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Dissertationsprojekt Fowler (Exposee)

Japanese Garden Design: Semiotic, Ontological and Philosophic Constructs

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Martin Lehnert

The general aims of this research project are to explore fundamental design
concepts of Japanese gardens. The history of such spaces from their early
prominence in the Heian era to their flourishing and development through the
Muromachi and Edo eras and into the mid-twentieth century will be traced and
closely mapped. The study ultimately seeks to frame the Japanese garden as a
philosophical concept that emerges out of its physical usurpations of landscape
imagery and the influence of Buddhist ideals regarding space. As such, a number of
varied and interdisciplinary methods are to be employed that include both the
traditional semiotic square of A.J. Greimas (1966), in addition to analyses and
expansions of Greimas’ methods through the use of Formal Concept Analysis (Wille
1982) and Conceptual Graphs (Sowa 1984). The combination of mathematical,
ontological and semiotic approaches to analysis will be applied to a host of extant
Japanese gardens in Japan. This approach is favoured in order to formulate and
tease out deeper structural and philosophical characteristics of Japanese gardens
with the view of enabling new insights into garden design and the notion of the
Japanese garden as a sign system.