Jo Thompson’s Augmented Reality show garden

The award-winning designer Jo Thompson brings Augmented Reality to 2024 Shenzhen Flower Show in a show garden first.

In collaboration with Princeton University’s Form Finding Lab and researchers from the University of Bergamo and Pegaso University, Jo Thompson is creating the ‘I Live with Nature’ garden for the Shenzhen Flower Show in China.

In a first for horticultural show gardens, the garden’s intricate brick pavilion will be constructed using Augmented Reality (AR) technology. A digital model of the pavilion in real time will be overlaid as a 3D image onto the physical pavilion in the show garden. This guides the placement of each brick and allows for a better accuracy of the positioning of the bricks to create the gravity-defying geometries and leans. It is an exciting merging of traditional bricklaying methods with new technology.

The garden is a celebration of the wonder of nature in an urban setting and includes a series of layered, experiential spaces, undulating pathways and natural ponds. The garden explores the harmony which can be created between built form and the natural world, including the beautiful brick pavilion at its centre. The walls of the pavilion both lean into the central space and also out over the planting and into the garden which surrounds it, creating moments of marvel and wonder. The increasing gaps towards the top of the structure create openings so the planting can be viewed from the inside. Plants will also be physically planted in the gaps and can be touched. The pavilion speaks of the balance between urban life and nature and its blurring boundaries if we ‘lean into nature’.

Jo Thompson said: “I am so excited to be using this impressive new technology to create our I Live with Nature garden. Having seen this technique used to create a vaulted arch for the Venice architecture biennale last year, I was eager to use it for the first time in a horticultural show garden. For construction in Shenzhen we are using this technology completely remotely and it means we will have designed and constructed the garden in the space of two an a half months.”

AR is a mixed-reality technology that is transforming various industries, including construction and design. It allows the blending of the physical and digital worlds, to create a virtual environment that can enhance design, planning and the building of construction projects. The technology allows the construction of complex geometries and patterns without a single construction drawing.

Speaking about the technology, Professor Sigrid Adriaenssens, director of Form Finding Lab, said: “We have all this knowledge from craftsmen that were building so many centuries ago. So, our question is how can we use that knowledge and augment it with technology to build new forms with complex geometries and patterns?

The Shenzhen Flower Show is open between 23 March and 1 April. It has been held in Shenzhen three times since 2019 and has attracted more than 1.4 million visitors.