Client: Culture Mile (City of London, Museum of London, The Barbican, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London Symphony Orchestra)
Site: Smithfield Rotunda Gardens, 2019
Fabricator: Studio Mata
The House of Wayward Plants: The Smithfield Greenhouse is a major new commission for Culture Mile within Smithfield Rotunda Gardens. The design takes its inspiration from the ironwork of Smithfield Market, the Victorian plant explorers, and an eccentric craze that swept across Victorian England. Pteridomania, or ‘fern fever’, can be seen as an attempt to turn away from the environmental damage caused by the Industrial Revolution, which saw fern imagery of the period adorn everything from homeware to biscuits. With no access to a working internet, the Victorians had to rely upon hunting parties to catch ferns and build their social networks. Avid fern collectors came from all walks of life and it is said that “even the farm labourer or miner could have a collection of British ferns which he had collected in the wild and a common interest.” Having caught the ferns, the Victorians needed somewhere to keep their collections. Hence, the Wardian Case (or ‘Waywardian’, as we like to say) was born: the forerunner to the modern terrarium.
After the Culture Mile summer programme of curated events, the pavilion will travel to Morden Hall Park, a National Trust property in South London, to form part of a permanent space for the House of Wayward Plants and helping to establish a recycle-reuse centre for plants and landscape materials in partnership with the National Trust.