Monday, 3 February 2014

The Giant's House Sculpture and Mosaic Garden, Akaroa, New Zealand

The Giant's House
Hidden away up a side road about a kilometre from Akaroa township is this colourful and unexpected gem.  The Giant's House stands high on a hillside overlooking a valley and was named by a little girl who one day looked up at it and said it was so big a giant must live there. Built for a bank manager in 1880 from native timbers milled from the local area it is a magnificent house, currently operated as a Bed and Breakfast and function centre. 



The mosaic piano, with a mirrored lid to show off the succulents
planted inside it,  plays jazzy music as you wander the gardens





But it is not the house which astonishes the visitor (it is off limits to all but staying guests)  it is the spectacular garden filled with vibrant mosaic statues which takes the breath away.  The garden and sculptures are the work of well established artist, Josie Martin, who has spent 14 years developing them from scratch.  Josie originally bought the house for its size and wall space, which was perfect for displaying paintings, but when she began to dig the garden and discovered broken pieces of old china she decided to use them by trying her hand at mosaics. Pleased with the look of her first mosaic, her front door step, she then went on to "carpet" the conservatory. 

From those small beginnings the garden has grown to become a joyous, vibrant, surreal world peopled with lively, larger then life size, mosaic characters which are discovered up enticing stairways and along winding mosaic paths. It is cookie, eccentric, flamboyant and absolute fun with a capital F, a happy place.  I walked around the garden with a big smile on my face.



















Overview of the terraced garden
The garden is an ever evolving work of art which Josie develops with the help of local craftsmen who build her designs from reinforcing steel and concrete which she then completes with colours, tiles, mosaics, lights and mirrors.  A new addition to the gardens is a contemporary art gallery where some of Josie's work is displayed.


 
The plantings are also colourful and perfectly groomed.  I was entranced by the glorious, fragrant, sweet peas, roses and bougainvillea twirling around pillars and posts at the time of my visit.  Even the toilet is interesting with the walls and ceiling covered in the (invited) signatures of guests to the gardens.  The Giants House is a "must see" if you are in Akaroa.   Initially I thought the $17 entrance fee was a bit steep but on reflection I think it was money well spent for the pleasure it has given me every time my mind has wandered back to my visit.... and I smile.

The gardens at 68 Rue Balguerie, Akaroa  are open from 12pm to 5pm in summer and 2pm to 4pm in winter
             www.thegiantshouse.co.nz