The gazebo has lost its mojo. Some time at the end of last century it was overtaken by the pavilion. The gazebo’s Chinese origins, fine-lined turrets, odd shapes and lacy trims devolved into something you could buy at a camping store, and contemporary gardens turned to the pavilion. The two outdoor structures originated in different impulses. The gazebo added human scale to a landscape, a place to escape to, taking on a meditative air. The pavilion, on the contrary, was always focused outwards. It was for feasts and dances and drama. No surprise then that a gazebo has become a kind of tent and the pavilion is where we entertain.
I was thinking about the demise of the gazebo while standing in the lovely pavilion designed by Myles Baldwin for his garden at Australian Garden Show Sydney. (The rain was falling and the light was failing at the media preview of the show: and the rain just kept falling all weekend. Goes to show how much Sydneysiders love a garden that so many ventured out in the horrible weather.)
Baldwin’s wasn’t the only pavilion on display in the Inspiration gardens, there was this one by Peta Donaldson, conjuring Don and Megan Draper’s place if only Don had stayed on the west coast:
This one had a stark sophistication – and I love the plunge pool/water feature – but Baldwin’s was the one I wanted to be in. His garden won gold and Best in Show and drew crowds of admirers to stand in the muddy bog that formed a moat around it, all imagining themselves relaxing with friends in that airy construction.
Baldwin reckons that Australian designers lead the world in pavilion architecture. You see it in the work of high-profile architects, he says, as well as in large and small domestic gardens. Baldwin’s pavilion for AGSS was built of steel and vertical red cedar batons that framed one view, disguised others and created louvered shadows across the floor in the intermittent periods of sunshine. The garden was on two levels, taking advantage of the sloping site in this part of Centennial Park’s Brazilian Fields, and allowing the pavilion to float over a sandstone-edged pool on the lower terrace.
While the pavilion was much loved, there were mutterings in the crowd about the planting, which challenged convention: it wasn’t lushly green, and it wasn’t confined to garden beds. Instead of lawn, a compacted gravel bed was laid with strips of stone to form a path to the pavilion.
Planting was loosely triangular, wonderfully textural and not captured in garden beds. Here you can see whorls of kangaroo grass, silver-leafed teucrium and Pittosporum tobira ‘Miss Muffett’. This forms green lumpy hedges of the kind Baldwin especailly likes, with the bonus of creamy spring flowers. It handles the coastal conditions that his other favourite mounding shrub Viburnum tinus turns up its toes at.
Escaping conventional garden border, corokia seemed to be rushing to the embrace of cloudy mounds of Viburnum tinus. Corokia is a New Zealand native whose loose lump of zigzagging branches makes it look like something that blew in from the desert. It formed part of the textural palette of the garden, its suggestive spikiness contrasting with feathery soft pillows of kangaroo grass and leathery viburnum and raphiolepis.
The corokia was also intrinsic to the colour palette, which took its key from the cedar in the pavilion. The wood has a pinky-red blush when fresh and new but will age to silver. Its present and future were highlighted in the plantings. The integration between structure and garden, each echoing the other, reminded me why we have embraced the pavilion, and disdained the gazebo. It’s not just that we’re party people; we also love a unity between outside and inside.