Deconstructing the Shed

Several years ago, London's Victoria and Albert Museum hosted The Other Flower Show. Ten renowned artists were invited to transform a museum- provided garden shed into a work of art. The result was an exhibit conceptually based around the method of gardening rather than the garden itself. The following artists each gave a great example of how to expand your shed to be more than just a shelter for your tools.

The Playhouse: Artist and Designer Tord Boontje, well-known for his laser cut Tyvek curtains and light shades, raised his shed up a floor-level into a fancifully decorated tree house. Though no longer convenient for shed use at such height, Boontje transformed his structure into a lacey, fantasy domicile (albeit for a family on stilts) that would surely inspire a garden of its surroundings.

The Temple: Heather Barnett's Rooted in Time (see image above) is one part greenhouse, one part sanctuary. The interior space is comprised of seeds sown to the wall in wallpaper patterns resulting in delicate and lush patterns, less of a shed, and more of a garden infused with traditional qualities of both Asian and British gardens.

The Getaway: Upon entering duo Illustrious' shed, visitors were transported to the British countryside through a 3-D sound field. Think surround sound meets virtual reality, bringing new meaning to the field of audio architecture. But the sounds included surprises, as gardens often do, with jolts of urban noise. Sound, an often overlooked sense in gardening Illustrious reminds us, is essential for the atmosphere, space and place.

The Laundromat: Possibly London's most picked-on artist, Tracy Emin created a shed that functions as a metaphorical clothes line where she can air her dirty laundry. Often discussed in a controversial light, Emin's nostalgic sculptures are sexually charged yet amusingly appropriate for a garden. After all, the birds and the bees are just as important tools for the garden as the hoe.

Amnesty HQ: Graham Fagen's Blood Shed, another audio installation, crafted a gardening playlist of songs representing disparate politics. The shed itself displays items placed together to emphasize the earth and the dissection of it. The result is a veritable tilling of identity in relationship to the environment, as well as an amendment to the soils of cultural dissolution.

Watering Hole: Another partner created work, Fat's Drip Shack, is anti-architecture brought to life with water. The conceptually deconstructivist building recalls plant life cycles in a man-made, structure. The shed transposes organic with mechanic, and the resulting dichotomy illustrates nature's incredible ability to animate.

The World's Largest Camera: Nilu Izadi's Camera Obscura is a pin-hole camera in the guise of a shed. A hole in the ceiling constantly captures the sky and the trees as smaller cameras do, but this was a camera one could walk into, enjoying the garden from the outside in, and from the upside down.

The Laboratory: Andreas Oehlert's shed was more of a combination laboratory/presentation hall. Oelhart's hybrid of mismatched flowers parts creates an ominous hall of mirrors reflecting bioengineering at its most eerie.

The Status Symbol: This quote from the Victoria and Alber Museum site is the most brilliant description of Sarah Staton's work, Swiss Cheese:

It is this notion of Englishness that interests Sarah Staton, particularly in reference to style, where the dilution of modernist ideals produced a 'populist pastiche modernist style solution'. This has since been championed through lifestyle magazines, TV decorating shows and lifestyle superstores such as IKEA.
Rather than creating an environment in her shed and focusing on its architectural function, Staton plays with its structural form, allowing it to become a sculptural object in its own right. The formal aspect hints at a modernist aesthetic but the interior floral decoration, the colour palette and the wooden structure seem more Better Homes than Bauhaus.

All too often gardening is left to the designers in a high brow world of acceptable versus affordable. Staton accepts these ideals, but only after she has firmly placed her tongue in cheek.

The Drawing Room: Chris Taylor and Craig Wood's work titled Our Shed approached the task as the initiators, but left fate to finish the piece once the exhibit opened. The pair created floral connect-the-dot wallpaper, leaving it lineless and open for the public to solve. This philosophy of removed interaction evolved much like a wildflower garden, with no way to predict the colorful graffiti-like outcome.

Each of these artists emphasized a distinct concept of gardening, simultaneously exploring the shed's role in place and time. All too commonly the shed is dismissed. Let's face it, how stirring can tool storage really be? Each of these artists brazenly approached this question on many levels, something the gardener reverently does in their flower patch daily.

Originally published on YouGrowGirl.com.

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