An urban backdrop brings with it extensive challenges for landscape architects. While such a backdrop allows them the opportunity to be creative, think outside the box and juxtapose the built and the organic to create a high-impact focus, there is no doubting the limitations it also creates.
This is perhaps part of the reason why, when projects interlink both built and organic means, they are so widely recognised.
Australian architect Andrew Burns’ recently-revealed works for a London public garden is a case in point. Undertaken as a part of the Cityscapes Festival, garden installations have been unveiled throughout London’s Southbank region, with Burns’ particular landscape plot positioned in a former bypass laneway known as Gibbon’s Rent.
Working with landscape expert Sarah Eberle, Burns was able to transform the highly industrial space into a hidden belt that he hopes will promote community socialisation as much as it does environmental reclamation.
According to jury members who selected Burns’ design for the space, this element of seclusion will drive the success of the project as a usable community space.
“Andrew and Sarah’s design transforms the forgotten piece of public space into a sociable garden made up of a growing collection of potted plants and seating to allow people to sit down, relax and enjoy an oasis of calm just metres from the hustle and bustle of Tooley Street and London Bridge Station,” the jury said.
Furthering this idea of bringing the social element into the garden space, both Burns and Eberle have adamantly encouraged local residents to add their own flavour to the garden. This in turn encourages both engagement with and the maintenance of the space.
“We believe that our vision for Gibbon’s Rent will not only provide a strong identity for the site, but will also allow and in fact relies upon long-term community engagement with the space,” Burns said.
Urban gardens do not need to be limited to sky gardens or apartment deckings. In reclaiming these underused industrial spaces, the true green, community potential of our cities can be unlocked.