by Savannah Gignac, AAG/GCA Garden History & Design Intern, in August 2011.
Taken from Greek architecture, this garden structure’s name translates into “exterior seat.” Exedrae were originally used in ancient Greece for places of worship. Later, Plato and Socrates used such structures, often bordered with columns and topped with a semi-dome, for philosophical discussions. The exedra’s semi-circular border, to which a bench was typically attached, provided an intimate space for conversation or solitude. Exedrae remained popular in Roman landscapes and can be found in both Baroque and Neoclassical architecture.
Exedrae found their way into English gardens by the 18th century. Their curved screening walls are often utilized to hide another part of the garden or to create a separate garden alcove. In addition to seating, exedrae may incorporate fountains, tile flooring, columns and lighting along their semi-circular shape. Ornate or simple, they can serve as a place for quiet contemplation or a small tea party for two.
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