The Vitra Museum explores the past and future of modern gardens


Can Gardens save the world?
“Garden Futures”; the Vitra Museum explores the past and future of modern gardens

The exhibition “Garden Futures. Designing with Nature”, at the Vitra Design Museum from 25 March 2023, explores the history and future of modern gardens. Where do today’s garden ideals come from? Will gardens help us achieve a liveable future for everyone? The exhibition addresses these questions using a broad range of contents, including historical documents – which tell us, for example, how many plants found in western gardens are intertwined with colonial history – objects of design and everyday culture, projects of ideal cities, and landscape architecture.

cover: Céline Baumann, Parliament of Plants, 2020
© Studio Céline Baumann

The nineteenth century saw the emergence of many urban planning concepts that sought to reconcile city and garden. In 1898, for example, the British social reformer Ebenezer Howard published his description of a garden city whose inhabitants would be able to grow their food; seventy years later, the Green Guerrilla group co-founded in New York by Liz Christy, in turn, has been striving to redefine the garden as a place of social justice and public participation.

The third part of the exhibition introduces nine ground-breaking ‘garden makers’ from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Among others the Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx (1909–1994) won international acclaim for emphasis on native plants; artist and filmmaker Derek Jarman (1942–1994) faced his impending death by creating a work of garden art in a place where it hardly seemed possible, amidst the hostile shingle on the coast of Kent, England, near a nuclear power station; the extensive Liao Garden designed by Chinese artist Zheng Guogu draws on the aesthetic of the “Age of Empires” video game and builds a bridge between virtual and real environments.
The exhibition’s final section examines contemporary projects addressing the future of gardens. In an age of climate crisis, social injustice, biodiversity under threat, and social isolation, the garden offers a place to reimagine the future and develop solutions – a place of healing, spirituality, and learning.


Ebenezer Howard, Diagram of the garden city concept, published in his book »To-Morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform« 1898. © Town and Country Planning Association.


Friedrich August Krubsacius, Design for an unknown garden, 1760. © SLUB Dresden / Deutsche Fotothek, Germany


Liz Christy in a community garden, New York City, the 1970s. Photo: Donald Loggins.

Featured artists and designers (selection) Céline Baumann, Burle Marx, Mien Ruys, Kieran Dodds, Leonardo Finotti, Formafantasma, Zheng Guogu, Alexandra Kehayoglou, Jamaica Kincaid, Piet Oudolf, Ng Sek San, Lalage Show, Chew Yue Siew, Howard Sooley, Stefano Boeri, Mien Ruys, José Tabacow, Henk Wildschut, Julia Watson, Marian van Aubel, Dan Pearson, Midori Shintani, Full Grown, Fritz Haeg, Catherine Mosbach, James Hitchmough, Bas Smets, Daisy Ginsberg, and many others.

Garden Futures. Designing with Nature
An exhibition by the Vitra Design Museum, the Wüstenrot Foundation, and the Nieuwe Instituut.
25 March – 03 October 2023, Vitra Design Museum
Charles-Eames-Str. 2 79576 Weil am Rhein – Germany


James Wines, Drawing of the Highrise of Homes (theoretical project), 1981.
Collection Jonathan Holtzman © James Wines


Stefano Boeri Architetti, Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest), Milan, 2007–2014
© Stefano Boeri Architetti, Photo: Dimitar Harizanov, 2020

29-Vitra-Design-Museum-Garden-Futures-Boso -verticale-trees-scheme-1

Diagram of trees and plants of the Bosco verticale, 2014
© Stefano Boeri Architetti


Woman on the Altorfer Lounger, the so-called Spaghetti Chair, 1949
© Embru-Werke AG


Full Grown, The Grown Chair, 2012-2016. © Alice and Gavin Munro, Photo: Gavin Repton for Full Grown Ltd.


Jurgen Bey, Tree-trunk bench, 1998. © Vitra Design Museum, Photo: Jürgen Hans.


Hans Aeschbach, Lonza fertilizer, 1960, © Poster Collection Schule für Gestaltung Basel

Pictures, courtesy of Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein

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