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    Visibility through invisibility: a translucent labyrinth wins NGV Architecture Commission 2017

    Kirsty Sier

    A labyrinthine, mesh-clad garden wall has been selected as the winner of the 2017 NGV Architecture Commission.

    The translucent “maze-like” project, entitled Garden Wall, is the brainchild of Retallack Thompson and Other Architects. Comprising 260 “wall” panels, the commission is in fact a reinterpretation of the function of the wall within an architectural space. It is intended to raise questions about the political relationship between walls, barriers, rooms and corridors.

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    From 15 December 2017, Garden Wall will transform the NGV’s Grollo Equiset Garden into “a sequence of outdoor rooms”.

    “In order to make the NGV garden more visible, we first have to render it invisible,” says Other Architects in a design statement.

    Garden Wall hides the garden and then gradually reveals it via a series of corridors, apertures and rooms. Our installation is less the walls themselves than the spaces between, which were already latent in the garden.”

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    Each of the “rooms” created by the site-specific installation frame features that already exist within the garden. The architect’s intention is to “[heighten] encounters with sculpture and furniture, trees and planting, paving and lawn”. In addition to the tangible, built element of the project, visitors’ experience of the garden during the commission will be further enhanced by complementary layers of sound and scent.

    The wall itself is composed of white frames that will be clad in woven mesh, which oscillate between translucency and opacity in an effort to keep the garden at the centre of the experience.

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    “[The] wall recedes into the background or commands attention depending on time of day, quality of light, movement of people or angle of view,” says the architect.

    “Originating in the crude fences and berms that enclosed the earliest human encampments, walls are architecture at its most elemental.

    “But there is no such thing as a basic or neutral wall. Without walls, there could be no check points, fortifications, prisons or enclaves. Any structure that separates people is inherently political. By enclosing certain parts of the garden and excluding others – extending pathways while complicating passage – Garden Wall provides an opening for discussing architecture’s political dimensions and the global proliferation of walls, borders and barriers.”

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    Garden Wall will replace last year’s much-awarded commission, Haven’t you always wanted to run through all that foam at the car lovers? by [email protected] Studio. This incumbent installation transformed the Grollo Equiset Garden into a hot-pink car wash, complete with mist machines and Astroturf-paved roads.

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