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Eye of the god. A garden designed by Polish female landscape architects at a festival in Portugal

13 of October '21

Twelve gardens designed and created by landscape architects from around the world can still be visited in Portugal's Ponte de Lima until the end of October. Poland is represented by a project with the intriguing name Eye of the God, by Agnieszka Bocheńska-Niemiec and Dr. Aleksandra Gierko of the Wroclaw University of Technology.

Every year the town of Ponte de Lima, located in Portugal, holds an open competition to design the gardens that will be part of the festival - The International Garden Festival of Ponte de Lima. This year's edition was held under the theme "Religions in the Garden," and it was to these that the submitted designs were to respond.

This year the jury composed of: Francisco Caldeira Cabral, Elsa Matos Severino, Elsa Matos Severino, André Lima Araújo, Teresa Andresen, Mecia Martins, selected twelve projects submitted by landscape architects from Portugal, Spain, Czech Republic, France, England, Italy, Austria, Romania, Serbia, Norway, USA, Brazil and Poland for implementation. Our country was represented by landscape architects Agnieszka Bocheńska-Niemiec and Dr. Aleksandra Gierko with a project entitled Eye of the God.

video from the festival

© archives of the organizers

eye of god

The garden designed by the women from Wroclaw refers to the theme of religion in a universal way, showing the divine particle present in nature. The garden consists not only of plants, but also of an openwork wooden pavilion, accessed by a path marked by a wooden edge. In the pavilion, visitors can sit and look up at the sky through an opening in the ceiling, or contemplate their surroundings through the openwork.

Projekt Oko boga,
widok z góry

landscaping and plants used

© Agnieszka Bocheńska-Niemiec, Aleksandra Gierko

The union of nature and soul tears away the veil of ignorance that covers our intelligence, a wise man once said. Entering the gazebo in the interior of the garden, everyone can see in the mirror laid on the floor the reflection of the environment: the sky, the people around, but also himself. Or maybe there is a divine particle hidden in each of us? Sit down and look out through the holes in the walls and let yourself be inspired. You can breathe and free your mind," reads the project description.

Dobrawa Bies: Where did the idea for Eye of God come from, what inspired you?

Agnieszka Bocheńska-Niemiec, Aleksandra Gierko: The theme of the festival is always predetermined. Our answer to the theme "Gardens of Religion" is a space dedicated to everyone, without indicating specific faiths. We came up with the name itself after designing the arrangement of the space. We wanted to create a space that allows for a moment of reverie, stopping. The name itself indicates that there is an entity watching over the garden, regardless of what anyone believes in and whether they believe in anything. The main motto has become the maxim: "The union of nature and soul breaks the veil of ignorance that covers our intelligence," which indicates that the divine particle should be sought in nature.

Ażurowy pawilon
w ogrodzie Oko boga

The openwork pavilion is the center of the project

© organizers archive

Dobrawa: Please tell us about the realization itself - the wooden openwork pavilion located in the center is characteristic of it. How did the work proceed, what plants did you use?

Agnieszka Bocheńska-Niemiec, Aleksandra Gierko: The composition of the garden was intended to be closed to the pavilion and the path leading to it. The inaccessibility of the garden, the possibility to view it only through openings in the openwork gazebo, symbolizes the Garden of Eden, which is not available to everyone. The mirror designed in the floor was treated symbolically: the circle inside the pavilion was painted blue, imitating the reflection of the sky. The organizers decided to interfere with the design in this way because of the concern that the steel could act as a lens, focusing the rays, which would eventually lead to a fire. Therefore, this element was changed. Plants such as yarrow, blue fescue, and wreath gypsophila were used. The plants were to be of one color tone: white, silver and blue. They were selected so that they did not have a high demand for water.

Oko boga, rzut

garden plan and plantings

© Agnieszka Bocheńska-Niemiec, Aleksandra Gierko

Dobrawa: Who are the recipients of the garden?

AgnieszkaBocheńska-Niemiec, Aleksandra Gierko: The garden is aimed at everyone - there are no age restrictions. The festival is visited willingly by different people. Therefore, the designed space, is to encourage people to stop, listen to themselves, look at the nearest space. It is meant to be a space of contemplation.

Dobrawa: Did you encounter any design difficulties?

Aleksandra Gierko, Agnieszka Bocheńska-Niemiec: The construction of the pavilion required some rethinking - it is characteristic of the festival to be realized within a certain budget, hence we had to use a solution that can be made with a low cost. In addition, it is a temporary structure, so we had to combine the aspect of safety and easy assembly/disassembly of the pavilion. Due to the current pandemic situation, the design was slightly modified. At the path, the seats that limited the space were not implemented, and the symbolic closure was only articulated in the pavement, with a wooden edging flush with the ground.

Projekt Oko boga,

Polish realization at The International Garden Festival of Ponte de Lima

© Agnieszka Bocheńska-Niemiec, Aleksandra Gierko

Dobrawa: What does participation in The International Garden Festival of Ponte de Lima mean to you?

Agnieszka Bocheńska-Niemiec, Aleksandra Gierko: Participation in the festival competition allows you to develop your imagination and freely interpret the theme. It is an interesting challenge to realize the main idea in an interesting way within a certain budget. The selection of the garden for implementation is undoubtedly an appreciation of our idea, each implementation of the project gives considerable satisfaction.

Dobrawa: Thank you for the interview.

Dobrawa Bies

Agnieszka Bocheńska-Niemiec - landscape architect and computer graphic designer. She currently runs her own studio, DOBRE KRESKI, where she creates floral graphics and everyday objects. Author of scientific and popular science articles on topics including social participation, space design in the context of civilization diseases. In her design work she focuses on interesting and functional solutions that encourage users to interact. Author and co-author of urban spaces, including courtyards in Wroclaw (ECC 2016) and Katowice (Square on Glanc 2015). Participant in design competitions in the field of landscape architecture, as well as graphic design - co-author of two completed festival gardens (2014 and 2021) in Ponte de Lima, Portugal.

Dr. Aleksandra Gierko - landscape architect, PhD in the discipline of architecture and urban planning. Her doctoral dissertation on the possibilities of reclamation of irrigation fields was awarded in 2020 the Prize of the Minister of Investment and Development for dissertations, doctoral theses and national publications in the fields of architecture and construction, planning and zoning and housing. In her research work, she deals with issues of adaptation to climate change of public spaces using so-called blue and green infrastructure. She strives to implement theoretical knowledge in her design work. She is the author and co-author of numerous studies in the field of landscape architecture - expert studies and detailed designs for parks, squares and naturalistic playgrounds, many of which have lived to see implementation. She co-authored two festival gardens in Ponte de Lima, Portugal, which were selected for realization through an international competition of works (in 2014 and 2021). In 2020, her original design concept for the Polish Peace Garden, a site commemorating Polish volunteers who fought during World War I in Northern France, was selected for realization on the initiative of the Art Gardens Association - Hauts-de-France. The realized garden became part of the Peace Gardens trail of the Pas-de-Calais department this year.

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