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What's Inspiring...Ben Walker

What's Inspiring...Ben Walker
Ben Walker, Executive Creative Director at Crispin Porter & Bogusky, explains how regular visits to a botanical wonderland help his imagination grow.

Those looking for a list of websites, blogs and exhibitions where brilliant ideas can be found which can be loosely appropriated to the latest floor cleaner...apologies.

Increasingly my inspiration comes not from some great writer or artist or coder or filmmaker. It comes from a bit of peace and quiet. From somewhere I can clear my brain of everything.

Cue Kew. I've been a member of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew for a few years now and I have to say it’s an unbelievable place. A real jewel in London's crown.

There are a number of levels with which you can engage with Kew. If you are just after a beautiful walk, bingo. Kew is prettier than a picture. The gardens sweep along the river Thames at its westernmost point and that bit is bliss. A beautiful river carved out over 10 million years next to a 121-hectare garden carved out over less than 300.

Architecturally the place is a real treat. Two incredible greenhouses which are now deemed the most important Victorian glass and iron structures in the world. Decimus Burton designed the palm house and it's an ode to Victorian greatness. Walk through it, and take the stairs so you can see the palms from high above.

Not far away and in total contrast is the Princess of Wales Conservatory and the Alpine house. Brilliant, brutal modern design. There are also the oddities of the Chinese pagoda and the Japanese Minka house plus loads of examples of fine Georgian architecture. The list is endless actually. Something for everyone.

Scientifically the place is as good as it gets. Kew is an internationally renowned botanical research and education institution with 700 staff. It holds the largest collection of living plants in the whole world.

A huge and most important undertaking. There are frequent guided tours to teach you new stuff. I went on one recently and learned all about the three sisters - squash, maize and beans - which the native American Indians grew together because each one was a perfect partner in helping the others grow. If you just want to see where peppercorns, rubber, wine corks or chocolate come from, this is your place.

Geologically you can walk through all the ages of earth and work out just how insignificant humans really are.

Zoologically there's the aquarium beneath the Palm House, not to be confused with the Aquatic garden at the other end of the site.

Artistically Kew is really getting it right. Their exhibitions are breathtaking. Most recently the wood sculptor David Nash had his work displayed in the gardens. How? You simply wandered around and happened upon these beautiful installations. How cool is that? Just to be wandering around a fir tree and then be confronted with a stunning Nash bronze and wood sculpture. Beautiful.

It was the same when they did the Henry Moore exhibition a few years back. 'Oh look, a robin, and that's an oak, and isn't that a Henry Moore just there?' Walk up to it, touch it. Marvel at it.

I found myself rowing with my missus and my boy in a small boat on the pond in front of the museum recently. Very quaint. But if we rowed through the 'banana tunnel' that had been installed on the water we had a mist of banana essence sprayed all around us to breathe in and enjoy. Provided by the avant-garde foodie experimental artists Bompas and Parr. Mental and delightful. All part of the IncrEdibles exhibition which you can still catch now.

A quick stroll amongst the treetops at the fascinatingly-designed Treetops walk and it's back out into the normal world with a promise to do the Nash conservatory, Orangery, Sackler crossing, Sherwood gallery and water lily house next time.

But not before I've learned that Pilkington nicked their self-cleaning glass patent from the leaves of a water lily. And that's about as close to marketing as it gets in Kew.

Mind fully refreshed and inspired and ready to think of new things for bookmakers and chocolate makers.

You can catch Sam Bompas of Bompas and Parr discussng creativity at the IPA Eff Fest on 15th October. 

Last updated 10/10/2013

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