The WaterAid Garden wins Gold medal at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

on
21 May 2024
Designers Tom Massey and Je Ahn celebrate with WaterAid CE Tim Wainwright after The WaterAid Garden was awarded a gold medal at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024.
Image: WaterAid/ Oliver Dixon

 

 

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WaterAid is delighted to announce The WaterAid Garden has been awarded a gold medal at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

 

The international not-for-profit’s garden, which celebrates water as our most precious resource, is a collaboration between celebrated architect Je Ahn and award-winning landscape designer Tom Massey and was made possible by support from the grant-making charity Project Giving Back.

Tim Wainwright, WaterAid Chief Executive, said:

“We’re thrilled that The WaterAid Garden has been awarded a gold medal; it’s an amazing recognition of the beautiful, innovative design and the important message behind it – that water is precious, and we need to manage it sustainably to keep if flowing, whatever the weather.

“Almost one in ten people globally lack clean water, and climate change is making the situation worse as more frequent flooding contaminates fragile water sources, while longer droughts dry up springs. At WaterAid, we are supporting people living on the frontline of the climate crisis, helping to ensure a reliable supply of clean water, which enables communities to thrive. It is this work that has inspired our award-winning garden.”

The climate crisis is a water crisis, and a staggering 90% of all natural disasters are water-related, with more frequent and extreme floods polluting water sources and droughts drying up springs. The WaterAid Garden addresses the challenges presented by an ever-changing climate. It focuses on sustainable water management and features a colourful array of plant species designed to deal with varying amounts of rainfall, and materials that are reclaimed and repurposed for a lighter carbon footprint.

The centrepiece of the thought-provoking design is a rainwater-harvesting pavilion inspired by WaterAid’s work with communities around the world to develop sustainable water solutions. This structure efficiently harvests rainfall, filtering and storing this precious resource for drinking and irrigating whilst also slowing flow and providing shade.

2024WaterAid Garden designers, Tom Massey, left and Je Ahn, in the garden at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show to shine a light on the global water crisis and promote the importance of water management to combat the effects of climate change.
2024 WaterAid Garden designers, Tom Massey, left and Je Ahn, in the garden at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show to shine a light on the global water crisis and promote the importance of water management to combat the effects of climate change.
Image: WaterAid/ Fiona Hanson

Co-designer Tom Massey, said:  

“I’m absolutely delighted The WaterAid Garden has been awarded a gold medal! This has been an exciting and mammoth undertaking, creating a garden that not only looks striking but demonstrates how clean water changes lives and how innovation can help us adapt to an unpredictable future. It’s been an amazing experience working alongside Je Ahn, WaterAid, Project Giving Back, the teams at Landscape Associates, Cake Industries, Hortus Loci and everyone else who has contributed to the garden. 

“As our climate changes water scarcity and insecurity is becoming more commonplace – here in the UK and around the world. I hope everyone who visits the garden gains a real sense of the importance of sustainable water management and what’s possible when we all come together.”

Co-designer, architect Je Ahn of Studio Weave, added:

“I’m so proud that our garden has won a Gold medal. This is my first time creating a garden for RHS Chelsea Flower Show, and it has been a brilliant collaborative effort, and so wonderful to watch it coming to life and relate a powerful message. Ultimately, the garden brings a message of hope, showing how resilience and innovation can help us all to adapt and flourish in the face of the climate crisis. I’m looking forward to seeing our garden have a lasting impact in its final home in the north of England and inspiring a new generation to be more water-wise.”

HRH King Charles visits WaterAid's garden at Chelsea Flower show, 20 May 2024.
HRH King Charles visits WaterAid's garden at Chelsea Flower show, 20 May 2024.
Image: Daniel Herendi

His Majesty King Charles, recently confirmed as WaterAid’s Royal Patron, paid a special visit to the garden on Monday. Sustainability, global water security and the environment are issues that are close to HM The King’s heart, and he has played a hugely significant role over the past three decades in supporting WaterAid’s vision of a world where everyone everywhere has clean water, decent toilets, and good hygiene.

The spectacular garden addresses the challenges presented by an ever-changing climate and focuses on sustainable water management, featuring a colourful array of plant species designed to deal with varying amounts of rainfall, and materials that are reclaimed and repurposed for a lighter carbon footprint.  

Collecting rain is one of the simplest forms of good quality water supply, but effective storage is often a challenge. WaterAid harnesses a range of simple, affordable rainwater collection methods to bring essential water supplies to households and schools in areas prone to water shortages or water contamination. Rooftop collection means water can be harvested near to home, so women and girls do not need to spend hours walking to collect water, and this technique has inspired the structure Je and Tom have designed for the WaterAid Garden, maximising the surface area for rain to be collected and stored.

WaterAid garden at the 2024 Chelsea Flower Show
WaterAid garden at the 2024 Chelsea Flower Show
Image: WaterAid/ Alistair Thorpe

The garden came together with a team of 42, including structural engineers, metal workers, designers, landscapers, nursery growers and water feature specialists.

It is home to the tallest trees at this year’s show - the Alder trees, which are approximately 16m tall, chosen because of their adaptability to varying weather. Alder wood hardens in water and can survive submerged. The roots have nodules that capture nitrogen improving soil fertility and can absorb toxic heavy metals from the ground, helping to restore waste industrial land.  

The garden also features dozens of unusual plants, including Eriocephalus africanus, which is indigenous to South Africa, and, more common in the UK - the Red Yucca, which is perfect for gardens in the UK with its ability to take extremes of cold whilst at the same time being tolerant of drought conditions means it can readily withstand the harsh British climate and its increasingly extreme and changeable weather. 

The WaterAid Garden combines Je’s architectural, art and public realm background with Tom’s horticultural and landscape design expertise. This is Je’s first time exhibiting at Chelsea Flower Show and Tom’s fourth, having previously won gold and silver-gilt medals.

Following the show, the WaterAid garden will be relocated to a permanent home to inspire a future generation of gardeners about effective rainwater collection and the wise use of water in gardens.

For further information about WaterAid visit www.wateraid.org

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024 tickets are on sale now via the RHS website.

ENDS   

For more information, please contact: 

[email protected] or [email protected]. Or call WaterAid’s press line on 020 7793 4537, or email [email protected]

Notes to Editors: 

Download photosProject Giving Back

Project Giving Back (PGB) is a unique grant-making charity that provides funding for gardens for good causes at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. PGB was launched in May 2021 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its devastating effects on UK charitable fundraising - effects that have since been exacerbated by the cost of living crisis. PGB will fund a total of 15 gardens at RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2024 and intends to fund up to 60 gardens at the show from 2022 - 2026.

Project Giving Back was established with funding from two private philanthropists who are RHS Life Members and keen gardeners. They wish to remain anonymous. PGB will help UK-based good causes recover from the unprecedented effects of the global pandemic by giving them an opportunity to raise awareness of their work for people, plants and the planet at the high-profile RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Find out more at www.givingback.org.uk.

Tom and Je first worked together collaborating on ’The Hothouse’ the landmark project for London Design Festival 2020.  

The exhibit highlighted the effects climate change is having on what we can grow, displaying a range of edible and exotic plants in a beautiful contemporary structure. The structure provided a regulated temperature and protective environment for the exotic plants, but with the warming climate these plants could potentially be grown outside in the UK a couple of decades from now. The exhibit was sited in a high-profile area of public realm opposite the Olympic Park in Stratford.  

Since then, Tom and Je have collaborated on a number of projects, ranging from public parks and landscapes in and around the City of London to an educational forest garden for a library in Lea Bridge.

Found out more at www.tommassey.co.uk and www.studioweave.com 



WaterAid is an international not-for-profit determined to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. We work alongside communities in 22 countries to secure these three essentials that transform people’s lives. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 28 million people with clean water and nearly 29 million people with decent toilets.

For more information, visit our website wateraid.org/uk, follow us on Twitter @WaterAidUK@WaterAid or @WaterAidPress, or find us on FacebookLinkedIn or Instagram.

  • 703 million people in the world – almost one in ten – don’t have clean water close to home.
  • 2.2 billion people in the world – more than one in four – don’t have safe water.
  • Almost 2 billion people in the world – one in four – lack soap and/or water to wash their hands at home, if they have a place at all.
  • 1.5 billion people in the world – almost one in five – don’t have a decent toilet of their own.
  • 570 million people in the world – 1 in 14 – have a decent toilet but have to share it with people outside their family. This compromises the privacy, dignity and safety of women and girls.
  • Almost 400,000 children under five die every year due to diseases caused by unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene. That's more than 1000 children a day, or almost one child every one and a half minutes.
  • Investing in safely managed water, sanitation and hygiene services provides up to 21 times more value than it costs.

    [1] WHO/UNICEF (2023). Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2022: special focus on gender. Available at: washdata.org/reports/jmp-2023-wash-households-launch (accessed 11 Jul 2023).    

    [2] WHO (2023). Burden of disease attributable to unsafe drinking-water, sanitation and hygiene: 2019 update. Available at: who.int/publications/i/item/9789240075610 (accessed 24 Jul 2023).  

    [3] WaterAid (2021). Mission-critical: Invest in water, sanitation and hygiene for a healthy and green economic recovery. Available at: washmatters.wateraid.org/publications/mission-critical-invest-water-sanitation-hygiene-healthy-green-recovery (accessed 1 Nov 2023).