A Pop-up Garden Propped up by Plastic Pallets

John Hill
1. November 2019
Photo © Juneyoung Lim, 2019 Gwangju Design Biennale by Gwangju Design Center Foundation

As part of the Gwangju Design Biennale, which wrapped up its two-month run on the last day of October, AIM Architecture installed a pop-up garden that briefly turned "a bare leftover public space into an urban oasis."

Project: Urban Bloom
Location: Gwangju, Korea
Event Organizer: Gwangju Design Biennale
Design Team: Wendy Saunders, Vincent de Graaf, Shirley Woo at AIM ARCHITECTURE
Landscape Team: Sunghwan Ryu at The Gardenest
Size: 330 m2
Photo © Juneyoung Lim, 2019 Gwangju Design Biennale by Gwangju Design Center Foundation

The public space in question is located in front of the Gwangju Design Center in Gwangju's Buk District. The space is a large plaza, a stone hardscape that is enlivened by lighter diagonal lines cutting across it. For the most part, this space functions as a forecourt for the large groups of people going to, and leaving from, the Biennale and other events at the Design Center. Inserting Urban Bloom, as the pop-up garden was called, into the space forced people to move around it, but an accessible path in the middle of the pop-up garden aligned with one of the plaza's diagonal lines and therefore asserted its site-specific nature and invited people into its fold.
 

Photo © Juneyoung Lim, 2019 Gwangju Design Biennale by Gwangju Design Center Foundation

On either side of the diagonal path through Urban Bloom were steps topped by plants, trees, grasses, quasi-terrariums suspended atop poles, and seating pads. The base of the pop-up garden and the steps were created quickly and inexpensively with plastic pallets, the product that is as ubiquitous as shipping containers but much easier to handle and obtain. The design team actually rented the pallets, thereby returning them to their original role in the global movement of goods. Their temporary use in Gwangju enabled them to serve as an artificial prop for a display of nature.

Photo © Juneyoung Lim, 2019 Gwangju Design Biennale by Gwangju Design Center Foundation

AIM Architecture, which worked with The Gardenest on the installation, considered Urban Bloom to be an exploration of "vulnerability in our public spaces" but also "a pop-up garden whose sole design intent is to bring joy." Most joyful is the foliage held aloft in plastic balloons; supported from poles, these orbs resemble artificial trees or child-like drawings of trees. Although the balloons didn't offer shade during the pop-up garden's tenure on the plaza, they worked with the plants and pallets to create a memorable entry point to the Biennale and a welcoming spot to slow down and take a rest in the midst of the city.

Photo © Juneyoung Lim, 2019 Gwangju Design Biennale by Gwangju Design Center Foundation
Photo © Juneyoung Lim, 2019 Gwangju Design Biennale by Gwangju Design Center Foundation

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