The Redford Gardens solicited proposals, in the Winter of 2014, for designs to replace a series of the gardens for the opening of the summer 2015 festival. Each of the temporary gardens were to be designed with an individual central concept that could be clearly articulated and a degree of interactivity that encourages visitors to enter with enthusiasm and leave with a wish to dialogue and discuss. The call sought both proposals of complexity and simplicity with the goal of intriguing visitors with the unusual to de-familiarize the user from what is conventional.
The festival saw a new record of over 300 submissions from over 34 countries showing a diverse range of approaches.
Fields of grain yield the most crops when planted as dense wall of vegetation. Insulation and pollination rule this typical agricultural condition, establishing a dense grain forest, often utilized as setting to heighten mystery and suspense in cinema. A periscope is an instrument that creates an optic threshold, transporting the viewer to a previously inaccessible datum to perceive activities beyond an obstruction. In Above the Grain a range of periscopes are deployed across the garden, wherein traditional crop rotation takes place, establishing an active ecological system as well as a new field for discovery and memory. The three types of crop, corn, soybean, and wheat were selected to both reflect the grains of the Canadian landscape, but also to establish multiple heights of visible obstacle when meandering in the field. Visitors wander through the grain maze with walls of flourishing vegetation above their heads, at their eye level, and at their ankles throughout the seasonal garden.
Narrow passages through the grain stalks establish a physical compression, a space of heightened vertical tension. The periscopes provide the contrasting optic portal of release allowing the pedestrian to view the crop’s growth from a multitude of heights, while also allowing the user to find themselves by locating the horizon in the world beyond. At specific moments within the field several periscopes are clustered together allowing garden goers to peek around corners getting previews of the planting palette in the path beyond as well as creating fun opportunities for spotting fellow visitors. They are laminated with imagery of grain production in addition to being wrapped with a lexicon of farming production.
The design of the garden aims at embracing the annual cycles of celebration, thus creating a buzz with the social and ecological rhythms of the landscape beyond.