© Louise Tanguay
© Louise Tanguay

Surface Deep

Designed by Harvard lecturers utilising our engineering expertise, a winding series of vertical planters set at various angles to create a continuous undulating form was a highlight of the 2011 Metis International Garden Festival, held at Quebec’s Redford Gardens.

Developed in collaboration with students on the School’s landscape architecture programmes, the twisted ribbon-like structure was the focal point of the ‘Surface Deep Garden’, designed by lecturers Leire Asensio Villoria and David Syn Chee Mah.

With much of the structure actually made by the students, our structural design needed to not only ensure stability but also address issues of fabrication and buildability. We were able to harness our vast experience to deliver the simplest and most cost-effective solution.

The idea behind Surface Deep was ‘traditional garden walls with a twist’. Its geometry not only provided a thrilling aesthetic experience for visitors, but also offered a range of different microhabitats for the mosses growing within: growing environments ranged from sunlight-bathed slopes to overhangs in perpetual shade.

The structure was formed by a series of 24 Okoume plywood fins, spaced at 450 mm intervals, independently cantilevering from the ground at increasing angles. The length of the fins also varied, with a maximum cantilever of up to 2 m. Plywood spacers provided further stability, while grilles were fixed between the fins to create perforated containers for planting.

To meet the requirements of buildability and economy, we analysed potential overturning forces, and then rationalised the design – keeping the geometry within certain defined constraints – so that the entire structure could be constructed with only two types of base connection.

We conceived a plywood template, which was created at Harvard GSD’s workshops with all fin connection brackets pre-attached. On site, this was then cast into the in-situ concrete slab, which ensured that the fins were erected to exacting tolerances.

Exciting marriage of structural engineering and gardening, a highlight of this festival in Canada

Grand-Métis, Canada
Reford Gardens, Harvard GSD Department of Landscape
US $ 10,000