The designer tells us his plans for the historic gardens in Devon
Celebrated designer Dan Pearson MSGD is known worldwide for his beautiful naturalistic gardens and landscapes. His accolades include Royal Designer for Industry, Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), and winner of five RHS Chelsea Flower Show medals, including Best in Show in 2015 for his Laurent Perrier Chatsworth Garden. Pearson is also an author and writes his own online garden journal, Dig Delve with his partner Huw Morgan. Here, he talks to us about an exciting new project for Dartington Hall Gardens in South Devon.
HOW DID THE DARTINGTON HALL PROJECT COME ABOUT?
Dartington Hall Trust CEO Rhodri Samuel contacted me earlier this year and asked if I would create a new masterplan for the gardens. He felt that they needed a sense of direction and more cohesion, which are currently lacking. He also wanted someone with a sensitive hand, who could pull together the disparate designs, many by famous designers, while future-proofing the gardens for generations to come. I was already aware of Dartington’s reputation as a centre of holistic living and arts education, which fits perfectly with our Studio’s ethos, and we were really excited to be given the opportunity to develop and enhance its historic gardens.
WHAT WERE THE CHALLENGES?
When I first visited Dartington, it struck me as a magical place, and I realised why the trustees and others wanted to protect it, and keep alive the legacy of the original owners, Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst. Designers, including Beatrix Farrand and Danish-born Preben Jakobsen, have also made their mark here, and their work is generally still in good shape, so we are creating a plan that embraces their designs, while moving things on in other areas. At the moment, the gardens all have equal weight, and our challenge is to create a sense of flow and movement, and a cohesion that will take visitors from one area to the next. Some will be for play and activity, such as the proposed food outlet and children’s playground, while others will be for relaxation and sanctuary. We are now in the process of calibrating these elements to create a more holistic approach.
WHAT IS THE TIME FRAME FOR THE PROJECT?
The masterplan, which we will deliver early in 2018, will set out a 50-year long-term plan for the renovation and restoration of the gardens. This will allow Rhodri to seek funding and mobilise a cash flow, and we will then pull out and develop individual projects as the money becomes available.