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Expo visit: Hwang Jihae’s Hanging Garden of Billingsgate

One of the most prominent exhibits at the Korea Brand and Entertainment Expo at Billingsgate was not a hologram of Psy or an animated cartoon character, but a garden that was a full 22 metres long, dominating the space behind the main stage’s seating area. In an event designed to demonstrate the range of Korean creativity, a specially-constructed garden was calculated to appeal to British sensibilities.

Not even Psy in a pink jacket can draw your attention from the unique 22 metre long indoor garden
Not even Psy in a pink jacket can draw your attention from the unique 22 metre long indoor garden

The garden, designed by double Chelsea Gold Medal-winner Hwang Jihae, was a project entitled 0.001. The concept for the design was that water flows downwards, even with the tiniest difference of 0.001mm in level. “This is a conceptual garden, representing the law and order of nature, and ultimately implies that all economic and social principles should flow towards a lower level,” explains Hwang in the documentation that goes with the garden.

The garden is designed to look as if it is floating on air. Constructed in a 22m x 1m container made of corten steel (an alloy that quickly develops a layer of rust which protects it from further corrosion) supported on narrow legs, the garden is made up of turf and mountain gravel together with many different kinds of ferns and grasses. The natural-looking planting contains mainly English varieties, with white and crimson baby cyclamen used for colour. But Hwang also brought a Korean native plant to add to the international concept. The plant, and anti-cancerous rock pine that grows in the mountains1 was in its own mini-garden arranged in an overturned Korean roof tile.

A Korean rock pine in its own self-contained garden
A Korean rock pine in its own self-contained garden

Moss-covered rocks – typical of her Chelsea creations – make the composition look as if it has been in place for years, but a very modern-looking channel of water runs the full length of the garden, LED lights under its rim illuminating the water as it runs surprisingly quickly from one end of the garden to the other.

The square edges of the container and the slick, straight black line down the middle, contrasts sharply with the soft, natural planting.

Of course, the saddest thing of all is that the garden was only in existence for three days. Eight hours after the Expo closed on Wednesday afternoon, the garden was dismantled to make way for the next users of the Billigsgate exhibition space.

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  1. Orostachys japonica (Maxim.) A. Berger []

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