This year Gill Landscapes was fortunate to partner with the creative brains at Xteriorscapes to create a stunning exhibition for the new Christchurch garden festival Grow Otautahi. Unfortunately due to the global covid 19 crisis, this festival was cancelled. By the time the decision was made, we were already the majority of the way through the project and decided we should still share it with you all. Our focus was on ecological sustainability and early childhood education. Take a look at the design and read the brief by Xteriorscapes below.
Learning your roots – A place for kids to grow
Tamariki (children) are our future. Give them opportunities for playing, learning, creating mischief, sharing love, building friendship and watch them thrive. But most importantly, help them understand their roots, their mana whenua (belonging)… Where do they come from? How did the world they live in come to be? Where does the food they eat come from? How should they care for the world they live in? Look around – What does your outdoor learning environment currently say about your space?
Xteriorscapes Landscape Architects have partnered with Gill Landscapes and Halswell Quarry Preschool to create a garden of learning and play for our young kiwi kids, which lets them explore the answers to these questions. This garden lets tamariki get hands-on and explore the worlds of edible gardens and native ecosystems which once existed in the Christchurch and Port Hills areas. All of this amongst a space where play and challenge are paramount to learning.
Kids often don’t understand where the food they are eating comes from and what is required to produce it. Our garden gives tamariki a chance to learn what it means to grow, nurture and prepare plant-based food. To understand sustainable living – the origins of food in its simplest form and to be a part of growing it. We want to provide kids with the basic skills and knowledge to understand he kai kei aku ringa (there is food at the end of my hands).
Our garden also lets kids get involved in growing and caring for a variety of native trees shrubs and groundcovers, specific to the Port Hills / Halswell area. This process of care and nurturing lets young ones understand the importance of Papatūānuku (Mother Earth) and the indigenous ecosystems that once existed in their city.
Learning should absolutely go hand in hand with play, challenge and mana aotūroa (exploration). Our garden reflects this; the learning spaces in our garden are connected to an organic play structure, like roots supporting the trunk of a tree. Native shrubs and groundcovers grown by the children are planted amongst a central play tower, letting kids climb, slide and balance amongst a native wilderness, reminiscent of Canterbury’s former forests.
The spaces in our sustainable living garden are inspired by some of the most fundamental natural elements from which growth begins – rock and soil. Throughout our garden, the irregular and angular built forms and structures take on the shape of microscopic soil particles. The use of Port Hills basalt throughout the garden lets kids get a hands-on, tactile understanding of their local geology, an awareness of the volcanic landscape that they reside in, and a connection with ngā taonga tuku iho (natural resources).
Our garden provides a space where tamariki can experience what it means to live sustainably. Where possible, construction materials are sustainably sourced – Recycled timbers, specific use of off-cuts, and natural logs can be found in the garden, all sourced locally here in Christchurch.
Hanging planters made from transparent bottles create a fantastic space-friendly herb or vegetable gardens, where our tamariki can learn how manufactured products can be repurposed. Not only can tamariki see the growth of plants above the soil, they also learn how the root system of plants look and grow beneath the soil. Needing a work bench in your garden? How about creating one from materials that you would otherwise have to dispose of. This gives our young ones the imagination to explore their own homes and see what materials they can repurpose. Empowering our tamariki with this knowledge of sustainable living positively impacts our environment for years to come.
Our commitment to sustainable living design and construction goes one step beyond this exhibition – what happens with our garden next? Following the conclusion of Grow O Tautahi Garden Festival, the components of our garden will be relocated to Halswell Quarry Preschool, and will form an important part of their larger play space. Xteriorscapes, Halswell Quarry Preschool and Gill Landscapes are excited to see this exhibition become a permanent installation, and continue as a place for children to learn, play, explore and connect with their surroundings.
It is the responsibility of our generation to ensure resources are protected and knowledge is shared, mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri ā muri ake nei (for us and our children after us).
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