West Coast American style meets Hamilton Gardens’ American Modernist Garden

Come explore an international phenomenon of modernist gardens which focused on relaxed outdoor living at Hamilton Gardens.

Not just a 20th century American tradition, modernist gardens were an international phenomenon. Focused on relaxed outdoor living, a perfect match to sun soaked, upwardly mobile California. Sunny yellow outdoor chairs, raised deck-like forms, water features and popular culture murals set the scene at Hamilton Gardens.


Modernist garden design has become recognised as a single 20th century phenomenon with some clearly defined characteristics. While its roots can be traced back to the 19th century it became a very significant movement on the US western seaboard and in northern Europe, particularly France, Germany and Scandinavia in the 1930s.

Before that time, Western gardens usually followed two basic patterns, either formal / geometric or irregular. A fixed vocabulary of these forms was applied to different problems and different sites. Modernism reversed that thinking and recognised that form could actually grow from an analysis of the site, the architecture and functional requirements. Design of modernist gardens is usually related to the use of the garden and they are often dominated by elements like swimming pools, barbecue and outdoor eating areas.

There is usually a strong visual and practical relationship between house and garden. The wall and window in this garden represent the edge of the house. Generally there is little ornamentation in true Modernist gardens, detailing is simple and there is a lack of formality or any central axis.

Earlier Modernist designs like this one favored a looseness, flexibility and spontaneity to the layout and a minimalist lack of detail. The central synthesis of this garden is between the sharply linear concrete and decking grid pattern and the curving lines of the garden edges and kidney shaped pool with an abstract island sculpture.

Kidney shapes were very popular in America during the 1940's and were found in everything from the biomorphic imagery of Surrealist painters to coffee tables. The space, form, manipulation of views and the overlapping planes of this garden originate from the Cubist idea that a scene may be seen simultaneously from a number of viewpoints.

Hamilton Gardens

Hamilton Gardens is a conceptual garden based in the Waikato that explores the context, history and meaning of gardens through time, and from around the world. It is internationally recognised for its unique concept and is the Waikato region’s most popular tourist destination.

Only five minutes drive from Hamilton’s CBD, the Gardens is open 7 days a week during daylight hours and entry and parking is free. Access is off SH1, alongside Cobham Drive on the southern side of Hamilton.  Mobility scooters, wheelchairs and pushchairs are available to hire and guided tours are available.