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Garden Design

Magic Lies Outside

Karen Shaw

Karen Shaw

April 17, 2021

Magic Lies Outside is the fitting theme for the 2021 edition of the International Garden Festival, Grand-Métis, Canada.  Five new projects from Canada, the United States, France and Sweden have been selected from 160 entries to display in the existing gardens.

This year’s festival strives to bring hope, to inspire creativity, and to brighten up the world as we struggle to make it through the global pandemic and get back on our feet after many difficult months of lockdown. The five projects will create an open-air museum for visitors to explore.

The new gardens will be on exhibit at Les Jardins de Métis / Reford Gardens from Saturday, June 26 to Sunday, October 3, 2021.

Visitors will enjoy more than 25 gardens, each one pushing the frontiers of contemporary design and offering a unique mix of curated environments, natural experiences, horticultural staging and human creativity.

The five new gardens selected for the 2021 edition are:

Choose your Own Adventure

Balmori Associates [Noémie Lafaurie-Debany, Javier Gonzalez-Campana, Simon Escabi, Chris Liao, Cristina Preciado, landscape and urban designers] New York, United States

Choose your own adventure Image, Balmori Associates

In the middle of a global pandemic brought upon us in part by global warming and its undeniable effects on all living things, fighting climate change by modifying our current toxic relationship with other living things and elements of nature: soil, water, air, plants and animals is now critical. Rethinking our connection to nature, after living in lockdown, can start with appreciating natural phenomena: the gusty wind, the wet bark, the musky shade, the dry air, the sweet smell, the hot stone, the crunchy gravels… The garden challenges the still frame images posted on the world wide web reminiscent of the eighteenth century picturesque. Malcolm Andrews described tourists seeking the ideal landscapes as “‘fixing’ them as pictorial trophies in order to sell them or hang them up in frames on their drawing room walls” (aka Instagram of the twenty-first century!). But a landscape never happens twice, and its lack of fixity and hyper sensorial experiences are heightened through this simple matrix that forms the garden. Running East/West bands of planting intercepts North/South bands of different hard materials. CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE, smell, touch, listen, taste and see.



Emil Bäckström, architect Stockholm, Sweden


Hässja. Image, Emil Bäckström, architect


You can see them from afar, unknown, yet familiar creatures standing in the field – seemingly waiting. They catch sunlight and emit a warm golden glow. The wind makes them move slightly. You see them in a constellation, grouped together, but never too close to each other. They are the same kind, but each and every one of them have their unique shape and expression. A piece of nature that has been transformed into something living. When you get close enough, you can see that the creatures are made up of millions of individual objects, stalks of hay. Moving closer, you can feel the distinct smell and you can touch the both sharp and soft flesh of the structures. And then you crawl inside. The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us a lot. It has exposed a disconnection from nature, agriculture and the importance of biodiversity. All around the globe, a regained interest in traditional, sustainable ways of inhabiting the earth is emerging. H​ässja​ is an installation based on one of these nearly lost arts of working the soil – hay-drying structures. The three structures, made out of the very plants surrounding them, are not only educational, they are formed and arranged in a way that enhances their inherited visceral qualities. Unlike normal hay-drying structures, these have an interior room. The small space inside each provides a refuge from the world of today, and provides for reflection on man’s relation to nature, to past and future ways of inhabiting our land.


M​iroirs acoustiques

Emmanuelle Loslier, landscape architect, Camille Zaroubi, landscape architect Montreal (Quebec) Canada


Miroirs acoustiques. Image, Emmanuelle Loslier, landscape architect, Camille Zaroubi, landscape architect

Sound mirrors are passive devices used to reflect and focus sound waves. Historically, they were implemented across the coast of Great Britain during World War I to detect incoming enemy aircraft. Sound waves bounce off the parabolic reflector and meet at the focal point where they are amplified, creating the illusion that whatever is making the sound is right next to you. ​Miroirs acoustiques​ consists of two parabolic reflectors (recycled aluminum antennas) planted in the ground. Positioned back-to-back, one points to the festival, an anthropogenic environment, and the other points to a forested area and the St. Lawrence. Visitors are invited to experience the two contrasting soundscapes.

The focal point is marked on the ground showing visitors where to stand. A hole in the centre of the sound mirrors encourages visitors to observe the environment on the other side of the installation and, in doing so, places them in the optimal position to hear the focused sound waves.


Open Space

legaga [Gabriel Lemelin, Francis Gaignard, Sandrine Gaulin, interns in architecture] Quebec (Quebec) Canada

Open space. Image, legaga

The title of this garden says it all — this installation is a figurative and literal open space. In Open Space, ​the walls of a typical house are opened out to create an open floor plan with endless possibilities. With a flick of a wand, everyday household objects—doors, staircases, windows and walls—take on new meaning. We can walk up and down the walls, dangle our feet through the door, stand and chat around the staircase, sit on the fireplace, the possibilities really are endless. In the past year, houses have become a symbol of lockdown. In O​ pen Space​, they go back to being a fun, safe and familiar place where you can let your imagination run wild. And when you let your imagination run wild, you can find magic anywhere.



David Bonnard, architect DE-HMONP, Laura Giuliani, landscaper, Amélie Viale, visual artist Lyon, Villefranche sur Saône et Lissieu, France

P​orte-bonheur. Image, David Bonnard, architect DE-HMONP, Laura Giuliani, landscaper, Amélie Viale, visual artist

Doors have long been considered a departure point, a gateway to step through on our way to adventure. Yet in the past year, doors have taken on a different meaning. Rather than throwing the door open and heading to adventure, our doors have remained firmly shut, keeping us apart from the people we love.

Porte Bonheur​ is a rite of passage between reality and potentiality. The installation invites visitors to dare to throw open the door, to cross thresholds, to go outside and to explore their surroundings with all the wonder of a small child. A reawakening through subtle distortion where a door—our daily symbol of lockdown—becomes something virtual and gradually disappears as the visitor wanders through the installation towards a new horizon. A natural, peaceful horizon, because there’s no doubt about it, the magic is outdoors.




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