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SGD Autumn Conference 2019

Updated: Jan 31


The Source 2 - Inspiration, Creativity and the Big Idea

The Society of Garden Designers provide fantastic conferences twice a year with inspirational speakers from all over the world. Having missed them the last few years I was so excited to attend the Autumn conference this November. Held at The Royal Geographical Society on the 16th November and with Luciano Giubbilei speaking, I've never clicked "BUY" on a ticket quicker!

I set up my garden design business in 2009 and it was this very year I saw Luciano's work for the first time, his Laurent-Perrier garden at Chelsea Flower Show. The strong structural elements provided by the hedges, trees and blocks of stone, contrasted with the dreamy, soft perennial planting just had me hooked and I've loved his work ever since!

In his talk he took us through his early career and inspirations. He showed us several case studies and discussed the topic of the garden as sculpture.

He demonstrated the importance of artwork and sculpture in the garden and I saw his work as a living art gallery to maximise the pieces of sculpture and his paired back plant mixes allow the plants to each play a part in this carefully curated art piece.

Next was Haruko Seki from Lasso Studio in Japan. Her talk covered the topic of designing something invisible. The start of the talk covered the contrast between East and West's approach to design and was heavier than expected but really interesting and showed her design process. The case studies were great to see and very different to the others on the day. I love Japanese design and chose to focus on this style on one of my major projects at College so am well aware of many of the themes. The schemes are so serene and clean. Here are a couple of the projects Haruko talked us through.

Thomas Doxiadis followed Haruko and he covered the topic of designing for symbiosis. His talk was completely different again! His schemes aim to reinstate a landscape typical of the local environment and climate, so it almost feels like nothing has been done. His father actually reflected on one of his projects saying, "well I can't see what you have done", which is the goal for Thomas and his team!

Thomas' talk was thought provoking as often, as designers, we are aiming to create some kind of statement with our gardens, whereas Thomas is using the existing climate and planting mix to influence his design so that the new buildings and infrastructure blends if it has always been there...definitely something to thing about more in the future, particularly in rural settings.

Jennifer Coe of Coe Design was particularly inspirational due to the scale of the projects she works on and her "you can do it too" attitude.

She talked us through various international case studies and how she carried out research to ensure she selected the correct plant species for the climate, for example in Yemen where there were no records so she had to work with her translator and discuss options with locals and investigate the native species growing nearby. The project in Yemen was for the grounds of the British Embassy, as shown below.

Jennifer also talked us through projects in the UAE, Latvia and Thailand and closed her talk by reassuring us we could all work on such large international projects too as we all have the tools required. Her topic was light, sky, land and memories.

Finally Matt Keightley and Cameron Wilson of Rosebank Landscaping took to the stage to talk us through their business structure, approach to projects and various case studies to demonstrate this. Their topic focused on inspired creativity to construction practicality. Matt and Cameron emphasised the importance of the designer and contractor working together closely from the start of the design process to maximise the potential in the scheme and details, save costs where possible and ensure what is evolving on paper can be built in reality. Their talk was very interesting and showed more relatable projects; show gardens and domestic gardens.

The day was chaired by Cleve West who was highly entertaining and pulled the day together well.

Thank you to the Society of Garden Designers for organising a fantastic event and I look forward to the next!

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