Duchess's garden to be landscape for 21st century

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The Independent Online
A multi-million pound garden project to transform a derelict 19th-century walled garden into an avant- garde water park was hailed as "one of the most exciting in Europe this century" at its launch yesterday.

The 12-acre garden at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland will be transformed by an international team of designers, including the Japanese architect Tadao Ando. Mists and sprays will create rainbows over the lawns in summer and appear luminous to visitors by moonlight.

The Duchess of Northumberland, Jane Percy, yesterday cut the first turf to launch her pounds 8m to pounds 10m project, though that time-honoured act may be all that is conventional about it.

Tadao Ando, who has just won the Royal Gold Medal for architecture though he trained as carpenter, is to design the pavilion and the water features. He will work alongside garden designers Jacques and Peter Wirtz from Belgium and plants specialists from France and Germany.

Together they will transform the sloping garden which enjoyed an international reputation 200 years ago. Created by the first duke in the 18th century and redesigned to complement the Italian interior of the castle in the 19th century, the garden was popular for family outings, but fell into decline after the First World War.

The Prince of Wales is the project's patron and in a statement issued by the Northumberland estate he praised the plans, which will strongly feature moving water, including cascades, waterfalls, fountains, pools and canals.

"In seeking to recapture the lost world of this great garden, and sharing it with others, the present Duchess is taking up once more the innovative ideas so brilliantly demonstrated in previous generations," said the Prince.

The garden will be open to the public all year while the pavilion, which will be capable of holding 300 people, will be the main source of revenue, supporting a team of up to 15 gardeners.

The duchess's vision is to create "one of the most exciting gardens in Europe this century".

While reflecting the former garden's classical layout it will, she said, be "a contemporary garden for the 21st century, using the talent, expertise and technology of our time".

"I am trying to make the water dance, foam and `mist' in a way which will catch the light, creating a rainbow effect. We will put in lighting from the beginning so the water works can be illuminated."

Once sponsorship is secured - pounds 2m is need to begin the work - the aim will be to make the garden "a national resource that can be drawn on by everyone from local schoolchildren ... to gardening enthusiasts world- wide". If all goes well the garden will be flowing by the turn of the millennium.