This project in the Auckland suburb of Rangimatarau is an example of how gardens can be designed to create engagement with the communities they sit within, rather than being a cloistered space for private pleasure. On a busy street corner the garden is designed to provide a rich and diverse palette of plants and flowers, including fruit trees and herbs, as well as indigenous New Zealand plants. We were excited by exploring the boundaries of public and private, and the idea that the fringes of our suburban spaces can be used to create interface as well as support diversity, providing food and human interactions, all of which make this a simple but special project.
Key to the success in this garden was achieving a garden which depends on plants rather than hardscape for its magic, allowing the architecture of the house to provide a beautiful backdrop and permanence of form. As landscape designers an important part of our practice is using beauty to effect behaviour in a positive way, creating spaces that are supportive of human ecology in an urban and suburban environment.
In the Rangimatarau project the garden has been designed to encourage the occupiers out onto the street to interact with the community as they garden. Rather than aiming to create a low maintenance landscape, the garden is intended to activate engagement within this living space. It is intended to be an example of how affordable plantings can transform our communities both in beauty and in behaviour. Indeed one key success of the project is that the owners – who had previously not been gardeners – have taken to being outside in the garden with pleasure and joy. It’s kept them connected to passers by and given them a new appreciation for the process of gardening.
Diversity of plant material has also been important to the success of this garden, creating both a constantly changing myriad of beauty, as well as preserving a rich array of species. The planting is unified by colour and texture, allowing productive plants and flowers, as well as wild plants to marry together to provide a suburban bank of ecological richness. The ability for variance in suburban gardens is immense, making this a key opportunity for individuals to activate the environment in a way that may otherwise be draining on municipal authorities.
The message we wish to share is that as designers it is not our role to simply create fixed spaces. Instead, we look to inspire activation, where our skills can create ecologies that are living and evolving beyond our own control. The success is not when the designer’s hand controls every movement, but when we activate a gardener to have ownership of their own environment.
Architect: Guy Tarrant
Project location: Rangimatarau, Auckland, New Zealand
Photographs supplied by: Carme Aguayo
Design year and build: 2016