a living village of Japanese workmen.

What we now know as the back of the Museum of Science and Industry was actually the Palace of Fine Arts 
and the entrance to the Chicago World's Fair Columbian Exposition. 
There is a pool in front of the Fair entrance. 
People would ferry across in a boat and be let off to enter the Fair.

Keep in mind, Lake Shore Drive did not exist back then and it was quiet, restful, and serene.

Landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, initially conceived the landscape plan for the island as a 
rustic resting spot from the bustle of the Fair.


The landscape is beautifully planned. There is a small pavilion, with a few benches. 
During the summer months you can sit on the rocks next to a waterfall.

During the Fair, the pavilion was widely popular and helped introduce Americans to Japanese culture, religion, arts, and architecture. 

Frank Lloyd Wright was one of several architects influenced by the Pavilion, but the impact on him was arguably transformational and influenced his decorative arts also. Today, the local Frank Lloyd Wright Association  and other  architectural organizations co-sponsor the annual Osaka Garden Festival and give occasional tours of the garden.

After the Fair, much of the Ho-o-den remained. Today, one special lantern is probably the only original furnishing that remains.

The vertical lines imply activity while swaying in the breeze.

The smooth river washed stones reveal seasoned age.

Beautiful, it is tucked away in the lagoons. Quiet, clean and restful. There's a little waterfall, a meditation room, trees, herons, and all the zen you need in a millennium life.

Gibosi, the hosta, are mounds of color and texture. The distinctive whorled foliage provide a focal point. Most of the species of modern hosta plants were introduced from Japan to Europe by Philipp Franz von Siebold in the mid--19th century.

Hostas mark the edge of the steps through a shady walkway.

Wooded Island is a natural Oak savanna sandbar. Oak savannas, because of their mixture of grasslands and oak forest, typically are inhabited by more plant species than grasslands and temperate forests combined. The bur oak, Quercus macrocarpa, is the dominant species in northern oak savannas.

As soon  as you step on the loose, red gravel path that loops around the Garden you will feel like you stepped into a little slice of peaceful heaven. There are koi, Japanese trees, a well, placed rock waterfall and perfectly spaced rocks to sit or walk on for further exploration and reflection.


Set your mind  to 1893 and just imagine the people walking around taking a break from the Fair, think about what they were wearing, talking about dreaming of. The Fair was an enormously large structure with just one section built as a permanent structure, which is now the Museum of Science and Industry in the background, which you can see if you are standing in the garden looking across the lagoon.         

Robin in Clover Osaka Garden, Chicago