Garden Clouds

Miles Allen and Samantha Taylor 2018.

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Garden Clouds Artist Statement:

‘Gardens Clouds’ was a collaboration project with the wonderful Miles Allen (artist) thanks to a RADF grant through Sunshine Coast Council and an artist-in-residency at the Maroochy Bushland Arts and Ecology centre at Tanawa thanks to Sunshine Coast Creative Spaces in January 2019.

The idea for this design came from thinking through the experience of playing within a shaded garden retreat- a ‘Hide’ away that becomes almost invisible within the bushes, below the tree canopy’s dappled light.  We explored memories and ideas of climbing up into tree-houses; the sense of risk/ challenge and detachment from the outside world within a shady realm being the most poignant parts of our memories that we sought to re-create. From these recollections we dissected our memories into their component parts: shade, retreat, a raised platform, entry via climbing or crawling or discovery of some sort, a place to stash your favourite things, something that opened and closed to enable spatial modification/ view control/ entry control and detachment from the adult realm.

Based on this ‘design criteria’ we developed an idea of a series of shade (cloud) canopies that would enable filtered light/ shade and views through; to watch the passing of the day/ light and to emulate shadows; a space for sitting, reading, retreat, shelter, comfort, and refuge. Taking the form of a rounded archytpal human shelter ‘hut’ these forms appear as mounds, or when grouped together: as a cumulus cloud that defines a new shade topography above the gardens’ original surface. The idea of a cloud pulls in ideas of ‘cloud seeding’ or the making of new clouds by atmospheric agitation; which became an appropriate metaphor for the bigger project aim of wanting to enable others to re-create this play idea simply themselves.

The play experience we sought to manifest within these simple forms is one of curiosity, of filtered light and views, filtered privacy and observation, of a series of discovery chambers and a ‘grounded’ sensation that sits close to the earth and is embedded within rather than separate from, the garden. This direct environmental engagement will increase as the materials weather and patina with exposure to sunlight and algae/ lichen as they age- turning from gold to grey and eventually to brown / decay.  

Materials: Bamboo splits. Cable ties. Bamboo poles. Plywood. Wire.

Making strategy ( “Cloud Seeding”) : Our primary objective in selecting materials was an accessibility (ease of collection or obtainment, low fiscal cost and low environmental cost) of the materials and an ultimate simplicity of the assembly strategy to ensure the ‘re-making ‘ of this object idea by others would be possible, simple, and do-able with kids. We consequently explored some thinking along the lines of ‘what would macguyver do’ to address a construction methodology that was less ‘traditional’ in our contemporary western sense and a bit more intuitive than engineered. The resulting strategy is one more akin to giant-scale basket making and it seeks to capitalize on the unique ‘bendy’ quality that the material of split bamboo enables. A tension-based dome of bamboo forms the starting point to the weaving of the cloud; the patterns of line and movement across the skin of the skirt of the cloud being both self-referential ‘hut’/ dome/ cloud shapes and also act a point to puncture entry/ exit/ connection points between the separate units.


Miles Allen: On Domes.

“My first recollection of being intrigued by the shapes of domes was visiting an exhibition of Van Gogh’s paintings at the Hayward Gallery, London in the 1969. I was used to seeing hay in rectangular bales and so the idea of piling it up into domes was intriguing and, at the time, a lot more pleasing to my eyes. As I was working on a farm at the time, the shapes also raised questions for me about the practicality of moving and storing these domes. 

My association with the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral in London is related to the Tate Modern Gallery. Fifteen years ago I visited the gallery for the first time and was deeply moved by Rothko’s paintings. I walked across the bridge heading for St Paul’s with the image of these paintings circulating through my mind. The walk across the footbridge from the gallery seems to feature regularly in television series and the unmistakable dome of St Paul’s is always shown. I marvelled at its beauty and symmetry and also the engineering feats that would have taken place to construct this cathedral and its dome in the late 17th century.  

Kata Tjuta in the Central Desert of Australia is a sacred place. It exudes presence, power, existence, history, reverence and spirituality. It’s huge size means we are like tiny ants in its presence. When I visited here recently I was once again overwhelmed and overcome by this beautiful place. 

My liking of and affinity for domes seems to be associated how I experience them and what was happening in my life when I first saw them. Their shape appeals to my eyes and to my preference for geometrical and ordered shapes. But for me there’s much more than that. They resonate deeply, they move my whole being. I can’t fully describe the feelings that are generated nor say why this resonation occurs.

So when we discussed the shapes we wanted to use for  our playhouses, I kept coming back to domes as a shape to build, to play in and to explore.” 

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Card Kong


Harrison and Sam 2017.

A cardboard cubby designed with strips of cardboard box connected with the fantastic ‘Make-do’ connectors, based on the design brief of “I want to make a giant Gorilla Head. With Gun holes for Eyes. And I want to sit in the head and move its eyes.”


Inspired by sunlight shadows skipping across walls and gazing at the stars… ORION is a play-retreat that sits high above the ground; a hide-out away from the adult world. Perforated to allow dappled light to play across the interior at day-time; large roof flaps open to allow star-gazing at night. Its fort-light form and openings allow ladders to be withdrawn, bridge edges to be pulled-up and a 'periscope’ look-out pushed through the roof in defence of a quiet space. Or with all windows open, friends are welcomed and space is transformed. The simple abstract form sets an intentional backdrop for vivid imagination play that is not restricted to one ‘thing’; its a little bit cottage, box, tree-house, all at once. The simple perforated façade doubles as a flexible storage system for essential ‘stuff’ through the addition of timber dowel pegs as shelf supports or hooks. Sized to suit a single mattress for the occasional night-time adventuring/ camping.

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Look Up, Look Down: World Environment Day participatory build 2019 June 2.

image credit: Carly Dirie

image credit: Carly Dirie

image credit: Carly Dirie

image credit: Carly Dirie

image credit: Carly Dirie

image credit: Carly Dirie

“what are you grateful for?” … “beautiful animals”. “Diggers”. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend these events and meet interesting people”. “the sea”.

“what are you grateful for?” … “beautiful animals”. “Diggers”. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend these events and meet interesting people”. “the sea”.