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Competition: International Gardens Festival, Quebec

Quebec’s International Gardens Festival has launched an open international call for a series of CAN $25,000 installations (Deadline: 20 December)

Open to individuals and multidisciplinary teams of landscape architects, architects, artists and designers, the competition seeks proposals for a series of landmark gardens for the 20th-anniversary instalment of the prestigious show which is hosted every year at Reford Gardens in the Gaspésie region of Québec.

The winning teams will receive a $5,000 fee, $2,000 worth of travel expenses and free accommodation close to the historic waterfront site to deliver their schemes in time for the opening of the festival in late June next year. A separate category will also be launched for emerging designers in their twenties.

International Gardens Festival site, Quebec

International Gardens Festival site, Quebec

International Gardens Festival site, Quebec

According to the brief: ‘For its 20th-anniversary edition, the festival is seeking to explore new directions and continue our exploration of play. “Terrains de jeu” is fertile ground for creativity, encompassing both the notion of compact space and play. The Festival is encouraging designers to imagine spaces that work within the confines of modest parcels all the while offering a big punch.

‘Confronting the planetary challenges of needing to limit growth, developing sustainably and minimizing our ecological impact, the 2019 Festival is a venue where designers will explore the principals of voluntary simplicity all the while offering a footprint for fun. The interactive spaces chosen through this competition will excite, enthral or envelop visitors. They will be child-friendly without being childish, adventurous without being unsafe. Explore, experiment and celebrate – this is the effect we want the 2019 Festival to have on every one of our 60,000 visitors.’

International Gardens Festival site, Quebec

International Gardens Festival site, Quebec

International Gardens Festival site, Quebec

Launched in 2000, the International Gardens Festival is an annual event held in Reford Gardens overlooking the St Lawrence River in eastern Québec. Now approaching its 20th instalment, the show has welcomed more than one million visitors and hosted more than 180 contemporary gardens by teams from around the world.

The waterfront Reford Gardens was created by pioneering gardener Elsie Reford from 1926 to 1958 and are now recognised as a national historic site for Quebec. The site is arranged in two perpendicular axes and features a variety of exhibition plots ranging from 150m² to 250m² in size.

The competition seeks innovative proposals for a series of CAN $25,000 installations which explore the themes of ‘play’ and ‘sustainability’. Applications must an A3-sized project board featuring text and conceptual images along with a separate document detailing the team.

The winning schemes, to be announced in January, will be constructed on site in May and must be ready for the festival opening on 22 June. A total of $10,000 worth of material costs and $10,000 of labour will be made available for each project.

How to apply


The deadline for applications is 5pm local time (EST) on 20 December

Contact details

Alexander Reford
International Garden Festival
Reford Gardens
200 route 132
G0J 1Z0


Visit the competition website for more information

Thames Walk Pavilion case study: Q&A with Studio Weave

The London practice discusses lessons learned designing a new riverside garden pavilion for Nine Elms

How did your project deliver a landmark pavilion and garden for the Thames Walk in Nine Elms?

Studio Weave was commissioned to design a pavilion as part of the Churchman redevelopment of the Thames Riverside Walk in Nine Elms. Echoing visions of a bygone industrial era of the Thames quays in Nine Elms, the Thames Walk Pavilion provides a new raised garden at Bourne Valley Wharf.

Thames Walk Pavilion by Studio Weave

Thames Walk Pavilion by Studio Weave

Source: Image by Ollie Hammick

Thames Walk Pavilion by Studio Weave

Working in collaboration with Churchman Landscape Architects, we aimed to enhance the Thames Riverside Walk in Nine Elms while large-scale building work was carried out locally. A series of new planters along the Thames Path was the first stage, and a primer project for the pavilion. The planters are constructed from the same proprietary metal panels as the pavilion would later be, usually used to construct water tanks. They have been sprayed with a copper finish, which will acquire a natural green verdigris over time as they weather and change.

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

The pavilion provides shelter for the public, as well as for furniture and equipment to be used in Bourne Valley Wharf. As a result the square is able to facilitate activities that complement the ongoing development of Nine Elms. The raised garden allows the pavilion to address the square while providing an additional patch of greenery easily appreciated from the ground level.

Thames Walk Pavilion by Studio Weave

Thames Walk Pavilion by Studio Weave

Source: Image by Ollie Hammick

Thames Walk Pavilion by Studio Weave

The pavilion is fabricated from copper coated water tank panels and cradles a medley of rich foliage that acts as a honeypot for creatures great and small. Hawthorn trees and a rainbow of grasses and perennials will create a home for wildlife as well as a splash of seasonal colour to the thoroughfare. Habitat is also created by the cladding to the water tower forming House Sparrow terraces. The area is known to host the House Sparrow, ‘Passer Domesticus,’ a species undergoing severe population decline.

The structure that supports these panels is of steel clad in timber, inspired by industrial-revolution-era flitch columns. The design of the proposal gives a nod to the industrial legacy of the Nine Elms area sparked by the industrial revolution, and to the quay structures now lost from the post-industrial bank of the Thames. Studio Weave invited print artist Linda Florence to design and print the colourful pattern adorning the timber. The rope-work and abstract motifs clad the supporting structure and bring vibrancy and colour to the façade and undercarriage.

Thames Walk Pavilion by Studio Weave

Thames Walk Pavilion by Studio Weave

Source: Image by Ollie Hammick

Thames Walk Pavilion by Studio Weave

Q&A with Alexander Reford

The director of the International Gardens Festival discusses his ambitions for the competition

Why are your holding an international contest for innovative installations at the International Gardens Festival?

This is the 20th edition of the festival that began as a millennium event (in 2000) to offer a platform and venue for new and emerging designs to imagine, construct and exhibit new landscapes and foster new approaches to experimentation in the curation of outdoors space and gardens. We typically have more than 50% international participation, with leading countries being US, France, UK and Germany, but designers participating from as many as 30 countries every year (last year we had 150 proposals). The jury (of five-plus members) choose based on the strength of the concept (rather than number of built projects or CV). Over the past 19 editions, the festival has been a platform for new designers and launched several on their careers or allowed them to transform their practices from work for large firms to working for their own studios or partnerships.

What is your vision for the new temporary installations?

Our brief is to create interactive spaces on a modest scale. The typical site is 10m x 20m and budget (extremely) modest ($10,000 CDN materials). So innovation and imagination are key; so to is usually locally sourced (and sometimes recycled) materials. After two or three years of exhibition, we often gift the installations to neighbouring communities. The constraints are many and are mostly in the duration of construction (May 1 to June 22) and budgetary. But there are no other constraints in terms of artistic liberty. For the past three editions, we have oriented our choices towards interactive spaces that foster wonderment among children and connect them to interactive spaces. The 2017 and 2018 had an open theme of “playsages” (=play + paysages) and for 2019 Terrains de jeu (play spaces). The success of the installations is visible in the photos of the installations and the smiles on the faces of the 10,000 + children who visited (we have a children under 13 enter free of charge policy).

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

We usually have about 50% architects and 50% landscape architects participate in the competition and a roughly equal number selected by the jury. But we have no % cut-off. We also encourage inter-disciplinary teams and hope for botanists, gardeners, garden designers and artists from various disciplines participate. We certainly encourage emerging practices to participate and often choose from this cohort. We also require those in larger firms to participate as artists so that we can identify the designers and not simply have a faceless firm participate. We have on occasion proceeded by invitation and have thus hosted leading designers.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

We are launching three additional initiatives shortly :

  1. La Vingtaine : to select and curate (up to 20) more modest projects by designers in their twenties to rejuvenate and re-connect with the younger cohort
  2. A competition to design the poster for our 20th-anniversary edition (primarily for graphic designers) ; we did this for our 10th-anniversary edition in 2009
  3. A Creative Camp to house young designers as part of a workshop experience, comprising access to our workshops and master class experiences with some of our designer alumni

Are there any other recent interactive installation projects you have been impressed by?

Our Festival was inspired by the annual Festival at Chaumont-sur-Loire when we began…and continue to be the North American leader in this field. Various other events have come and gone in the last twenty years and we have collaborated with several (Westonbirt in the UK). We have done installations at the Chelsea Fringe in London on two occasions (to bring two projects by Canadian designers to the UK) and have an annual program of installations off-site, such as a rooftop installation at the Musée de la Civilisation in Quebec City last summer and another in Old Montréal on a parkette opposite the Hôtel de Ville.