CityScapes 2012 is a new and exciting garden festival taking place in London this summer, for which curators Daryl Moore and Adolfo Harrison have asked leading designers to create a variety of installations across the city. The event kicked off with Andy Sturgeon’s Pommery EyeGarden, A temporary city garden suspended high above the Thames in one of the London Eye pods.
Last night, I was able to attend the opening night of the second installation, which featured a garden created by Tony Heywood and Alison Condie called Glamourlands: A Techno-Folly. Heywood and Condie describe their creation as ‘hortiticultural installation art’. The garden has been on a nationwide tour since its first outing at the RHS Flower Show, Tatton Park, last year. Since then it has moved to London’s Berkley Square, then to the Chelsea Flower Show, and now to the intensely atmospheric Old Vic Tunnels. Each move has seen the garden become increasingly abstract.
I had no idea what to expect from the evening and, as I walked down the graffitted entrance to the Old Vic Tunnels, I wondered if I was actually getting horribly lost. Fortunately, I passed Andrew Fisher-Tomlin on his way out, who assured me I was going the right way and mentioned that the rain had really helped the effect. Now I was really confused – I was under the impression I was headed for a tunnel…
An inconspicuous side-door with a security guard outside marked the entrance to the tunnels and a front desk gave the feeling of entering a mysterious underground club. This feeling continued as I walked through to the first dank tunnel, filled with the pulse of beating music and the intoxicating aromas of Penhaligons perfumes, and then came face to face with a Hendrick’s Gin cocktail bar. I was handed a cocktail adorned with fresh rose petals and strawberry, and finished with a puff of spray, which may have been a scent, or may have been a flavour (by this time I was so won over by the ambience that it didn’t really matter).
Moving out of this pop-up bar and into the second tunnel was another experience to soak in. Glamourlands has been recreated and installed at the back of the tunnel and a semi-circle of candles on the floor stopped people moving too close. Though the installation had its own lighting, the tunnel around it was dark. Very dark. So dark in fact that it was hard to see the faces of those around me. I now knew what Andrew had meant by the rain; water had dripped through the roof to form a reflective pool in front of the garden, which added depth and yet more atmosphere to the scene.
I found the experience all-consuming. It was vibrant, energising, and so totally different from any other garden-type event I have been to. Speaking to Daryl Moore as I came out of the tunnel, it was clear that there is a movement happening in the garden design world, one that wants to place garden design in line with the other Arts. From where I’m standing, Glamourlands, with its quirky, underground vibe, is doing exactly that.
I believe that any space – be it architectural, landscape, natural or man-made – should have the capacity to evoke feeling. This CityScapes installation did that in spades. It was remarkable. Now, if only I’d had a partner in crime up there with me I think I would have had a few more of those delicious rose petal cocktails…