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Daring and contemporary - winning attributes for Lincoln University students at 2010 Ellerslie Flower Show in Christchurch

Shelley Grell - 10/04/2010

Students and graduates from Lincoln University's Landscape Architecture degree programme have done themselves proud by collectively scooping up an astounding seven awards at this year's Ellerslie Flower Show.

Daring to be different and thinking outside the square were the qualities that impressed the judges the most.

Comments from experienced judge Kate Hillier
Seasoned event coordinator and judge, Kate Hillier, confesses she has a soft spot for the student and graduate exhibits. She says, "We like having challenging exhibits in the show and the student designs are always good fun. Most are either still studying or just starting out, so they are not set into a routine or a specialisation. Their designs are often more daring and less traditional than most, and packed with fresh ideas, which is great."

Many of the exhibits at Ellerslie were designed by Landscape Architecture students and graduates of Lincoln University, New Zealand's specialist land-based university.

Hillier was particularly impressed with Daniel Kamo and (All Black) Andy Ellis, who won a Gold Award for their exhibit called 'The Last Laugh'; graduates Cameron McLean, Gareth Ford and Desmond Stock who won Silver for their exhibit 'Solace in the Sky'; and the four-strong student team who won Silver for their 'Four Play' exhibit.

"These teams really got stuck into their challenge and took full advantage of the mentoring and exhibitor evenings that we offered. It takes a huge amount of effort to develop a good design brief and turn it into a garden exhibit that will be viewed by over 80,000 people," she said.

Exhibit focused on the damaging human impact on the environment
Kamo, a 2005 Landscape Architecture graduate, and Ellis, who interrupted his degree to become an All Black, became friends while studying at Lincoln. Their exhibit provoked nationwide media attention for the eye-popping design of ‘The Last Laugh’ - a giant boulder, rippled lawn, and undulating deck that pokes a meteoric finger at the human impact on the environment. Their message was simple: 'We can't go on living and wastefully consuming natural resources as we currently do'. Bravo!

Four Play exhibit
Fourth year students Myles Rabbidge, Emily Kelly, Megan Inder and Josh Hunt teamed up to create the riskily named Four Play exhibit. The organisers liked this double-entendre and its 'tongue and cheek' link with the exhibit's Connect Four game centrepiece. "It certainly caught people's eyes," said Hillier approvingly.

Four Play team - Josh Myles, Megan, Emily
Four Play team - Josh Myles, Megan, Emily
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The Four Play Garden The Four Play Garden
The Four Play Garden
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Myles was rapt that they won Silver. He explained, "We went in it for the experience and, with a tiny budget, we didn't expect to win. We'll all be graduating this year, so we wanted to show on our CV's that we will go the extra mile."

The Four Play team also attracted lots of media attention for their unique display - the first Ellerslie exhibit themed on children's games. They talked with many visitors including designers, landscape architects, and potential employers.

"The reaction from visitors was great," said Myles. "Many said that they loved the bright and happy colours. I think people also liked that our design stood out and dared to be different. We certainly wanted to create a garden design with the 'wow factor' that Ellerslie was looking for and it's great knowing we achieved that."

Team using social media
The Four Play team created another first for the Ellerslie Flower show - the first garden to use social media to update friends and family on the project from day one. The team created their own blog and wrote regular journal entries about their experiences - a fascinating read that reveals the many hundreds of hours over weeks and months dedicated to creating their winning design. The blog ( was also linked to a Facebook page and generated tremendous encouragement from friends, family and fellow students.

Rooftop garden exhibit
The 'Solace in the Sky' garden, designed by graduates Cameron McLean, Gareth Ford and Desmond Stock, is most probably the first rooftop garden exhibit in Ellerslie history.

"It was inspired from our collective personal experiences," said Desmond Stock. "The three of us are avid surfers, skiers and mountain bikers and we wanted a way to access the Port Hills, Pacific Ocean and Southern Alps from an inner city residential garden. During our studies at Lincoln we were exposed to a number of valid urban strategies, and wanted to use these concepts to create a strong structure to our brief. We spent a lot of time climbing on the roof tops of Christchurch City in an effort to fully understand this unique environment."

Solace in the Sky
Solace in the Sky
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While he lived in the US, Desmond also took the opportunity to visit the Tribeca penthouse gardens in New York City favoured by celebrities. "We agreed that a roof top garden would be a unique and innovative design for Ellerslie, and it offered an opportunity to construct some clever solutions to spatial challenges. We were pleasantly surprised by how supportive this environment has been, the Ellerslie team, along with the other exhibitors, have been fantastic offering us advice, assistance and mentoring," he said.

"We wanted our design brief to respond to a real world example, so we designed our rooftop garden based on an actual building in the popular Poplar Lane inner city area of Christchurch. From three stories up the tranquil 'Solace in the Sky' garden could be a welcome place for people to enjoy sunsets after a hard day in the mountains, with a fire pit to warm the deck environment and a spa to soak in under the evening sky," he explained.

As well as the Silver Garden Award, the Solace in the Sky exhibit also won the Supreme Landscape Construction Award and the Silver Distinction for Lighting. The result was well worth the many hundreds of hours of effort spent by the team over 48 days.

"The response from the show has been very positive," said Desmond.

More award winners were Lincoln students
The other award winning Lincoln students to exhibit at the show were final year student Louise Hamilton who was awarded a Merit for her Emerging Design garden in the student section, and graduate Olive Screen who designed the Bronze award winning 'Letz Go Native' garden.

Lincoln's School of Landscape Architecture delighted by the successes
Neil Challenger, Senior Lecturer and Head of School at Lincoln's School of Landscape Architecture, said, "This is a great haul and it is pleasing to see our students and our graduates leading the way, winning two of the supreme awards, showing how it is done and how it ought to be done - and although not always to the judges’ delight - challenging the notion of gardens, plant use and landscape. A fantastic effort!"

The four year Bachelor of Landscape Architecture is the university's flagship degree programme. Graduates benefit from the outstanding reputation of the school as a specialist land-based university, as well as from the internationally recognised industry accreditation.

Other Lincoln University people involved in Ellerslie Flower Show
The Ellerslie Flower Show 2010 involved a number of Lincoln University representatives, not only the students and graduates but also Landscape Architecture staff, the Marketing team, and the Alumni Association.

Landscape Architecture staff member, Jody Beck, worked with sculptor Timothy Mark to design and build the site for the Kinetics of Stone display at Ellerslie. And manager of the Alumni Association, Sarah Currie, was busy connecting with graduates, parents and members of the community every day at the Alumni stand in the Hort Galore marquee.

"We keep in touch with 30,000 graduates in 52 countries," she said. "It's hard work looking after the database and managing 50 events a year from business breakfasts to reunions. This is the second year at Ellerslie that we've been raising funds for the Alumni Association. We've been selling the Ivey Hall rose developed by UK breeder Gareth Fryer, and a percentage of sales go to the Association. I'm not sure what we'll do next year, but we'll definitely be back. It's a great community relations opportunity for the University, and of course for our students and graduates as well."

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