IGA Berlin 2017 - Gardens of the World: African Bouquet
Marzahn-Hellersdorf, Berlin, Germany
Completed 2017
Client: IGA Berlin

Transcending boundaries

The South African cabinet garden for the IGA Gardens of the World exhibition is formed around the concept of a landscape’s ability to transcend human-made boundaries.

The project design consist of three components: the hull, steel pots and the planting. The exterior constraints of the garden is framed with hedges of European Hornbeam shrubs. The pavilion floor is sloped to create a continuum of movement: up towards a viewing platform and back down to the garden entrance.

The skeletal ship’s hull is an imposition onto the site and serves as a testimonial to man’s propensity towards control and possession. Its steel ribs are a metaphor of a slave ship that has beached and washed ashore. It carries with it the memory of human slaves as cargo, which use to be a commonplace exchange between Africa and Europe. Today the ship’s hull houses a precious cargo of African flora.

Steel pots are fixed to the inside of the ribs and contain vegetation from the African continent. Plant species that are cultivated in Europe, but originate from Africa, were selected as a device to communicate a transition of boundaries. The 220 vessels that house the plants are hand-made from two elements: a stainless steel and copper cuff with a woven wire basket cap. The steel and copper portion was manufactured in Germany and the wirework was handcrafted by African artisans from KwaZulu Natal in South Africa. Planting in the garden follows a binary strategy that uses native European vegetation on the floor plane and mimics costal vegetation and relates back to the metaphor the beached vessel.

The experience encourages the visitor to contemplate the meanings associated with the metaphor of a slave ship, not as a tool for control and possession, but rather as a mechanism for inclusion and freedom.