Interview - Darryl Moore, garden writer, designer and director, Cityscapes

Garden writer Darryl Moore is co-launching Cityscapes, a four-month event starting in May billed by some as a rival to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. New gardens at seven high-profile sites such as Tate Modern will be designed by stellar names. Sponsorship has been teed up for projects including Andy Sturgeon at the London Eye, Sarah Eberle at the Architecture Foundation and Tony Heywood at the Old Vic Tunnels. Unlike Chelsea, insists Moore, these gardens will be unashamedly urban in feel.

Darryl Moore, garden writer, designer and director, Cityscapes - image: HW
Darryl Moore, garden writer, designer and director, Cityscapes - image: HW

Q: What is the Cityscapes project all about?

A: Bringing garden installations into urban areas and collaborating with some of the large cultural institutions in the South Bank area of London. We want garden designers to work with other artists and designers to find creative ways to bring gardens to areas where they aren't traditionally seen, such as the Old Vic Tunnels and a pod in the London Eye. We will take gardens to a demographic that's different from the traditional RHS type. A lot of people in London like design and art but see no relationship between creativity and gardens.

Q: What do you hope to achieve with the event?

A: We want people to think about gardens and urban spaces in different ways and to give greater prominence to garden design. It lags somewhat behind other design forms in the public profile and we want people to think of it being as worthy as architecture or interior design. Landscape, green spaces and the environment, after all, are going to shape our lives more and more in years to come as cities become larger and demands on land grow greater.

Q: How important do you regard garden design?

A: Critical. It shapes our relationship with the environment and everyone around us. It has an immense anthropological, evolutionary and historical drive behind it and in some ways determines how we present ourselves to other people. It reflects our aspirations, yet despite all this cultural meaning people dress it up in architectural jargon or terms of urbanism. This is a very dry approach, framed in policy, telling us that there are certain things you can and cannot do. It therefore doesn't have a lot of personality when it comes to engaging people.

Q: Are we good with our urban green spaces?

A: We have a lot of urban spaces, but so do other cities. By comparison with Hong Kong, one of the world's densest cities, ours are not as well used. We tend to undervalue our open spaces and take them for granted, and this needs to be reconsidered. Some of our Victorian parks have the same uses now as they had originally, yet elsewhere they take on a more dynamic role - people in South East Asia use parks for t'ai chi, keep-fit classes for older people or group exercises for company staff. The less space you have, the more creative you are in its use and the form it takes.

Q: What do you think of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show?

A: Chelsea does what it does, it works to a format and is bound by the agenda it sets out - part entertainment, part design. The show attracts a lot of criticism yet people love it and it's good that we have it. Like most institutions it's had its ups and downs, but it's worth having.

Q: How would you change the show?

A: The competitive aspect of the new gardens has drawn out the debate on judging and I think that's a valid point. It should be made much more transparent so people can understand why gardens are given certain awards. This would make the whole process more educational. Education is important for something as vital as horticulture and design. If you can see why a garden has won a medal, you can start to take in its component parts - concept, design and construction - to understand more about design.

Q: Do you regard Cityscapes as a rival to Chelsea?

A: Our show is a self-sustaining entity but it's not a challenge to Chelsea in any way. Cityscapes adds value to everyone because more people will become involved in gardens, think about them and do something with their own, I hope. That has got to be good.

Q: Where does your interest in gardens come from?

A: I write about gardens in magazines and online and I am interested in the social aspects of gardens and how they relate to other disciplines - such as science, technology and history. I have a modernist drive for contemporary forms and materials and the way they relate to social concerns, in a similar manner to the landscape architecture of Garrett Eckbo and his mid-century gardens in California. I'm intrigued by context - how and why things appeared where they did in the first place, the networks they are engaged in and their relevance today.

CV

1984-87: Art and philosophy degree, University of London

1987-2002: Ran a record label, worked as DJ and sound artist

2002-03: Garden design diploma, Pickard School of Garden Design, Garden Museum

2003-12: Horticulture design writer - Garden Design Journal, among others

2012: Co-launches Cityscapes with Adolfo Harrison.


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