Mangoes in Stratford?

A new instillation predicts the effects of climate change by growing exotic fruits in Stratford

Becky Nelson
8th November 2020
Image: Instagram

Designed by Studio Weave and garden designer, Tom Massey, a large-scale instillation, The Hothouse, has been installed at the International Quarter London, cultivating an array of exotic plants. Within the regulated greenhouse-like structure, crops from across the world have been planted, including mangoes, avocados, oranges and pomegranates. While the tropical biodiversity of the Hothouse provides a beautiful, contrasting sanctuary amidst the concrete jungle that is Stratford, there is a thought-provoking message to be noted.

 The instillation seeks to educate; demonstrating the effects of climate change which scientists predict could see said ‘exotic’ plants grown in a UK climate from as early as 2050.  According to Studio Weave, 'air quality levels could be five times worse in thirty years, leading to a 30% decrease in crop yields and record temperature increases' which would have catastrophic impacts on the natural world. As such, there is a bitter irony in this celebration of natural beauty and the harsh reality it personifies for those engaging with it. 

Image: Instagram

As far as art instillations go, the Hothouse definitely succeeds in creating a poignant and conflicting message. What foodie wouldn’t love to harvest their own avocados and pick them fresh for breakfast… without having to run to Tesco and invasively prod a sad collection of unripe ones, flown across the globe three days prior? Alas, the sad reality we all need to be reminded of is that the increasing temperatures we may find seemingly attractive now, are not. 

Image: Instagram

Although, there is light at the end of this glass tunnel. Reminiscent of a Victorian glasshouse, the Hothouse sits in an area historically home to a 20 mile stretch of greenhouses, the Lee Valley Corridor, which grew ornamental produce in the 1930s such as grapes and foreign flowers. Conversely, the Lee Valley area now homes the 2012 Olympic Park. Surely there is a message in this principle alone, about our potential to develop and the adaptability of humankind? Studio Weave and Lendlease, who pioneered the instalment, want to reiterate this fact: in the face of climate change our ability and ingenuity is the greatest (and perhaps, only) source of ammunition. As such, their attempt to inspire people to do just that is not only creative but admirable too.

So, whether you take inspiration from inside the greenhouse or elsewhere, remember that the allure of a homegrown mango in the UK must remain a pure fantasy, that is, if you want to stick around to eat it.

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