Towards Paradise by Gustafson Porter

Landscape architects Gustafson Porter created a secret garden called Towards Paradise at the Venice architecture biennale, which opened last month.


The garden, located in the overgrown grounds of a former Benedictine nunnery at the Arsenale, consists of two parts: Nourishment (above) features rustic flower and vegetable plots and leads to the second area, Enlightenment (below), featuring abstract landforms and a canopy held aloft by balloons.


The Biennale continues until 23 November.


See all our stories about the 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale.


Info from the designers follows:


Gustafson Porter and Gustafson Guthrie Nichol design the first major landscape installation at the Venice Biennale

Entitled Towards Paradise, the landscape installation will be sited at the end of the Arsenale at the 2008 Venice Biennale, within the overgrown grounds of the former Church of the Virgins, a Benedictine nunnery that was destroyed in the late 1800s. Gustafson Porter (London) and Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (Seattle) were commissioned by Biennale Director Aaron Betsky to create the installation, as part of the 11th International Architecture Exhibition - to be held from 14 September to 23 November 2008.


This is the first time that the architecture Biennale will feature a major landscape installation. Entitled “Out There: Architecture Beyond Building,” the premise for the 2008 Biennale is that “…architecture is not building… (it) is something else.”


Neil Porter, Director of Gustafson Porter, states, “Landscape architecture is a greatly neglected subject from a curatorial point of view, so we are hugely excited by the opportunity of engaging with visitors at the Biennale. The architecture of buildings and landscapes are clearly intrinsically linked and it is crucial that we work to uplift and enhance the built environment around us.”


“In his brief for the landscape installation, Betsky quoted Voltaire’s Candide, ‘Il faut cultiver notre jardin’, meaning ‘to cultivate one’s garden’, or to tend to one’s affairs. Towards Paradise is conceived as a contemporary allegory in the broadest sense. It will take the visitor on a journey through earthly dilemmas, evoking what has been lost and what can be gained.

Telling a story of past, present and future, the garden  is composed of two main spaces linked by pathways cleared from the overgrowth of the abandoned garden. In ‘Nourishment’ one finds sustenance for body and soul. A clearing that has been carved from the bramble leads to ‘Enlightenment’ where a sculpted landform offers space for reflection, commemoration, conversation, contemplation and dreams of Paradise.

Design Statement from Gustafson Porter and Gustafson Guthrie Nichol

We design to express a concept subtly, without imposing it. The story of the landscape is emotive and intuitive, intended to be felt more than understood. Similar to the way we emotionally experience a work of art, individuals discover meaning through the intangible and ephemeral qualities of a landscape. When a place has intuitive meaning, it becomes valued and timeless.

In modern culture, the human senses receive a formidable amount of information each day. Many people are experiencing a sensory overload. As a response to these conditions, our work is designed to be calming, expansive, and accessible. We often seek to create serene spaces in which people may pause and reflect.

– Gustafson Porter (London) and Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (Seattle)