This vast garden’s origins begin with a man who wanted to collect the world—through the medium of photographs. Now a public park and museum, this four-hectare “garden of the world” also contains a plethora of pictures.
Growing up in eastern France, Albert Kahn became a successful banker in the late 19th Century. Along with his fortunes, Kahn also found himself in social circles with the likes of Auguste Rodin and other global-thinking minds. Coming back from a business trip to Japan, where he brought home several photographs, Albert was inspired by the images and being able to catalog the ever-changing world. Embracing the new art of photography, Kahn invested in a project known as “Archives of the Planet,” a massive undertaking of sending photographers (including his driver, Alfred Dutertre) to each of the continents to create an archive of the modern world. The result would be 72,000 color photographs and 183,000 meters of film.
Kahn’s obsession with the surrounding world would also permeate into the botanical sciences. Buying a large swath of land outside of Paris, the banker’s parkland would include Japanese, English, rose, and wood conifer gardens. The Japanese garden features a whole village of structures brought from Japan and reconstructed on the grounds, while the rose garden is enhanced by elegant iron-wrought greenhouses.
Unfortunately for Albert Kahn, the Great Depression would completely ruin his fortunes, forcing him to give up his gardens and ambitious international photography scheme. Fortunately for the public, however, the gardens were opened to all, including a museum housing all of Kahn’s collection of images and filmed production. A picture-perfect finish!