The Marble and Granite Centre – Antithesis of Sarcophagi was designed by Martin Cook and Gary Breeze, and built by Chris Holland Landscapes. This Fresh Garden was sponsored by The Marble and Granite Centre Ltd. This is a thought provoking garden, a cube garden – a garden within a cube; one that you have to get up close to, then find a small opening in the cube, to look through, to be able to view the garden inside. The theme of this fresh garden is ‘world turned inside out’, it’s a garden created inside a sculpture.
Representing civilisation versus nature, or desolation versus life, this garden is a talking point, one that will provoke thought, discussion and reflection. The 2.5m granite cube, weighs in at 44 tonnes! It is one of the largest pieces of stone to be imported into the UK. The inspiration for this cube, came in part from the designers’ memory of a visit to a German quarry, where they saw a hollow, cubed structure, and in part from the thought of Howard Carter peering through a crack, to see the treasures inside Tutankhamun’s tomb. The cube is surrounded by charred fencing and ash, the feeling being very stark, lifeless and intimidating as you approach, then in contrast, inside the cube, Allium ursinum, more commonly known as wild garlic, foxgloves, ferns and other British woodland plants flourish, showing natures ability to rejuvenate and grow after destruction.
The RHS judges awarded The Marble and Granite Centre – Antithesis of Sarcophagi, a Gold Medal, the judges also chose this garden as the Best Fresh Garden of The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.
I caught up with co-designer Gary Breeze to find out more about this intriguing garden and its design, at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.
B: How do you get in? Do you have to use a ladder?
GB: Yes, the gardener gets in and we leave him in there, and we feed him peperami through the little holes.
B: So is this garden designed to be mainly about the rebirth of nature? That’s how I interpret the garden.
GB: Yeah, well we kind of see it as a very hopeful thing, that no matter what destruction takes place – whether man-made or otherwise – nature keeps on rejuvenating. It’s very desolate on the outside.
B: What inspired your idea of a cube garden?
GB: I designed the memorial to the victims of the Bali bomb, which is Horseguard’s road, which consists of a big granite ball, and that was extracted from a block not dissimilar to this in size, and what they did is they cored out a cylinder out of the middle of the block, and then they turned it into a ball for us. When we were working on that in Germany – which was 10 years ago – the waste material from the Bali bomb memorial was a block like this with a crack in it, and you could see that it wasn’t solid when you in it, it was hollow. Martin Cook, who’s the other designer, he was working with me on that project – he project-managed that job – and so we saw it together and we both looked in and got excited about this object as a thing, but of course we didn’t have the funds at the time to purchase that block and then move on with it. And now it has become a garden.
B: Is this block open at the bottom so you can dig into the ground?
GB: Yes, I mean, this was 44 tonnes, 29 tonnes taken out of the middle of it, and it’s completely hollow from top to bottom.
B: How have you angled the mirrors?
GB: They’re just carefully placed inside.
B: So are the holes like a cone?
GB: Yes, they are, and they’re all angled so you can see. This one is designed to be at the right height for the Queen.
B: What’s going to happen to the cube and the garden when The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is over?
GB: Well, we don’t know! I mean, this cube is a piece of sculpture, it’s available for sale, but we don’t have any place for it to go that’s already been planned.
B: So what will you do? If the cube doesn’t sell, what will you do?
GB: Well, this garden was sponsored by the Marble and Granite centre, one of the biggest importers of stone in the UK, so they’ll take it back to their yard, and very proudly keep it there and show people. It’d be nice if it moved on to a space where people could enjoy, perhaps changing the planting inside.
B: Do you have a favourite garden here apart from yours?
GB: Yes, I really like Cleve West’s garden, I love that garden. I mean, there’s a couple of gardens that I think are really good. I can’t remember his name, the Australian guy….
B: Charlie Albone?
GB: Yes, that’s him. I saw Cleve West’s garden when it was just hard landscaping, and it was stunning – well, the trees were in, and they were stunning.