On This Weekend: Grow Op in Toronto

Ryan Taylor's Babylon light (left and background, right); Mehran Ataee & Dylan Uscher's Knitted Garden, foreground, right
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ERA Architects' scaffolding outside the Gladstone Hotel's Art Bar
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GeoGarden, by Karen Abel, with Rose Bolton
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Jane Hutton's Fluorescence
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Katie Mathieu's This Is Not a Dream House

Despite its cheeky name, Grow Op at the Gladstone Hotel presents innovative landscape concepts – by ERA Architects, designer Ryan Taylor, and other creatives – that bow to nature.

Fluorescent timbers, a bicycle-powered plant machine, pendant light fixtures that double as planters. These are just a few of the great ideas on display at Grow Op: Exploring Landscape and Place, curated by local landscape architect Victoria Taylor.

Among the highlights: ERA Architects‘ exhibit on Allen Gardens, a formerly glorious park in Toronto’s east end that the firm is hoping to rejuvenate with a competition-based series of art installations through the next few years. Outside the hotel’s Art Bar, the firm created hoarding with cutout silhouettes of the stately fountain that once held court in the gardens. They also erected scaffolding and printed it with suggestions for improvement from patrons of the park (these they culled from the Toronto Archives’ files on Allen Gardens). Sample: “Put frogs and turtles in the wishing well.”

The show also appeals to urban gardeners, but takes a more esoteric approach to DIYism. Take Katie Mathieu‘s This Is Not a Dream House, a lablike setting with a trestle-table nursery set up front and centre. Medicinal herbs, like St. John’s Wort, grow under the fluorescent bulbs and the gaze of bird sculptures perched atop the table.

Another scrappy yet ingenious concept is grOCAD‘s Pedal Farm; show-goers can pedal away on a stationary bike to pump water into the plant vessels of this hydroponic garden tower.

For the more practical, Ryan Taylor‘s sprig-spilling Babylon lights, which the designer debuted at the Interior Design Show in January, are arranged in an evocative cluster; and Mehran Ataee and Dylan Uscher‘s Knitted Garden – just what it sounds like: planters clad in loose-knit sweaters – looks like a great idea for a site-specific installation in a chic shop.

For the totally trippy, check out the Fluorescence exhibit by Jane Hutton, an assistant professor of landscape architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Under a black light, an array of sliced timbers glow at different levels, showing off wood’s light-emitting properties.

Grow Op runs until Sunday, April 28 at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto, 1214 Queen Street West. 

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