We were approached by Landscape Designer Charlotte Harris to collaborate with her to produce a pavilion for the Royal Bank of Canada Show Garden at Chelsea Flower Show 2017.
The garden was designed by Charlotte and inspired by Canada’s boreal forest – the largest intact forest and freshwater ecosystem on earth. The Garden forms part of the official celebrations of the 150th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada – the thirteen louvred uprights of the pavilion signify the ten provinces and three territories which form Canada.
The pavilion is a striking man made object within the natural wild look of the garden, but the larch and copper were carefully chosen – larch is one of the predominant species of tree in the boreal, and copper has been found and mined there. Some of the pine trees only release their seeds when the sap is melted from the pine cones by forest fires, so the charred effect on the larch is both a natural way of preserving the timber against the elements, and evocative of the forest fires that occur in the boreal.
MSS worked closely with Charlotte to produce the perfect finishes on the larch and copper. We worked through various test samples of copper patination to find a recipe which complemented the colours of the garden, to bring a warmth of tone matched by the jack pines and provide a contrast to the black of the charring and the cool grey of the glacial granite. The copper was sealed with wax to bring depth to the patination effect and protect the copper from the inevitable rain.
We used our in-house CNC router to make templates for the copper, then our guillotine, press brake and routers to form the copper, so it had a slight return which was rebated into the charred larch. This gave the copper elements very clean lines and defined edges, as a contrast to the charred larch which was rougher, with a textured edge. We charred all the larch in our studio and sealed it to prevent any charcoal transfer onto people’s hands/clothes during installation and whilst it was on show.
MSS worked with Charlotte and Feix & Marlin Architects to finalise the design of the pavilion, we then fabricated it, including the steel foundation structures, in our West London studio. MSS worked with Landscape Associates (the main contractor on the garden) to ensure the sliced glacial granite terrace was water-jet cut to precisely fit around the steel structure for the pavilion. We then installed the pavilion on site over 3 days in some extremely wet weather!
Everyone at Mike Smith Studio was delighted when we heard the news that the Charlotte’s garden had been awarded a Gold Medal by the judging panel.