Our point of departure for this garden was a treatise by the 11th century French monk St. Bernard on the role of the monastic garden – in his case, that of the monastery at Clairvaux – as a place for contemplation and spiritual renewal. ‘Within this enclosure, many and various trees, prolific with every sort of fruit, make a veritable grove, which lying next to the cells of those who are ill, lightens with no little solace to the infirmities of the brethren, while it offers to those who are strolling about a spacious walk, and to those overcome with the heat, a sweet place for repose…The sick man sits upon the green lawn…he is secure , shaded from the heat of the day. For the comfort of his pain all kinds of grass are fragrant in his nostrils. The lovely green of herb and tree nourishes his eyes….the choir of painted birds caresses his ears…the earth breathes with fruitfulness, and the invalid himself with eyes, ears, and nostrils, drinks in the delights of colours, songs and perfumes.’

We took the concept of the hortus conclusus, the ‘enclosed garden’ as our touchstone for the layout of this small city centre garden in Dublin. In medieval paintings, sitting, conversing, pottering and playing music are the most commonly depicted activities in the enclosed garden, and this happens to be the client’s favourite things to do.

The hortus conclusus in history is a traditional emblem of serenity and privacy, a retreat from cares, a contemplative space in which to sit, to walk, to observe the flowers, fish and fruit trees. We folded the orthogonal grid-lines of the mews house down onto the plan of the garden and rolled the geometries out like a carpet of decking, pool, flowers and lawn. Trees are located to screen bedrooms from over-looking from the many windows along the rear of the Georgian street to the south.