Port Garden

Shenzhen, China

Collaboration with Roberta di Cosmo and Hongyue.

The city of Shenzhen developed on the east bank of the Pearl River estuary. The flat lands of the delta are criss-crossed by a network of tributaries and distributaries of the Pearl River. Surrounded by mountain ranges, larded with temples and rocks, the natural landscape of the mountains functions as an escape for the citizens of Shenzhen. An ecosystem made up as much of trees and plants as of myths and gods. 

From 1980 onwards, with the introduction of the special economic zone, the city started to grow explosively and whole new landscapes started to form. One of those, is the landscape of the port. Today, the port of Shenzhen is one of the world’s busiest and fastest growing container ports. It is a landscape based on the standardised sea container; the cranes, the boats, the roads, the trucks, all of these are adapted to best fit the standardised size of the container.

The landscape of the port, is a large scale landscape, made up of stacked colourful sea containers and wide water bodies, where all elements have a specific functionality in the world of logistics. It is the ecosystem of the sea container, a landscape largely unknown to the people of Shenzhen, apart from those who work there. 

In our proposal we suggest to combine the landscape of the natural mountains with that of the manmade port. Combining the ecosystem of nature with the ecosystem of the sea container, combining the poetic with the practical, the human with the other-than-human. 

We propose to build a ‘mountain’ of containers, a composition that brings to mind the containers stacked in the port. The containers consist of only the frame, without the walls, the floor or the ceiling, creating an open, see through view. 

Within this open structure, we position the elements of the landscape: plants, trees, rocks. We create a composition that brings to mind an intensified version of the natural mountain landscape. We use the elements of the port, clamps, binders, labels, curtains, to position, frame, fixate the landscape elements and convey information about the species of tree and rock. 

The pavilion is fully circular; the containers are borrowed from the port and returned after use, just like the plants and trees will return to the nursery.

The garden brings to mind two landscapes of great importance to the inhabitants of Shenzhen; the natural mountain landscape and the manmade port landscape. The garden also refers to the international shipping of planting, thereby linking itself to the location in the botanical garden.