Landscape designer James Wheatley with the beginnings of his Light Nelson installation in the NMIT carpark. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Reflecting on Light Nelson


Right now, award-winning landscape designer James Wheatley is standing in the NMIT carpark surrounded by silver ferns.

But come Friday he will be getting out of his comfort zone when he merges light, sound and foliage into his Light Nelson installation.

“I love doing horticultural shows, but to step outside the boundaries and do something more theatrical is where it’s at,” says James.

He has been a stalwart of the Chelsea Flower Show for years, and it was there last year where he was inspired to create something back home.

“I rapidly thought that I could significantly adapt and link in with New Zealand and the history of bush around Nelson.”

The project, called “Reflection”, involves putting bass speakers underneath a pool which creates a rippling effect.

That will also be linked with a sound scape that connects with the history of land and this space before it became a carpark.

“But also links into the future, and challenges the threat to our ecosystem and to the future of our evolving eco system,” James says.

Janja and Mark Heathfield have helped with the sound design and Tobias Kirschstein with the lighting, as well as help from Big Trees on Lansdowne.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to work alongside so many talented artists.”

Event manager Sophie Kelly says the Light Nelson is going to be full of “magic and surprise”.

“There is a phenomenal amount of trust involved with the artists. You don’t always know exactly how things are going to turn out.”

The event is on for five nights from Friday and features 66 installations, 150 artists and 77,000 times lumens.