Design | May 11, 2023 |

designgarden 001
Images of Vitra design museum

Garden Futures Designing with Nature
Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein
March 25 – October 03, 2023

An exhibition by the Vitra Design Museum, the Wüstenrot Foundation, and the Nieuwe Instituut Gardens reflects identities, dreams, and visions. Deeply rooted in their culture, they can unfold immense symbolic potential. The recent revival of horticulture has focused less on the garden as a romantic refuge than as a place where concepts of social justice, biodiversity, and sustainability can be tried and tested. Gardens have become places of the avant-garde. The exhibition “Garden Futures” at the Vitra Design Museum is the first to explore the history and future of modern gardens. Where do today’s garden ideals come from? Will gardens help us achieve a liveable future for everyone? The exhibition addresses these questions using a broad range of examples from design, everyday culture, and landscape architecture – from deckchairs to vertical urban farms, from contemporary community gardens to living buildings to gardens by designers and artists including Roberto Burle Marx, Mien Ruys, and Derek Jarman.

designgarden 002
Images of Vitra design museum

The exhibition architecture will be designed by the Italian design duo Formafantasma. Gardens are full of hope and promise. Wherever people stake out a piece of nature to create a garden, its layout and design reveal much about how they relate to nature, be it as individuals or as a society. This is illustrated by the works of such diverse artists and architects as Hans Thoma, Georg Gerster, Athanasius Kircher, Gabriel Guevrekian, Barbara Stauffacher-Solomon, Alvar Aalto, Thomas Church, Vita Sackville-West, and Luis Barragán, all of which feature in a media installation at the start of the exhibition. They show the garden as an idealized space that pervades our daily lives as well as our imaginations – a place in which immediate practical function and profound symbolic, philosophical, or even religious significance are readily compatible.

designgarden 003
Images of Vitra design museum

Even the most private garden is more than a personal retreat. Every garden bears the marks of social and historical developments, political and commercial interests, and cultural value systems. This is addressed in the second part of the exhibition, where we learn that many plants forming a basic component of Western gardens have deep roots in colonial history. The Wardian case invented in the nineteenth century made it possible to send live plants all around the world. Its impact on the plant trade and on private gardens was significant, but it also contributed to the spread of invasive species and played a central role in breaking monopolies on important crops like tea or rubber, reaping huge benefits for the colonial powers.

designgarden 004
Images of Vitra design museum

The nineteenth century also saw the emergence of numerous urban planning concepts that sought to reconcile city and garden. In 1898, for example, the British social reformer Ebenezer Howard published his description of a garden city whose inhabitants would be able to grow their own food. The Green Guerrilla group co-founded in New York by Liz Christy, in turn, has been striving to redefine the garden as a place where social justice and public participation are actively negotiated. The group formed in the 1970s, but the questions raised by it and its predecessors still remain the subject of much debate: who is entitled to a garden, what is a garden for, and how can gardens be integrated into an urban environment?

designgarden 006
Images of Vitra design museum

There are many different ways of answering these questions. The third part of the exhibition introduces nine ground-breaking garden makers from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx (1909–1994) won international acclaim for their emphasis on native plants, Piet Oudolf’s plant compositions are attractive all year round, and author and gardener Jamaica Kincaid takes her garden in Vermont (USA) as her starting point in addressing colonial history, repression, and cultural appropriation. Artist and filmmaker Derek Jarman (1942–1994) faced his impending death by creating a variegated work of garden art in a place where it hardly seemed possible, amidst the hostile shingle on the coast of Kent, England, near a nuclear power station. A community garden in Kuala Lumpur co-founded by Malaysian landscape architect Ng Sek San exemplifies the many grassroots initiatives in megacities and metropoles all around the world.

designgarden 007
Images of Vitra design museum

The extensive Liao Garden designed by Chinese artist Zheng Guogu draws on the aesthetic of the »Age of Empires« video game and thus builds a bridge between virtual and real environments. These and other fascinating projects demonstrate how gardens articulate their makers’ creative approach and show that garden-making – a creative form of expression at the interface of the visual arts, architecture, and design – merits far more attention than it has hitherto received. The exhibition’s final section examines contemporary projects addressing the future of gardens. In an age of climate crisis, social injustice, biodiversity under threat, and social isolation, the garden offers a place in which to reimagine the future and develop solutions – a place of healing, spirituality, and learning.

designgarden 008
Images of Vitra design museum

The walkable textile »meadow« made especially for the exhibition by Argentinian artist Alexandra Kehayoglou highlights the dramatic threat that climate change poses to seemingly timeless landscapes. How to translate a growing awareness of this threat into innovative action in cities, buildings, schools, and other areas is illustrated in a six-metre scroll by architect Thomas Rustemeyer which, alongside contemporary projects, also features traditional and indigenous practices. In the age of the Anthropocene – that is the message of these and similar projects – the entire planet emerges as a garden that we need to cultivate, tend, and use responsibly.


designgarden 010
Images of Vitra design museum

Are you an artist, architect, designer? Would you like to be featured on ITSLIQUID platform? Send an e-mail to or fill the form below



    Design | May 17, 2024

    The Design Museum today announces a new display space for design research responding to environmental crises, opening to the public on Monday 20 November 2023. This will be the first display in a series curated by Future Observatory, the Design Museum’s national research programme for the green transition coordinated in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Read more


    Design | May 7, 2024

    Brand Z hlíny květ proudly announces its innovative approach to interior décor with the launch of its latest collection, merging the elegance of houseplants with artisanal ceramics. Read more

    Restaurant “Spring Feast” Chaohu

    Design | April 6, 2024

    The Bantang hot springs in Chaohu are a popular destination for tourists and wellness holidaymakers. Embedded in breath-taking surroundings, we designed a restaurant that translates the natural waterscape into a dynamic experiential space. The restaurant's unique selling point is the water of these famous springs, which is used in the preparation of dishes and served as drinking water. Read more

    Tsuyoshi Tane: The Garden House

    Design | March 18, 2024

    The presentation »Tsuyoshi Tane: The Garden House« at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery is dedicated to the recently constructed Tane Garden House on the Vitra Campus. With a footprint of barely 15 square metres, the house combines a rooftop viewing platform for Campus visitors and a meeting room for the gardeners who tend the grounds. Read more

    Sign up for our Newsletter.

    Enter your email to receive our latest updates!