As Canadians trudge through the cold and grey winter months, we can’t help but look towards the warmer season ahead. Fortunately, the spring always comes with a hefty dose of design inspiration and the 2023 International Garden Festival, hosted at the Reford Gardens in Grand-Métis, Quebec, is a case in point. The annual event features five public installations that seamlessly blend art and landscape, drawing nearly 60,000 visitors. This year’s selected projects respond to the theme Roots, revisiting teachings of the past to “imagine a present and a future that is ecologically, economically, and culturally responsible.” Read on to learn more about the winning installations:
Vincent Dumay and Baptiste Wullschleger, of Sweden and France respectively, won over the selection committee with their design, which seeks to raise awareness of the earth’s finite resources. Created using adobe construction, a technique that compacts moistened soil in successive layers inside a casing, the four fluted forms are designed to evoke Doric columns. “It makes visible what normally lies hidden beneath our feet,” the designers explain. The installation is designed to evolve over time, as the raw earth elements exist within their living context.
Designed by Montreal-based Friche Atelier, this installation harks back to the role of plants in the development and survival of modern civilizations. While plants have long been essential for nourishment and healing, Friche Atelier focused on the dyeing properties of their leaves, roots, flowers and fruits, which have been utilized for millennia. The resulting installation explores the relationship between textiles and plants through a canopy of permeable cylindrical forms that hangs above the lush garden landscape.
Quebec’s Studio Haricot collaborated with Rose-Marie Guévin and Vincent Ouellet to bring this hempcrete installation to life. The monochromatic composition is comprised of three curved walls in a patch of wheat on a carpet of mulch, demonstrating the many uses of vegetal fibres. The tactile experience invites visitors to feel their way through the installation, exploring its texture and materiality.
Designed by Cassandra Ducharme-Martin and Gabriel Demeule, this installation draws inspiration from the vernacular architecture of Læsø island in Denmark. Here, women built the roofs of their houses using a marine plant called eelgrass, a waterproof and fireproof material harvested from local beaches. These durable roofs have lasted for over three hundred years, in a climate similar to Quebec’s. This installation reflects on the future of the built environment, proposing a return to these traditional materials. Juxtaposing an uncovered light wood frame, a commonly used North American construction material, with an algae roof, the structure reveals the hidden potential of the local St. Lawrence River.
Berlin-based Ki Jun Kim worked alongside Canadians Jinny Yu and Frédéric Pitre to design this contemporary re-interpretation of the corn maze. The landscaped labyrinth, submerged in the terrain, is based on the pattern of the roots of two trees linked by fungal mycelium. The maze is comprised of earth and white clover and has multiple routes and dead ends. The clover is a symbolic choice: like many settlers, it came from Europe and spread across the North American continent, impacting the native ecology. As the designers explain, the installation “invites visitors to slow down and reflect both on the root system and post-colonialism.”
The International Garden Festival runs from June 24 to October 1, 2023.
The five selected installations respond to this year’s theme, Roots, drawing on the teachings of past generations.