THE CONSCIOUS DESIGNER - JOSEPH GIBSON
Words by Jessica Peace
WE STUMBLED ACROSS YOUR ‘CONSCIOUS CONSUMERISM’ GARDEN AT HAMPTON COURT A FEW MONTHS BACK - OUR JAWS HIT THE FLOOR. YOUR GARDEN GAVE SHOWGOERS DESERTIFICATION VIA THE ABATTOIR. HOW DID PEOPLE RESPOND?
Ha, it was pretty unconventional! The idea was to take people on a journey through time, the sequence of events that take place for the production of meat – Rainforest, Deforestation, Abattoir, Desertification. It was really important that I made the journey immersive as it gives people a much deeper feeling of love, loss and compassion…
Not very flower show with rows of meat hooks, a huge bone cutter and blood splatters but I think it’s important to take risks and I couldn’t believe how well people tuned in and connected with the concept!
I stayed at the entrance of the installation, engaging with visitors as they queued to go into the rainforest… After exiting, people were walking back around to the entrance... expressing how thought provoking and powerful they found it. Hearing people’s feedback and seeing the impact on the crowd was moving, it got a much bigger response than I imagined!
DO YOU FEAR FOR OUR RAINFORESTS?
Yes massively… Everyone who knows about the meat industry fears for our rainforests. I read that palm oil is responsible for 26 million acres of deforestation while livestock farming is responsible for 136 million acres of deforestation. Palm oil is just the distraction. Apparently 150 acres of rainforest are lost every minute…
Our biodiversity, rainfall, number of animal & plant species, clean air and lungs get smaller everyday while human population and its demand for meat continues to soar…
The harsh reality is that they’re flattening the rainforest to cattle ranch or plant monocrops like soy to export all around the world for farmers to feed their cattle or other livestock.
PERKS OF THE JOB - DO YOU GET TO TRAVEL AS PART OF YOUR RESEARCH?
I haven’t yet but I have an upcoming contemporary design for a villa project in the mountains of Ibiza so I’ll be heading out there towards October. I spent around 9 years exploring the planet and although none of that time was connected directly to garden design, it has undoubtedly influenced me as a designer. ‘Conscious Consumerism’ was inspired by a lot of what I learnt and experienced during a 16 month trip through South America.
I spent a lot of time working on different volunteering projects when I was there, one of the projects was in the Bolivian jungle and involved working with rescued Jaguars, Monkeys and Pumas that were victims of deforestation, that was quite heartbreaking.
Other perks of the job – bringing a place to life, creating a habitat and having the privilege to work with nature.
FLOWER SHOWS GET A HARD TIME REGARDING THEIR SUSTAINABILITY, HOW SUSTAINABLE ARE THEY?
It all depends on how we look at it. The RHS definitely put a lot of emphasis on their environmental responsibility. Many of the ‘RHS show’ application questions are focused on how responsibly sourced your materials are, efforts made to minimise waste and carbon footprint, reuse schemes etc., they really want to see the designers and contractors are making a conscious effort towards the environment.
Though I must say, when I see the amount of logistics involved in creating a flower show it blows my mind and I also wonder how sustainable they are or if more could be done? However, that could be said for almost any show, concert or festival in the world, the difference with a flower show is that it promotes greener living and inspires millions of people each year to get out and put countless amounts of plants and trees in the ground which is a huge benefit to the environment. There aren’t many events we could say that for. For me though, one of the biggest qualities is the sheer potential of its platform.
Since the show there’s been a lot of walking in Epping Forest and trying to catch up on daily chores – both are things that have been neglected since about October last year (the Hampton Court application deadline!).
I’ve been commissioned by someone I met at Hampton Court to design the planting scheme for a Chelsea flower show garden next year. We’re about to launch the design for a 6 acre site in Epping Forest that was put on hold until after the show and we’re relaunching the soft landscaping for a 1 acre nature reserve project I designed last year, I can’t wait to get stuck into that.
PETAL, PALM OR POTATO?
That’s a tough one and it really depends on which corner of the earth I’m in. All three have been significant to me at different times of my life but for where I am now I’d have to say Petal. I could watch bumblebees climbing in and out of flowers all day – sometimes I do.
Arne Maynard and Tom Stuart-Smith for their delicate touch on nature that respectfully blends into the surrounding environment. But mostly Sir David Attenborough if he’s allowed, I’m sure he is?
FAVE FLORAL SPACE?
Definitely Epping Forest, it was my playground growing up and still is today. I can’t get enough of its mossy enchantment.
Squeeze the juice of a whole lemon, crush 3 cloves of garlic, add a little ginger, stir then knock it back as a shot. Very intense but I promise, any cold or flu will run a mile. For best results, drink on an empty stomach but be brave! If symptoms are bad add a shot of whisky but be braver.
FINISH THIS SENTENCE: ‘PLANTS ARE…’
Beautiful, life giving little miracles (and tenacious!).
P.s. love and nurture everything