Designed and built by 100Landschafts Architektur group Berlin, The Jardin de la Connaissance is a temporary garden in a Quebec, Canada forest.Incorporating approximately 40,000 books, multi-coloured wooden plates and several varieties of mushrooms the Jardin is just one of an amazing group of installations that compose the International Garden Festival 2010 at the Rockford Gardens in Grand-Métis on the south shore of the magestic St. Lawrence River.
Focused on the theme of paradise, the tree of knowledge is the central semiotic theme of the paradisiacal garden. Rather than reopening a way through the proverbial enclosures, the design team is interested in its manifold textures. From the single tree of knowledge they have gone to the many of the forest; from one truth to the plenitude of multimedia and the overwhelming world of information. The ‘Garden of Cognition’ does not illustrate a ‘return to nature’ or attempt a ‘biblical’ reconciliation, but its intention is to provide a platform to experience and frame the forest in a unique and compelling way. The garden engages the mythical relation between knowledge and nature integral to the concept of ‘paradise’. By using books as material in the construction of the garden, they confront these instruments of knowledge with the temporality of nature. And by exposing these fragile and supposedly timeless materials to transformation and disintegration, they also invite an emotional involvement of the visitor. The book assemblages establish a framework amidst the forest that embodies a variety of experiential activities. The Jardin de la Connaissance becomes a sensual reading room, a library, an information platform, a dynamic realm of knowledge.
The Jardin de la Connaissance is built from a large quantity of discarded books that form walls, benches, and carpets. Based on an open compositional principle, these elements are assembled to create a garden space, integrating it with the site and the structure of the forest. The orthogonal organization is reminiscent of a Neo-Plastic composition from the early 20th Century, invoking an optimistic orientation based on ‘primary’ elements. And yet, this ‘utopian’ notion is countered by the gradual decomposition of the paper material.The structure of the book-volumes is interspersed, marked and structurally supported by brightly coloured wood plates, which bind the individual book-stacks together.The bright, artificial colours of these elements complement the changing tones of the exposed paper in the books and the surrounding forest. The markers form a discrete linear composition suspended between the books. Thus they also create a luminous spatial signage, inviting visitors into the garden. Placed on the benches, some also serve as elements on which the visitor can sit.
Extending the theme of transformation and providing an additional element in the semiotic field of cultural and natural knowledge, mushrooms add an additional materiality to the garden. Knowledge about the cultivation of mushrooms is – with the exception of the Japanese shiitake (ca.1000 years) and the button mushroom (ca.350 years) – rare and quite new. The cultivation of other mushroom varieties has begun only in recent decades. Eight different, edible mushroom varieties such as Winecap or Oyster mushrooms are cultivated within particular books and are nourished by the book walls. The mushrooms are pre-cultivated from spawn-sets and prepared for insertion in the book walls in well-watered book bundles. The mushrooms will be watered and humidifi ed on a regular basis. The mushrooms enrich the theme of the post-paradise life cycle. This also responds to the temporal nature of the garden installation within the framework of a temporary garden festival.
Photos by Jardin de la Connaissance designers Thilo Folkerts and Rodney LaTourelle.