It is always interesting when you’re out in nature and see what appears to be population of a single type of plant, but on closer inspection it’s revealed to be many unrelated species assuming the same appearance, like some bizarre botanical costume party. Or when plants are interlaced with one another in such a manner that two or three distinct plants begin to appear as one organism.
Such ambiguities are generally considered undesirable in the context of a garden, were value is given to design that is ‘legible’. But they were part of the intent in the planting for Daily Bread, a highly regarded bakery and delicatessen in Auckland. Tarn were asked to provide a planting solution for their new courtyard space. The central requirement was that the planting was not only to be composed solely of New Zealand native species, but that it communicated something about the sensory character of the country.
The design also had to unify the covered courtyard – a new annex – with the existing, neoclassical heritage building, and be adaptable so as to allow for future evolution of the courtyard.
We designed two types of bespoke concrete pots, cast in local volcanic aggregate. A columnar, round-based form relates to the building’s columns, and gives volume for a small floor area. An octagonal form was inspired by various polygonal pots that Rob observed in Italy’s Salento region (where they are often used outside buildings). Faceted and architectural, they give definition to the courtyard as well as continuing the classical language of the building.
In the design process we researched Swiss landscape architect Günther Vogt’s notion of ‘Landscape as a Cabinet of Curiosities’. Elaborated in his work Wanderlust/Wanderkammer, Vogt describes how he collects various elements and phenomena from the natural world, relates them to one another and rearranges them in novel ways, “…and in the reader’s mind’s eye unfolds a cosmos”.
To elaborate on Vogt’s philosophy, we created many discrete segments of imagined ecosystems: Each planter was intended to be read as an individual ‘core sample’ of a larger ‘cosmos’, letting the reader’s mind imagine the broader communities from which they appeared to derive, in the same way that readers of a novel must construct certain sensory details in their own mind.
Of central importance was the manner in which we could provide this sense of ‘many worlds’, whilst also providing a sufficient degree of integration amongst the planters. This was achieved by selecting plants based on their adherence to one of four groups, groups which together summarise New Zealand’s flora: small–leaved; broad-leaved; needle–leaved; frond. Each micro-cosmos contains elements of all these groups, but with its own species and distinct arrangement. Similar looking shrubs, such as Cyathodes juniperina, Dracophyllum sinclarii, Pittosporum pimeleoides, and Podocarpus acutifolius acheive this ambiguous effect. And very unrelated plants (for example Pittosporum kirkii, Pittosporum pimeleoides and Myrsine divaricata), are planted in such close proximity that the that they interlace into a single mass.