UK Pavilion Garden, Japan Expo 2005

The UK Pavilion at the Aichi Expo in Japan 2005 was unusual in that it included a garden as part of the exhibit. We were invited to join a team bidding for the exhibition commission led by Ten Alps and Land Design Studio. The theme of the Expo was ‘Nature’s Wisdom’ and we felt that a stereotypical British herbaceous border was not the right thing to do. Instead we proposed a magical piece of British woodland. The team was selected and we then had the challenge of recreating a bit of romantic British Landscape on the other side of the world.

The original idea/sketch shows a simple mass of trees counterpointed by little insertions of modern technology such as LED lighting, robotic wildlife, and panels to scribe visitor initials and love messages. We saw it as a romantic, high-tech ‘Lovers Wood’.

The Expo lasted six months, and through this period we saw the opportunity to create a changing sequence of planted effects using British woodland flora. We demonstrated this to the client, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, using Photoshop renders of the different effects ranging from bare trees with daffodils beneath, through bluebells with some leaf cover, masses of foxgloves with full leaf canopy, and finally a madness of ferns and grasses beneath and climbing into the canopy. Extra interest was added to the garden with six artworks by leading British artists including Anya Gallaccio, Cornelia Parker and Richard Deacon, and by a comprehensive lighting scheme to the garden.

For the tree canopy we sourced a Japanese species of lime, Tilia japonica, that looked remarkably like our own common lime. We planted them in the Garden and lopped them all to a common height of 5 metres, cutting back any branches overhanging the perimeter fence. This created a sense of the woodland being boxed into a defined space and emphasised the difference between the outside world and the magical innards of the garden. At night, the garden became a favourite place to meet among the illuminated foxgloves and ferns.