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The Source 2 conference review

The Source 2 conference review

Annabel Downs reviews the autumn 2019 conference - now available to watch online

The 2019 SGD Autumn Conference, entitled ‘The Source 2: Inspiration, creativity and the big idea’ took place on 16 November at the Royal Geographic Society, London.The presentations and the atmosphere were sparkling, but it is impossible in one sitting to absorb all that is being said or shown, and although I had some preliminary reservations about the concept of live streaming, the opportunity to recapture the ideas and messages in the talks after the event is invaluable.

Cleve West MSGD introduced and chaired the day, encouraging us to find inspiration and our own design ideas through looking, drawing and absorbing the essence of a site. He recommended Edward Hutchison’s book ‘Drawing for landscape architecture’ and also Ben Vogt’s ‘New garden ethic’, a book that has challenged his core approach to garden design where eco rather than ego will rule.

Collaborations with contractors and nurserymen are as vital to successful projects (and award winning show gardens) as his work with sculptors and architects. He relishes being hands on at site, and having a flexible approach to his designs that enables him to deftly implement inspirational ideas almost at any stage.  Although he didn’t mention this, we have Cleve to thank for inspiring the SGD to provide only vegan and vegetarian food at this conference.

A Moroccan garden by Luciano Giubbilei MSGD

It was inevitable that experiencing three days a week over the course of a year shadowing the gardener at Villa Gamberaia would leave more than a trace on Luciano Giubbilei’s early career. This was where his memories of gardens began, and Balthazar Korab’s black and white photos of the villa garden hang on the walls in his studio: through the photographer’s monochrome eye, the design of the garden becomes more audible, its simplicity more powerful. Sculptural forms created by his planting and collaborations with sculptors have become essential elements in Giubbilei’s designs, and over time he has invited photographers from different disciplines to record his work, mostly in black and white because they reveal to him what he has created. With exciting commissions and opportunities in the Mediterranean, and the historic garden at Castle Raby, County Durham, his work and ideas are evolving, always inspired by his own creative studio team.

The Garden of Pinewoods by Haruko Seki

With a background in psychology, landscape architect Haruko Seki explained the scientific, philosophical and religious thinking behind cultural, spatial and hidden qualities of contemporary Japanese gardens in contrast with western ideas. A vast subject simply and clearly presented, complete with list of key references (this is also available on live streaming). She explored the idea of these two opposite cultures operating together to stimulate new concepts and practices in landscape and garden design, and showed five experimental projects including some at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show designed by her studio, revealing how some of the cultural and spatial ideas were interpreted and developed.  

Amanzoe by Thomas Doxiadis. Credit: Clive Nichols

Thomas Doxiadis grew up in Greece surrounded by landscapes which for centuries had been shaped by human and natural agents; but since the 1980s many fragile coastal areas prized for their beauty have been unsympathetically developed. Why do people choose to live in a wilderness and insist that the indigenous wildlife is to be excluded from their property? As an alternative to creating highly controlled utopian designs, he favours entopia, a symbiotic balance between nature and man. He uses native plants that are becoming more widely available, and adopts a statistical approach to planting that progresses from more ornamental cultivated Mediterranean plants, more densely planted by the building, to a more indigenous, non-irrigated and widely spaced planting regime that will over time integrate with the surrounding flora. His studio is accumulating knowledge of a diversity of native plants that will survive without irrigation, but clients’ expectations and impetuous actions need managing. The best compliment was surely that he was not awarded a top prize for one project he showed as the judges couldn’t see that his studio had actually done anything.  

Choosing to illustrate projects in locations and environments in the Middle East, Baltic coast and Thailand - places then unfamiliar to her practice - Jenny Coe showed her approach in analysing, designing and detailing her often lyrical and distinctive designs for a range of different gardens. She interrogates her projects closely, producing not only lively analysis drawings, but also resultant designs that are exciting and surprising and which invariably involved the skills of many local craftsmen and nurseries. The project in Thailand made reference to the ethnobotanical gardens in Mexico for inspiration in considering the long list of traditionally and culturally significant plant species that have been connected with the local peoples. 

The day concluded with the design and build team of Rosebank Landscaping, a young and energetic practice full of ideas and carefully detailed projects from private gardens, the new RHS wellbeing garden and their Chelsea Flower Show garden Hope on the Horizon.

You can watch the conference talks online now by clicking here

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