Garden Futures: Designing with Nature – The new exhibition in Helsinki delves into green ideas

The Museum of Finnish Architecture and Design Museum join forces for a collaborative exhibition that explores the shapes and significance of gardens across different times and places. The Garden Futures exhibition also beckons visitors to discover Finnish suburban nature and allotment gardens.

Stefano Boer: Bosco Verticale
Architect Stefano Boeri’s plant-covered Bosco Verticale towers are located in Milan. Image: The Blink Fish

THE MUSEUM OF FINNISH ARCHITECTURE and Design Museum have united for their first-ever joint exhibition. Garden Futures: Designing with Nature is a touring exhibition curated by Vitra Design Museum, Wüstenrot Foundation, and Nieuwe Instituut, with Helsinki having the honor of being its first stop on the tour.

The exhibition is divided into four thematic sections: Paradise, Garden Politics, World as a Garden and The Garden: A Testing Ground.

The exhibition architecture is designed by the Italian studio Formafantasma, also known for their collaboration with Artek.

Alexandra Kehayoglou: The Meadow
Artist Alexandra Kehayoglou’s large textile artwork, The Meadow, was crafted through tufting. Image: Dominique Jahn
Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg: Pollinator Pathmaker
A digital rendering of artist Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg’s artwork Pollinator Pathmaker, which aims to design gardens from pollinators’ perspective. Image: Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg

The Garden Futures exhibition paints a picture of gardens as reflections of the ideals and dreams of their time: gardens have always mirrored not only the aesthetic preferences of each era but also the values and pursuits of the surrounding society. A media installation delving into this theme offers glimpses into the gardens designed by the likes of Alvar Aalto, Luis Barragán, and Barbara Stauffacher-Solomon.

For a long time, gardens were perceived as havens and romantic escapes from the wild nature for humans. However, in today’s world, with human influence reaching every corner of the globe, the situation has reversed. Who actually needs protection and from whom, asks the exhibition.

Artist Liz Christy in New York
Artist Liz Christy’s Green Guerillas movement practiced activism by distributing seed bombs around New York in the 1970s. Image: Donald Loggin
Piet Oudolf: Vitra Campus garden
A garden designed by Dutch Piet Oudolf located at Vitra Campus in Germany. Image: Dejan Jovanovic
Piet Oudolf: Vitra Campus garden
At the Vitra Oudolf Garden, the shapes, colors, and blooming times of different plants come together in a flourishing balance. Image: Dejan Jovanovic

Gardens can also lead us to unexpected political questions. Exploring these themes are, among others, Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, emphasizing the significance of native plants, and American writer and gardener Jamaica Kincaid. Through gardens, Kincaid delves into topics like colonial history and cultural appropriation.

Gardens provide an opportunity to explore new ways of sustainable interaction between humans and the rest of nature.

Beyond reflecting societal values, gardens and garden design also serve as testing grounds for new ideas. Gardens thus provide an opportunity to explore new ways of sustainable interaction between humans and the rest of nature – possibly even solutions to global crises such as climate change and biodiversity loss.

Puutalo Oy: Metsäkoto
In post-war Finland, gardens contributed to self-sufficiency. Puutalo Oy’s Metsäkoto house type dates back to the 1940s. Image: Museum of Finnish Architecture
Birger Kaipiainen
Finnish ceramic artist Birger Kaipiainen is known for his decorative nature-inspired works. Image: Wärtsilän kuvaamo
Maj-Lis Rosenbröijer: Pähkinärinne
Maj-Lis Rosenbröijer designed the Pähkinärinne residential area in Vantaa in the 1970s. Image: Maj-Lis Rosenbröijer’s collection / Museum of Finnish Architecture

While the Garden Futures exhibition is a German-Dutch collaboration, examples relevant to Finland have also been included in the Helsinki exhibition.

Garden designer Elisabeth Koch’s allotment gardens, as well as suburban gardens by landscape architect Maj-Lis Rosenbröijer and landscape architect Leena Iisakkila provide a local perspective on the topic. Additionally, the exhibition features works by Finnish ceramic artist Birger Kaipiainen, known for his lush garden-themed pieces.

The Museum of Finnish Architecture also hosts the Allotment Garden, a space designed for museum guests to explore and unwind, as well as participate in events throughout the exhibition. The space can be also booked for grassroots-level activities related to garden themes.

The exhibition Garden Futures: Designing with Nature will be on display at the Museum of Finnish Architecture and Design Museum in Helsinki until March 31, 2024.

See also:

Publications by Vitra Design Museum >

Edit: Nora Uotila

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