McWilliam Studio has been awarded a gold medal and best in show at the 2021 Shenzhen Garden Festival. This is for their garden ‘Between Heaven and Earth’.
The festival celebrates design talent, showcasing gardens for each of China’s regions. This helps to promote regional identity. Designers from the UK, US, New Zealand, Russia, Spain, the Philippines, Lithuania and South Africa took part.
McWilliam Studio won a competition to create a garden that would best represent host region Shenzhen. They beat 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.
“To be selected to design a show garden for Shenzhen was an honour. Winning gold and best in show is out of this world,” said Studio Director and Founder Gavin McWilliam.
McWilliam Studio’s inspiration
The garden explores connections between space and form. It also explores 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. It investigates 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 elements are combined with vertical elements which lend height and drama.
Lofty Madagascar Almond trees combine with a series of tall poles, which 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. They create 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.