Combining Japanese skill in the management of space with the art of garden design has produced a very particular kind of miniature garden. A part of the Japanese architectural canon for at least a thousand years, it is called tsubo-niwa after a unit of measurement that is two person-sized tatami mats placed side by side. It can be as small as 40 square feet, and can be interior, exterior, or occupy that peculiarly Japanese intermediate, transitional space between the two.
Recently, the pocket garden has taken on a new life. Swept up in the design overhaul that has taken place in Japan in the last decade and a half, a new generation of architects and designers is experimenting with the concept in imaginative ways, using a broad array of materials-from andesite and plastic to cast glass and bronze-to create contemplative, reflective, and inspiring designs. Whether as an urban solution to importing nature into the home or as an individual theme set within a larger garden space, the modern pocket garden follows a distinct yet global aesthetic.