DESIGN Gavin McWilliam and Andrew Wilson SPONSOR Darwin Property Investment Management CONTRACTOR The Outdoor Room
"THE CONCEPT BEHIND our garden is ‘breaking ground’ – bringing down the barriers to private education. It’s sponsored by Darwin Property for Wellington College, an independent private school that wants to create a substantial scholarship fund so students can be selected on grounds of talent rather than their parents’ ability to pay.
“To articulate the idea we’ve used enormous steel walls throughout the garden, about the height of a double decker bus. They’re monumental, but not solid or threatening. They mesh together but are also transparent. As you walk around them and view them from different angles they break down and open up to reveal the spaces between them. It’s all about seeing opportunity.
“Another concept we’re exploring is the explosive moment when thought is generated. In the design we’re trying to capture the idea of biological synaptic networks, for instance using crazed paving to show neurological patterns. We’re planting our own ‘Synaptic Meadow’ too, using large swathes of purple-flowered perennials and ornamental grasses – choosing species with an explosive energy to them and using umbels to symbolise bursts of thought. For instance, Laser trilobum has an open network of stems with little umbels on the end. We’re also considering wild carrot and salvias to convey the idea of flowing thought.
“Within the garden are eight rills, each pulsing with a wave flowing through to articulate the impulse of thought.
“To give the garden a bit of personality, we asked the college students to write down their hopes and aspirations, which we want to engrave onto the ceramic panels of the boundary wall.
“The landscape around the college in Berkshire is predominantly lowland heath, so here we’re referencing the location using windswept pines and birch trees. We’ve lost a lot of this habitat in Europe due to development and road building, so it’s now a threatened habitat. Planting includes Pinus sylvestris, hawthorn and small birch trees. We’ve chosen gnarled, multi-stem specimens that have beauty, but are characterful too. The typical grass of heathland is molinia, which flowers in late summer so won’t be naturally in flower in May. Instead it will be looking fresh and green and lovely.
“One of the challenges is getting enough heathers and gorse in sufficient quantity. Hortus Loci, the nursery we’re using, has been busy extending their network of suppliers to find large stocks of them. Cultivars are popular but we need hundreds for ground cover.
“Part of the preparation for Chelsea is to design all the risk out of the project, so we’ve been working with structural engineers to create lightweight, transparent, safe and transportable walls. The lowest bridge on the motorway en route to Chelsea is about 5m high and our walls were about 4.9m – so we only had 10cm leeway. We didn’t want to make them any shorter, so instead we’ve cut them in half for re-assembly at the Chelsea showground.”