RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014, London
Our Landscape Architects were awarded 'Best Fresh Garden', 'People's Choice' and a 'Gold Medal' for 'The Mind's Eye'. The garden was designed for the RNIB.
The 'Minds Eye' is the human ability to create images or scenes without the need for sight. In essence the ability to see things with your mind.
The garden aims to stimulate the 'Minds Eye' through a series of contrasting sensory experiences. This is a sensory garden for the blind, partially blind and sighted.
We also aim to challenge the fully sighted visitor, sometimes blurring or distorting the image we expect to see.
The 'Minds Eye' plan was inspired by the Islamic Paradise Garden. A walled garden with an inward looking composition, providing unification and a rich oasis away from the chaos of the outer world. Water is used as a way finder that links and emphasises the architectural elements. Water produces pleasing sound, moisturises and cools the garden microclimate. Bird song is introduced to provide animation. The tree provides dappled shade and a filter for pollution.
The garden structures and patterns also evolve from constructivist architecture and the artwork of Ben Nicholson and Piet Mondrian.
The abstract outer walls and windows are finished with render using a selection of textures. The sombre grey tones contrast strikingly with the coloured glass and acrylic shards which become increasingly fragmented towards the eastern entrance. The glass shards capture light and act as markers and signposts.
The centrepiece to the garden is a glass cube water feature that encases a ground level sensory challenge. The cube is the axis to the garden surrounded by four planting zones.
The naturalistic planting covering the horizontal and vertical plant beds, contrasts and softens the modern structures. The planting is the highlight of the inner oasis designed to provide a range of interesting habitats. A sensual canvas to engage all the senses.
Water travels through the garden in a series of deep, dark rills which culminate at the granite water feature on the shaded north elevation (southern boundary wall). The feature is a stylised representation of a damp, shady rock face with crevices, moss, ferns and dripping water. Mist is used to animate the visitor's experience of this feature.
The main walkway is constructed with granite and leads through the glass cube to the wall sculpture on the western boundary. The wall sculpture uses a variety of materials and textures which draws inspiration from Ben Nicholsons work. The visitor is encouraged to touch and explore this work, particularly the clipped aromatic planting panels.
The lower protected garden is an inward looking and intimate space. In contrast, the upper balcony provides a view upon the world. The journey to the upper level provides a challenge, the trepidation of climbing, but ultimately the reward of viewing the show and garden on another level.