Guest article by Maria Passarivaki
We have all dreamed, at one point in our lives, of living inside a fairytale. But have you ever imagined giant nests made of hazelnut branches or azure lamps nestled in the heart of a botanical garden? The above mesmerizing scenery that, reminded at least some of you of Alice in Wonderland, comes to reality through a project named ‘The Secret Garden’. The fairytale princess would definitely feel at home there.
'The Secret Garden’, under the occasion of the Salone Del Mobile 2012, is an installation that has been conceptualized at the Orto Botanico of Brera through the initiative of two internationally acclaimed companies, Barovier & Toso and Citco. From an architectural and design point of view, 'The Secret Garden’ is a fresh project that brings out the best in designer’s names, who have definitely accomplished the objective of an ‘interactive’ garden. This jolly secret garden, (a common secret in Milan’s design week), has acted as a literal break in the sequences of design showcases and has unveiled the art of nature exploration. In-between the patrician roman houses in Brera, the famous northern Milanese district and the Brera Accademia Art Museum, you come across the lush botanical garden named the Orto Botanico. Although it is considered to be one of the world’s most unique gardens, it also represents various past scientific exchanges, as it was used to be the university botanical garden, fortunately echoing nothing of the delirium of its immediate surroundings.
Barovier & Toso & Citco and Citco aimed to convey their expertise onto a breathtaking project. Barovier & Toso, by using their glassblowing proficiency to create lighting installations and chandeliers, and accordingly, Citco through the production of ornamented marble for surfaces; both striving for craftsmanship instead of a massive production. The installation was interpreted by the Paola Navone for Barovier & Toso and Zaha Hadid for Citco, who have approached Orto Botanico in the role of avid gardeners whereby they breathed new life into it. As a result, two different projects blended effortlessly into one setting, as architect and designer tried to experiment with each of the brand’s techniques for creating a forward-thinking installation.
In Paola Navone's project, hidden from the leafy surroundings, giant aeries in various forms and shapes, comprised of over 10,000 leftover hazelnut branches from the springtime pruning, lay on the ground or floated in the air. The accompanying chandeliers made out of traditional Murano blown glass welcomed visitors by almost murmuring to them. ‘Marino’, the iconic table lamp designed by Paola Navone sometime in the past, also made a guest star appearance in the enchanting environment.
Zaha Hadid on the other hand, constructed a pavilion, by binding three vertical surfaces in marble created by Citco, which she claims pays homage to ‘the complex beauty found in the organizational patterns of the natural world’ and ‘ the peerless logic and harmony of nature’. Treating natural systems and materials as a base of architectural experimentation, is nothing new for Zaha Hadid, a feat that has come to fruition many times in the past. To keep pace with today’s world, her architectural company continually reinvents itself investigating new materials and re-discovering new environments to make together fully articulated spaces. On the ‘Secret Garden’, Zaha Hadid believes that:
>> The formal dynamic of the design of the pavilion has been created with delicate touches that follow a coherent and logical order. A rhythm of cracks, folds and recesses defines the spaces which surround every piece: an integration of different shapes which reflect the individuality of each panel, while encouraging the treatment of each piece as part of the whole. This dialogue of geometries establishes a direct relationship between nature and architecture, a natural evolution of the creative language explored thanks to techniques which exploit the innovations in the digital design process and production techniques. <<
Altogether 'The Secret Garden’ evoked mysterious - among the trees - meditative moments, which provided a therapeutic experience away from the frenzy of the design week. At the same time, each brand’s product was experienced through all senses and not just exhibited. Although the only lacking element were real live animals, 'The Secret Garden’ made us wander around to stop upon occasion to gaze at the installations, the plants, and link them with the culture and the background history of this place.