Ten Sheds

Host: Did you write this symphony in the shed?

Jackson: No!

Host: Have you written any of your recent works in this shed of yours?

Jackson: No, no, not at all. It’s just an ordinary garden shed.

Host: I see, I see. And you’re thinking of buying this second shed to write in!

Jackson: No, no. Look. This shed business–it doesn’t really matter. The sheds are not important. A few friends call me “Two Sheds” and that’s all there is to it. I wish you’d ask about the music. Everybody talks about the sheds. They’ve got it out of proportion. I’m a composer. I’m going to get rid of the shed. I’m fed up with it!

Host: Then you’ll be Arthur “No Sheds” Jackson, eh?

–from Monty Python, “Interview with Arthur ‘Two Sheds’ Jackson”

What was deemed unimportant– “just an ordinary garden shed,” according to Arthur “Two Sheds” Jackson–has come a long way since Monty Python’s Eric Idle interviewed Terry Jones. Is one man’s ordinary garden shed another man’s conservatory or writer’s refuge? At the 2002 International Garden Festival at Reford Gardens in Grand-Mtis, Quebec, winners of the Ideal Hut Competition were challenged to ponder, and design, an ideal garden shed. To this end, entrants were asked to consider a shed’s meaning within its landscape and as a summation of other architectural elements such as form, materiality, symbolism and usage.

Standing as the nexus of all its associations and functionality–including, for instance, gardening, hunting, fishing, and other leisure activities–it is, according to Marc Aug, Professor at the cole des Hautes tudes en Sciences Sociales, Centre d’Anthropologie des Mondes Contemporains, Paris, “a unifying image, a symbol. In other words, a work of art” (L’architecture d’aujourd’hui, June 2000). The competition sought to discover whether garden sheds interfere with or improve their surroundings, whether they add aesthetic value to a landscape, and how they are asked to function. As secretive space? A collector’s storage? A home-in-the-garden? A clubhouse for rodents? A place to compose a symphony?

Winning entries have been built and are on display this summer at the International Garden Festival along with the celebrated garden sheds from the 1999 Ideal Hut Show in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Ideal Hut Competition winners are posted at http://www.z-1.org/idealhut/ and on exhibit at Galerie Monopoli in Montreal until August 30.