Surface Deep

designed by /

Location: Canada / Type: Installations / Built:
Published on August 2, 2011

asensio_mah: Surface Deep is a new garden recently installed within the entry sequence for the visitors to the Reford Gardens’ Metis International Garden Festival in Quebec, Canada. Supported by the Department of Landscape Architecture, the project’s design was led by Harvard Graduate School of Design lecturers Leire Asensio Villoria and David Syn Chee Mah and developed and fabricated in collaboration with students from the Landscape Architecture and Architecture programs at the Harvard GSD.

Revisiting the garden wall, an element that has been a consistent expressive element within the history of gardening, the entry wall is transformed to form a twisted ribbon-like surface with the help of associative design and modeling techniques. Its undulating form is a response to and gesture for a new entry sequence, framing the entry procession while also embedding an experimental moss garden within its surface.

In addition to articulating an entry sequence, the surface is intended to invite visitors to find many personal ways to engage, colonize and interact with the garden (from interacting with its micro moss surface to appropriating the whole surface as a ground). The surface flips in function and association between a wall, a ground and a cover while creating multiple orientations and different microclimates for the moss garden. The surface’s multiple orientations offers a number of different growing environments for the moss, from slopes exposed to sunlight to constantly shaded overhangs. These microclimates informed the distribution of a number of moss species specific to each condition, where the first 11 units were made with Niphotrichum canescens (a sun-loving species), unit 12 is planted with Callicladium haldanianum while the other units remaining (13 to 22) were made with a mixture of Callicladium haldanianum and other shade-loving, forest species such as Pleurozium schreberii, Ptilium crista-castrensis and others. Prior to installation, components of the garden were prefabricated in Cambridge, utilizing the various digital fabrication technologies as well as hand crafting facilities available at the Harvard GSD’s fabrication laboratory. Following the fabrication process, the garden was assembled, formed and planted on site at the Reford Gardens over a two week period.


asensio_mah is a multi-disciplinary design collaborative active in the design of architecture, landscape design, master planning, interior design and installations.  asensio-mah was established by Leyre Asensio-Villoria and David Mah in 2002.  asensio_mah is currently completing a number of projects in Europe and Australia and have published and exhibited their work internationally.

Landscape Architecture: asensio_mah (Leire Asensio Villoria, David Syn Chee Mah) in collaboration with students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design
Structure: Adams Kara Taylor Engineering
Moss: Bryophyta Technologies (Suzanne Campeau)
Location: Metis International Garden Festival in Quebec, Canada
Text&photos: asensio_mah, Martin Bond

Students: Somkiet Chokvijtkul (MLA2’12), Daekwon Park(M’Des’12) , Benjamin Winters(MLA1’11), Yuan Zhan(M’Arch2’13), Fred Chung(M’Arch2’11), Troy Vaughn(MLA2’12), Lisl Kotheimer(MLA2’12), Day Jimenez(M’Arch2’11), Mariela Alvarez(M’Arch2’11), Benjamin Tew(M’Des’11), Victor Perezamado(M’Arch1’13)


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