Gustafson Porter and Gustafson Guthrie Nichol design the first major landscape installation at the 2008 Venice Biennale

London-based design practice Gustafson Porter and Seattle firm Gustafson Guthrie Nichol have designed the first major landscape installation at the Venice Biennale.

Towards Paradise is sited at the end of the Arsenale, within the overgrown grounds of the former Church of the Virgins, a Benedictine nunnery that was destroyed in the late 1800s.

'Towards Paradise’ by Gustafson Porter and Gustafson Guthrie Nichol
Credit: Grant Smith
Visitors at the Arsenale experienced the project’s ‘clouds’, suspended above the garden by helium balloons

The firms were commissioned by Biennale director Aaron Betsky to create the installation, as part of the 11th International Architecture Exhibition.

The landscape designers have worked with the premise of the 2008 Biennale, entitled Out There: Architecture Beyond Building, which states “.. architecture is not building… (it) is something else.”

Neil Porter, director of Gustafson Porter, said: "Landscape architecture is a greatly neglected subject from a curatorial point of view, so we are hugely excited by the opportunity of engaging with visitors at the Biennale.

"The architecture of buildings and landscapes are clearly intrinsically linked and it is crucial that we work to uplift and enhance the built environment around us.

'Towards Paradise’ at the Venice Biennale
Credit: Grant Smith
'Towards Paradise’ at the Venice Biennale

"In his brief for the landscape installation, Betsky quoted Voltaire’s Candide, ‘Il faut cultiver notre jardin’, meaning ‘to cultivate one’s garden’, or to tend to one’s affairs.

"Towards Paradise is conceived as a contemporary allegory in the broadest sense.

"It will take the visitor on a journey through earthly dilemmas, evoking what has been lost and what can be gained.

"Telling a story of past, present and future, the garden is composed of two main spaces linked by pathways cleared from the overgrowth of the abandoned garden."

About the firms

Gustafson Porter
The work of the practice expresses the tension and balance between opposing forces in the built and the natural world which is striking and contemporary.

Completed projects range from the 1km long Westergasfabriek Culture Park in Amsterdam to the interior landscape of the Great Glass House at the National Botanic Garden of Wales to the UK’s second largest public square in central Nottingham, the multi-award winning Old Market Square.

Gustafson Porter is currently working on landscapes for the cities of Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Jeddah, Beirut and Liverpool.

Gustafson Guthrie Nichol
The designs of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol express the sculptural qualities of site-specific, contextual landscape - strengthening each site’s identity of culture, nature, history, and function.

Completed projects include the Smithsonian Kogod Courtyard, Washington, DC, the Seattle Civic Centre, The Lurie Garden, Chicago, North End Parks, Boston, The Promenade at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, Seattle, and the Arthur Ross Terrace, American Museum of Natural History, New York.