Project: Between Heaven and Earth
Exhibitor: Shenzhen Greening Administration
Designer: McWilliam Studio with Hongyue Horticultural Corporation
Contractor: Shanghai Huicai Horticulture Co Ltd
Image’s courtesy of Hongyue Horticultural Corporation
British landscape and garden designers McWilliam Studio have been awarded a gold medal and best in show at the 2021 Shenzhen Garden Festival for their garden ‘Between Heaven and Earth’. The International Festival celebrates design talent, showcasing gardens representing each of China’s regions to promote regional identity, with designers from the UK, US, New Zealand, Russia, Spain, the Philippines, Lithuania and South Africa.
McWilliam Studio won a design competition to create a garden that would best represent host region Shenzhen, beating off proposals from four other firms including two based in China. Inspired by Shenzhen’s rapid development, ‘Between Heaven and Earth’ imagines a transient space located between its past and present, and on the cusp of its future.
The garden explores connections between space and form, and the blurred boundaries between woodland and water, land and sky. Everyday elements of landscape combine to create a composition of textural planting, reflective water, light and shadow, representing the unique character of the city of Shenzhen, and exploring the relationships between man, nature, city and technology.
A significant water element takes its cue from the Pearl River Delta, and Shenzhen’s dense network of canals and waterways. Water channels reflect light and colour from the surrounding landscape but merge into dense woodland and relaxed woodland edge planting. The directional flow of water continues through and around planting and paved areas to create a unified and cohesive landscape. The woodland edge backdrop softens into the wider landscape but lower planting mixes spill over, running through the entire garden.
These grounded, earthly elements are combined with vertical elements which lend height and drama to the space.
Lofty Madagascar Almond trees combine with a series of tall poles, some as high as 10 meters, which gently sway and draw the eye skywards,. The poles are topped with small LED lights, referring to the technical ambition and aspiration of Shenzhen and illuminating the space to be enjoyed after dark. Misting sprays further animate the space, creating atmosphere and subtle visual filters which conjure the sub-tropical climate of the region.
The construction of the garden has been a positive example of east-west collaboration, overcoming the challenges of a long-distance build and Covid restrictions, with rapid prototyping and digital communication.