Tag Archives: garden festivals

Taizé: A Project for the International Garden Festival at Métis, Quebec

April 5th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

Last fall I submitted a proposal to the International Garden Festival at Métis, Quebec as part of a mulit-disciplinary team. The Festival is one of the leading annual garden festivals in the world —  a “forum for innovation and experimentation and an exceptional showcase and launching pad for participating designers from a host of disciplines,” to quote the festival website, providing “a unique space for those involved in the renewal of this art form.”

The team I led proposed a garden installation that focused on transformation: from noise to silence, from movement to stillness, from human artifice to the authenticity of nature. The name, Taizé, echoes that of a community in France where participants achieve a contemplative state through music, song and silence.

In the woodland space at Les Jardins de Métis, we wanted visitors to experience a similar transformation as they walked a spiral path downward from a noisy, buzz-filled world to a clearing in the forest in which a quiet harmony was at once promised and withheld.


This overview of Taizé gives a sense of the entire project.
This overview of Taizé gives a sense of the entire project.


Along the path, large forked tree branches, inverted to suggest walking figures, held chimes that visitors could play. Initially the music of the chimes was high-pitched and discordant, and as the visitor circled toward the central clearing, the sounds became deeper and more harmonious. In a parallel fashion, the intentionally inverted tree branches gradually changed from shaped trunks that showed the evidence of intention and artifice, to once again become merely … trees.


The view is from ground level, at the entry to the spiral corridor.


In the central clearing, closely-spaced tree trunks created a quiet enclosure. Moss and ferns covered the ground around a single living tree. One chime hung from this tree, out of reach of visitors, played only by the wind. Peace promised — and withheld.


This view is looking down into the centre of the clearing, filled with mosses and other natural woodland plants.


A requirement of the submission was to explain how the proposed garden contributed to the renewal of the art of the garden. This is what we wrote:

“Traditionally, gardens were proxies for power and status – beautiful pre-planned creations that marked our separation from nature even as they drew us closer to it. Taizé challenges this historic assumption by using ephemeral materials and ephemeral sounds that are created by nature and by each person who enters. Its “meaning” is not derived from horticultural aesthetics but is contingent on the individual’s spontaneous engagement with a world always in flux.”



A view of the project from the back side.


This year the Festival received 309 projects from 34 countries, and from them chose five to be added to the garden in 2015. Taizé was not one of the five.

Even so, I was glad to be part of the team that included landscape architects Myke Hodgins and Eric Fleury, writer-photographer Terrence Byrnes, musician Serafin LaRivière and a young architectural technician Alexis Guay, who did the technical drawings.

I benefitted enormously from the experience — if nothing else I learned a lot about how to use computer programs to create drawings that suggest what a project will look like. Collaborating with the members of the team, from conception through to the completed written proposal, demonstrated how different minds can approach an idea, and how the project itself is improved when they do. It was fun. And looking at our submission several months later, I remain pleased with how our project stacks up against the winners.

The new gardens selected for the 2015 edition are:

Around-About by Talmon Biran architecture studio [Roy Talmon, architect & Noa Biran, architect]. Tel Aviv, Israël.

Carré bleu sur fond blanc by o.k. [Kihan Kim, landscape architect & Ophélie Bouvet, landscape architect]. Paris, France.

I like to move it by DIX NEUF CENT QUATRE VINGT SIX Architecture [Mathilde Gaudemet, architect & Arthur Ozenne, architect]. Paris, France.

Popple by Meaghan Hunter, intern landscape architect & Suzy Melo, landscape architect. Winnipeg (Manitoba) Canada.

Se mouiller (la belle échappée) by Groupe A / Annexe U [Jean-François Laroche, architect, Rémi Morency, architect and urbanist, Erick Rivard, architect & Maxime Rousseau, architect]. Québec (Québec) Canada.

The winning projects and the other 300+ submissions can be viewed at http://www.refordgardens.com/english/festival/projets-2015.php

I hope to get to Métis this summer. Why not consider a trip yourself? It’s worth the journey.

The International Garden Festival at Métis, Québec

July 14th, 2014 | 5 Comments »
Edward Lutyens once said that a garden "should have a backbone -- a central idea beautifully phrased." The central and beautifully phrased idea of the International Garden Festival at the Reford Gardens in Métis, Québec is to offer garden installations that challenge conventional ideas of what a garden is -- or can be.For the past 15 years the festival has been a showcase for innovation and delight. Featuring designers from Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Holland, France, the United States and Canada, this year's Festival presents 22 contemporary gardens that "invite visitors


Do flowers make a garden?

February 9th, 2014 | 21 Comments »
Must a garden have flowers? Must it have trees and shrubs? Must it have plants at all? I think most people would say yes. But consider England’s great landscape gardens. Some of those designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in the late 1700s had few if any flowers. And what about that masterpiece of garden art, the Ryoan-ji  garden in Kyoto? This garden from the late 1400s contains only sand, rock and small islands of moss. This image of the Ryoan-ji's Zen garden is from Wikipedia. So, is “garden” simply a word to be defined


Extreme gardening

December 17th, 2013 | 7 Comments »
How hard can it be to go from this... On the beach in Perth, West Australia to this? A snowy day at Glen Villa Very hard! But it is even harder to go to this… Montreal on a cold win'ter's day: the view from my apartment window When I left Perth, West Australia, on Friday, December 13,  the temperature was 35C (or 95 fahrenheit) -- and climbing. When, after some 30 hours of travel, I arrived in Montreal it was still Friday, December 13. The temperature was -22C (or about


Evaluating Canada Blooms 2013

March 27th, 2013 | 3 Comments »
Flowers do not a garden make. Nor a garden show. Nonetheless, for me flower arrangements were the highlight of this year’s Canada Blooms. And I am not a flower arranger. Not any good at it, and not interested in becoming any better. But I do like art, and to see amazingly artful compositions made with plant material was a nice treat. Can you imagine the time and effort it took to create this gold ribbon winner? Nancy Wilson's gold ribbon winning painting reflects an amaryllis tucked into the arch behind.


Is Canada Blooms a garden?

March 21st, 2013 | 2 Comments »
An extra post, from Toronto As I write, I’m on my way to Toronto to visit Canada Blooms, Canada’s largest garden show. I’m speaking tomorrow about using art in a garden and am pleased to be doing this. I set myself a goal when I first started giving talks about gardens and garden design, and that goal was to speak at Canada Blooms. So, as of tomorrow afternoon, I'll check off one item on my (increasingly long) list of things to do. I visited Canada Blooms last year and, quite