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Jo Thompson brings Augmented Reality to Shenzhen Flower Show in a show garden first

Thanks to an exciting collaboration with Princeton University’s Form Finding Lab and researchers from the University of Bergamo and Pegaso University Jo is using Augmented Reality (AR) to help create her I Live with Nature garden for the Shenzhen Flower Show next month. In a first for horticultural show gardens, the garden’s intricate brick pavilion will be constructed by a skilled mason using an AR headset to help guide the placement of each brick.

A digital model of the pavilion in real time will be overlaid as a 3D image onto the physical pavilion in the show garden. This guides the placement of each brick and allows for a better accuracy of the positioning of the bricks to create the gravity-defying geometries and leans. It is an exciting merging of traditional bricklaying methods with new technology.

Opening to the public on 23 March, the garden is a celebration of the wonder of nature in an urban setting and includes a series of layered, experiential spaces, undulating pathways and natural ponds. The garden explores the harmony which can be created between built form and the natural world, including the beautiful brick pavilion at its centre.

The walls of the pavilion both lean into the central space and also out over the planting and into the garden which surrounds it, creating moments of marvel and wonder. The increasing gaps towards the top of the structure create openings so the planting can be viewed from the inside. Plants will also be physically planted in the gaps and can be touched. The pavilion speaks of the balance between urban life and nature and its blurring boundaries if we ‘lean into nature’.

AR is a mixed-reality technology that is transforming various industries, including construction and design. It allows the blending of the physical and digital worlds, to create a virtual environment that can enhance design, planning and the building of construction projects. The technology allows the construction of complex geometries and patterns without a single construction drawing.

Jo Thompson was inspired to use AR in her Shenzhen Flower Show garden having seen the technique used to build an installation for the Venice architecture biennale exhibition in 2023. The Angelus Novus Vault was a vaulted arch which recreated the Renaissance algorithm used by Filippo Brunelleschi, master builder of the magnificent domes of Florence’s Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, thanks to AR technology.

The Shenzhen Flower Show is open between 23 March and 1 April. It has been held in Shenzhen three times since 2019 and has attracted more than 1.4 million visitors.