Established in 1941, the Royal Botanical Gardens ( ) is one of the world’s largest botanical gardens. A series of gardens and nature sanctuaries cover some 2,700 acres of land. There are more than 40,000 recorded plants, on view that make for 50 collections reflecting the bio-diversity of that region of southwestern Ontario. A 1930 Royal Charter established links between the Royal Botanical Gardens and the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, England, Edinburgh, Scotland; Hobart, Tasmania as well as Sydney and Melbourne, Australia.
Approaching near the future compass installed in the botanical garden, you can notice that bar North-South of the future compass consists of two round roots expressing radial water flow in plant roots. And you will find a crevice dug in the ground expands along bar East-West of the future compass. Imagine the movement of water circulating between heaven and earth through plants.
Ichi Ikeda: Future Compass
by John Grande

Future Compass highlights the holistic bio-regional and a mutualist exchange between humanity and nature. Future Compass becomes a cultural rendezvous between water and the human being. The tree forms in Ikeda’s piece personify all that is exotic and essential to us. The tree is a beautiful living storage container.
Water, underground and within, moves in and around the tree. Water is maintained as a resource instead of running off. In this way, trees maintain a soil surface, and stabilize the grounds they grow in. Trees strengthen the world we are a part of. To progress, to design better environments, to produce products that use replaceable processes and materials, to use nature design as bio-mimicry, and the energy and forms efficiently with nature as a principle for the conception and manufacture of things we depend on, we can evolve. This is a hidden message in Ichi Ikeda’s Future Compass.

For Ichi Ikeda, sustainability is a principle to guide us like a compass towards a future that moves us towards the resilient and integrative capacities inherent to nature. Nature’s structures are procreative interactive living designs - a response to the many forces of variability and diversity that come together in nature. All these living elements, ourselves included, are mutually connected, and we can solve our world problems if we recognize these subtle and intimate relations between the world we build, shape, change, alter, and the world that is and has always been there.

Like two gigantic eyes filled with water the first growth tee stumps Ikeda has assembled painstakingly with his assistants from Japan is nothing less than nature theatre. While the construction, fabrication and composition of these two stumps is artificial, it recreates what looks like an entirely natural scene. And yet the tree acts as a base for the water within whose edges are lined with bamboo. The look is exotic, rich, and it could be from many regions of our planet earth, for the look communicates a central idea – that trees are an anchor for water, and act as conduits for water, indeed also transform carbon dioxide to produce oxygen.

John Grande
curates Earth Art, a yearly international exhibition of nature sculpture at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Canada. (

Interestingly, the site for Ichi Ikeda's Future Compass was put together in a time of great economic difficulty, the Great Depression in the 1930s. The Rock Garden was developed out of a gravel pit no longer in use and enabled many unemployed workers to earn a living during hard times. Stone from the nearby Niagara Escarpment was used to create the landforms that comprise the Rock Garden.
inside of round root installed along bar North-South og Future Compass a crevice dug in the ground expanding along bar East-West of the future compass.
from the left:
John Grande (curator of Earth Art, Canada)
Dennis Oppenheim (artist, U.S.A.)
Ichi Ikeda (artist, Japan)
recharge of
ground water
Ikeda says, "The concept for Future Compass - rooted water - originates in the profound relationship between water and plants. Only through the preservation of plants and the conservation of water will we be able to chart a course for a sustainable future. "

Future Compass 2009 must be a open site where people can look imagination necessary for those living on the future earth. In another word, it can be likened to the magnifying lens for enlarging the opening of an ecologically sustainable future.
For the Earth Art show at the RBG, Ikeda’s water filled tree forms function as a hypothetical compass directing us to an ecologically sustainable future. This compass is a marker, a sign, an indicator that presents us with a new and incredible direction for our voyage into a desirable future.

by John Grande

technical support: Hisashi Higashi
photo: Tatsuro Kodama