Designing with nature, the history and future of the garden on display at the Vitra Design Museum

Weil am Rhein, Germany,


Vitra Design Museum,

Presented in a setting designed by the Italian studio Formafantasma, the Vitra Design Museum's "Garden Futures" exhibition is dedicated to the history and future of the garden. The exhibition questions how to design with nature in mind and contribute to a more liveable future for everyone, contemplating the entire planet Earth as a garden to be cultivated, tended and managed responsibly.

Designing with nature, the history and future of the garden on display at the Vitra Design Museum

The garden has many meanings and nuances, with deep cultural roots: a place of peace, tranquillity and beauty, but also a reflection of dreams and visions, a symbol of life and nature and, through the rebirth and awakening of plants in spring, a promise or hope of a better future. Long considered an important laboratory of biodiversity, thanks to the presence of different species of plants, trees, shrubs and flowers, insects and small animals, today the garden is also a place of avant-garde and experimentation for a sustainable future. The many examples of design and landscape architecture related to the garden – from furnishings to vertical urban farms, from community gardens to projects created by leading designers and artists –, as well as to the history and future of the contemporary garden are the focus of the Garden Futures exhibition, which recently opened its doors to the public at the Vitra Design Museum.
Through a setting created by the Italian designers of the Formafantasma studio, the exhibition welcomes visitors with a multimedia installation illustrating the relationship of the garden with art and contemporary architecture through the works of artists and architects such as Hans Thoma, Georg Gerster, Athanasius Kircher, Barbara Stauffacher-Solomon, Gabriel Guevrekian, Alvar Aalto, Thomas Church, Vita Sackville-West, Luis Barragán and others. The exhibition develops through different sections that investigate the meanings of the garden, without neglecting its role in the political and economic spheres. The second section is, in fact, dedicated to these aspects, from the transport and dissemination of plant species for the benefit of the colonial powers in the 19th century, to the urban city-garden projects and later to the Green Guerrilla movements of the 1970s. The third section, instead, focuses on contemporary landscape architects and their works. Among others, the exhibition showcases the designs conceived by Brazilian architect Roberto Burle Marx and flower arrangements by architect Piet Oudolf, who also worked on the Vitra Campus. Finally, the last section of the exhibition focuses on the future of gardens, and in particular on their importance in an era marked by the ongoing climate crisis, urbanisation and loss of biodiversity. The exhibition presents several projects in which gardens are used as tools to help address these challenges and as places for reflection on environmental sustainability, conveying the message of planet Earth interpreted as a garden to be cultivated, tended and managed responsibly.

(Agnese Bifulco)

Images courtesy of Vitra Design Museum

Exhibition title: Garden Futures: Designing with Nature
Dates: March 25, 2023 to October 3, 2023

Curatorial team:
Vitra Design Museum: Viviane Stappmanns, Nina Steinmüller

Nieuwe Instituut: Marten Kuijpers, Maria Heinrich

Exhibition design: Formafantasma
Hashtags: #VDMGardenFutures


01 Piet Oudolf, Oudolf Garten on the Vitra Campus, Weil am Rhein, 2020 © Vitra, Photo: Dejan Jovanovic
02 Derek Jarman, Prospect Cottage Garden at Dungeness, Kent, UK, from 1986 Photo: Howard Sooley, 1993
03 Piet Oudolf, High Line, New York City © Piet Oudolf, Photo: Annik La Farge and Rick Darke
04 Piet Oudolf, Oudolf Garten on the Vitra Campus, Weil am Rhein, 2020 © Vitra, Photo: Dejan Jovanovic
05 Céline Baumann, Parliament of Plants, 2020 © Studio Céline Baumann
06 Piet Oudolf, Sketch for planting design of the Vitra Campus, Weil am Rhein © Piet Oudolf
07 Alexandra Kehayoglou, Santa Cruz River, Tapestry, 2016-2017 © Alexandra Kehayoglou, courtesy of The National Gallery of Victoria
08 Roberto Burle Marx, Rooftop garden of the Gustavo Capanema Building, the Ministry of Education and Health headquarters, c. 1955 © Instituto Moreira Salles Collection, Photo: Marcel Gautherot
09 Roberto Burle Marx, Design for the Ministry of Education and Health roof garden, Rio de Janeiro, 1938 © Burle Marx Institute Archive
10 Julien de Cerval, The Gardens of Marqueyssac, France, designed in the 1860s Photo: Romain Laprade, 2020
11 Julien de Cerval, The Gardens of Marqueyssac, Vézac, France © Laugery – Les Jardins de Marqueyssac, Dordogne, France
12 Friedrich August Krubsacius, Design for an unknown garden, 1760 © SLUB Dresden / Deutsche Fotothek, Germany
13 Upper Rhenish Master, The Little Garden of Paradise, c. 1410-1420 © Sammlung Städel Museum Frankfurt
14 Maria Sibylla Merian, Rose with metamorphosis of leaf roller and a glued beetle larva, after 1679 © Sammlung Städel Museum Frankfurt
15 Giovanni Battista Falda, Plan of the garden of the Villa Medici in Rome, 1683 © Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
16 Liz Christy in one of her Lower East Side gardens, New York City, 1975 Photo: Donald Loggins
17 Liz Christy in a community garden, New York City, 1970s Photo: Donald Loggins
18 James Wines, Drawing of the Highrise of Homes (theoretical project), 1981, Collection Jonathan Holtzman © James Wines
19 French Garden Chair, c. 1850-1900 © Vitra Design Museum, Photo: Jürgen Hans
20 Woman on the Altorfer Lounger, the so-called Spaghetti Chair, 1949 © Embru-Werke AG
21 Huldreich Altorfer, Altorfer Lounger, »Spaghetti Chair«, 1948 © Embru-Werke AG
22 Building phase of the Kebun-Kebun Bangsar community garden, Kuala Lumpur, 2017 Courtesy of Kebun-Kebun Bangsar
23 Cultivation of calendula plants, apothecary garden, Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany, 2016 © Weleda, Photo: Barbara von Woellwarth
24 Stefano Boeri Architetti, Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest), Milan, 2007–2014 © Stefano Boeri Architetti, Photo: Dimitar Harizanov, 2020
25 Stefano Boeri, Bosco Verticale, Milan, 2014 © Stefano Boeri Architetti, Photo: The Blink Fish, 2018
26 Jurgen Bey, Tree-trunk bench, 1998 © Vitra Design Museum, Photo: Jürgen Hans
27 Kieran Dodds, Debre Ensesa, Ethiopia, 2018 Photo: Kieran Dodds
28 Zheng Guogu, Liao Garden, Yangjiang, China, 2017, started from 2005 Courtesy of Zheng Guogu and Vitamin Creative Space


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