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A Commission For RHS Hampton Court Palace x Smart Meter Garden

8 August 2019

We designed and handcrafted a bespoke steam bent bench for the Smart Meter Garden at RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival.

As part of our bespoke services, the Tom Raffield team have created a unique design for Matthew Childs' Smart Meter Garden at RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival.

Here's what Matthew Childs, award-winning garden designer, had to say about his 'Best in Show' installation...

bendy bench
The words: 'we all want to help our planet, but sometimes to make big changes we have to start small' haven been laser etched on to our spiralling steam bent bench.

TR: What are you trying to achieve with the installation?

MC: It's important to me that the gardens I design have a strong and clear message behind them, it's how I try and make sense of the complex issues in the world. The Smart Meter Garden reflects the impact of climate change which has very much been at the forefront of my mind in recent years.

Sometimes issues such as climate change can seem so large that individually we can feel helpless to make a difference. My aim is to bring people together in this garden, set out the problem in front of them, but allow them to leave with the confidence to make small changes, and collectively we can make a big difference.

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Matthew Childs used just one species of tree - a variety of Birch - to celebrate the importance of trees in dealing with climate change.
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The main feature of the garden is the fountain, which is designed to form a mirror in which visitors can feel empowered about their ability to make a difference.

TR: Tell us about the inspiration and idea behind the Smart Meter Garden?

MC: The garden is inspired by a quote from philosopher and artist:

"The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life"

- Rabindranath Tagore.

We used planting trees and their ability to reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere as a metaphor for getting a smart meter - we hope to portray that small, individual changes can have a much wider reaching impact on the environment.

The Tom Raffield bench which encircles the garden has been laser etched with the words 'we all want to help our planet, but sometimes to make big changes we have to start small'. We hope this phrase resonates with the public who come to visit the garden at Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival and sit on the bench. The message hopes to insight that the small changes we can all make will make a big difference to the future of the planet in the long term. 

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A steam bent Tom Raffield bench encircles the edge of the garden, providing visitors with a place to sit and reflect on the meaning of the installation and enjoy its message.

TR: How do you hope people will react to your garden?

MC: I'm hoping the garden will provoke a range of emotions from shock and concern, to calm reflection and a sense of empowerment. Some people will love the contemporary, experimental style of the garden, others may not, but the important thing is that it makes visitors think and opens a dialogue around the climate emergency. I want people to leave the garden feeling that there are achievable things we can do to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere.

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Matthew Childs' water feature comes to life with bright lights and steam that rises to evoke the production of greenhouse gases.

TR: Why was it important for you to create this project?

MC: As someone who loves gardens and the natural environment, I am passionate about protecting it. This garden has been a wonderful opportunity for me to personally understand more about climate change, its causes, and get behind an initiative which I feel has the potential to make a really positive contribution towards helping the environment.

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Matthew Childs stands in front of the fountain in his Smart Meter Garden, with our Tom Raffield steam bent bench rising and falling behind.

TR: Why do you think people should get a smart meter?

MC: I believe the issue of climate change is an emergency situation and we should all be doing whatever we can to help. Getting a smart meter to me feels like a very easy thing to do with the potential of making a tangible positive impact.

I believe it can only be a good thing if we are individually better informed on how we use energy in our homes. I can also see how better informing the people who plan our energy resource would result in a more efficient supply which integrates more renewable sources of energy.


Do you have a bespoke project in mind? Get in touch to find out how we can bring your designs to life.


Interview courtesy of The Smart Meter Garden sponsors - Smart Energy GB.

Words by Matthew Childs.

Photography via BBC, KLC School of Design and social media channels.

Posted: 08.08.19
Updated: 15.04.21

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