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Now in its 22nd year, the International Garden Festival at Quebec’s Jardins de Métis has become a global presence in the worlds of art and architecture, transforming its Gaspésie site into a living hub of landscape design. Every year, a new crop of seasonal installations joins a collection of follies, pavilions and gardens like no other. From playful material experimentations to meditative spaces that explore the realities of climate change and environmental degradation.

This year, the festival’s second pandemic-era edition reflects a world in a state of flux. Following an international competition, five new installations now grace the gardens, collectively exploring the anxieties, opportunities and new ways of living emerging from the pandemic. Together, they form an open-air path — and a sort of museum experience — through the heart of the site.

1
Hässja
PHOTO: JC Lemay

Designed by Stockholm architect Emil Bäckström, Hässja comprises a trio of hay stacks. Inspired by traditional — and nearly forgotten — methods of hay drying that predate industrialized agriculture, it conveys a more intimate connection to the land. There’s a surprise inside, too. Each of the hollow stacks houses a small room, inviting visitors into a private refuge. A world in miniature awaits inside, with the compact darkness accentuating the smell of all that soil and hay. It is a sensory — and surprisingly timely — dive into unexpected agrarian succour in an era of uncertainty.

PHOTO: Martin Bond
2
Porte-bonheur
PHOTO: JC Lemay

The thresholds between different kinds of spaces — indoors and out, public and private — are mined in Porte-bonheur. And what better invocation of passage than the door itself? Arranged in a rigid geometry, a series of gateways stand in a clearing in the woods, with open space all around. Rather than a barrier, each door becomes a frame, opening a new perception (and appreciation) of our natural surroundings. Designed by the Lyon-based team of David Bonnard, Laura Giuliani and Amélie Viale, the installation transforms a symbol of COVID-era isolation into an invitation into nature.

PHOTO: Nancy Guignard
3
Open Space
PHOTO: JC Lemay

Home, deconstructed. For Quebec’s legaga — a team of architectural interns comprising Gabriel Lemelin, Francis Gaignard and Sandrine Gaulin — the archetypal house-form is playfully transformed into a vivid blue playscape. From a quotidian, restricted milieu, legaga have created an energetic and whimsical space of exploration. Walk on walls, stand above the stairs, sit on the fireplace and disappear into the flowers through the windows.

PHOTO: Martin Bond
4
Choose Your Own Adventure
PHOTO: JC Lemay

From afar — and from above — it hardly looks like an adventure. Designed by New York’s Balmori Associates, Choose Your Own Adventure gradually becomes more varied and vibrant as visitors approach. The seemingly linear pathways give way to gentle curves and variations, while the repeating rows of plantings similarly reveal natural, evolving variations. A subtle celebration of natural rhythm and change over manicured human control, the simplicity of the space also accentuates the sights and sounds that we might otherwise take for granted, from the crunch of gravel to the smell of wet bark.

PHOTO: JC Lemay
5
Miroirs Acoustiques
PHOTO: JC Lemay

Landscape meets soundscape in Miroirs Acoustiques. Montreal landscape architects Emmanuelle Loslier and Camille Zaroubi took inspiration from the “sound mirrors” that were installed on British shores during World War I to detect incoming aircraft by amplifying surrounding noises. Here, the elegantly painted pair of acoustic reflectors (made from recycled aluminum antennas) serve a very different purpose. One mirror points to the human din of the festival and the second is directed towards the tranquil forests of the St Lawrence. It’s another kind of portal, and another quiet — and not so quiet — sensory immersion.

PHOTO: JC Lemay
Eclectic Exploration Beckons at Quebec’s International Garden Festival

Five new installations grace the 22nd edition of Grand-Métis’ annual land-art showcase.

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