Caruncho was born in Madrid, Spain and grew up travelling between Madrid and the southern Spanish province of Andalusia. He first attended the University of Madrid to study philosophy, but learning of the Greek method of teaching in the garden motivated his to transfer to Castillo de Batres School in Madrid where he received a degree in landscape design in 1979. While there he focused on classical Greek and Islamic gardens. Caruncho explicitly refuses to describe himself as a paisajista, a landscape designer; he instead refers to himself as a jardinero, a gardener, citing that even “Capability” Brown called himself a gardener. He views the garden, not as a landscape, but as a person with its own personality and as a member of the family; a protector of the residence.
His perspective on the garden dates back to his childhood. The contrasting gardens of his grandparents’ houses in cool, verdant Galicia and in arid, austere Andalusia provided the young Caruncho with a fantasyland where every sight, scent, and sound enchanted him with its uniqueness and beauty. Even the gardener seemed to transform into a mystical figure that brought life to the magical realm of the garden. As he grew older, the garden became a place to discover love and even a secret romance. For Fernando, his home lies in his childhood and is directly tied to the garden – idyllic and magical. He first attended the University of Madrid to study philosophy, but learning of the Greek method of teaching in the garden motivated his to transfer to Castillo de Batres School in Madrid where he received a degree in landscape design in 1979. Once in college, he went on to study philosophy, a passion of Caruncho’s that deserves to be mentioned, not separately from his passion for the garden, but listed as a fusion between the two; in his mind they are inherently related to each other. This relationship began as Fernando realized the importance of the garden to the Greek philosopher Plato, who used the garden as a place of teaching and repose. He recognized that the key to antiquity lies in the garden and he now practices philosophy through his intense involvement in the garden, with his design style focusing on providing every opportunity for meditation and reflection.
As a practitioner, he is known for his work in upscale residential gardens for the past thirty years and his focus on grid-like designs that reflect the Islamic influence on his designs. There are three factors that make up Fernando Caruncho’s garden design style: geometry, water, and light. While he skillfully molds and manipulates all three in order to create his philosophical garden spaces, his obsession is the control of light. In Western cultures, light is often viewed as a source of wisdom; therefore it is an element of meditation in Caruncho’s gardens. There are also three elements, vegetation, mineral, and water, that he uses in his quest to manipulate light. Each element has unique properties that create its effect on the factor of light. Water is the trigger and source of light fluctuation, spawning irreproducible patterns of light across a space. The mineral element (stone, brick, or concrete) bluntly stops and catches light and the patterns created by the water. And finally, plants absorb and diffuse the light.
His style is exemplified in the Marroquin Garden in Ollauri, La Rioja. The garden is enclosed within massive brick walls. There are few flowers other than some climbing roses along the wall. His attraction to ancient Greece is evident in the circular foot maze near the house, similar to a labyrinth. He reflects the chahar bagh with four reflecting pools that showcase a contemporary flair; instead of the typical fountain in the middle of each pool, he has placed a single cypress tree that mimics the upward direction of the water.
Another one of Caruncho’s iconic gardens is S’Agaró in Costa Brava, Catalonia. It has two levels. The upper level (the location of the residence) holds fourteen lily ponds laid out in a geometric grid, like a “net cast over space,” as Caruncho put it. The upper is connected to the lower by a broken granite footpath that emphasizes the individuality of each of the two sections. The lower part is a green dotted with evergreens and marble statues placed in a minimalistic style.
- Caruncho Garden. 1989. Madrid
- Mas de les Voltes. 1997. Castel de Ampurdán, Catalonia
- Mas Floris. 1986. Masos de Pals, Madrid
- Marroquin. 1987. Ollauri, La Rioja
- Pazo Pegullal. 2000. Salceda de Caselas, Vigo
- S’agaro. 1989. Costa Brava, Catalonia
- Guy Cooper and Gordon Taylor, Mirrors of Paradise: The Gardens of Fernando Caruncho. New York: Monacelli Press, 2000.
- Accademici d'Onore (in Italian). Accademia delle Arti del Disegno, Florence. Accessed June 2013.