I recently took part in an amazing project organised by Cityscapes and Team London Bridge. The brief was to ‘green up’ Stainer Street, a former road which has been incorporated into the main body of London Bridge Station. Stainer Street is a huge, brick tunnel, with no green infrastructure and very little foot traffic compared with the main concourse. The highlight is the ceiling installation; Me. Here. Now. by artist Mark Titchner. As designers, all four of us who designed gardens in this space felt very honoured to be overseen by these amazing pieces of work.
We were all tasked with designing a garden based on the children’s game Exquisite Corpse. We were provided with materials that were taken from this year’s Hampton Court Flower Show gardens and the idea was that each garden should link to its neighbour through these materials. In the case of my garden, I had Dutch bricks to link to Alexandra Noble’s garden on the left and stone from a dismantled drystone wall to link to Ula Maria’s at the far end of the tunnel, thus closing the loop and bringing the gardens full circle.
The idea behind my garden was one of passing lightly through the landscape. Obviously, many people pass through the station daily and the garden mirrors the movement of people via the orientation of its central structure, the path. The path through the middle is raised, to signify we can walk through our natural landscape, but if we can hover above it somewhat without making such a heavy footprint, so much the better. I used purely UK native plants; the sort of plants that would pop up through the cracks in the pavement if we let them. Plants that would be present in the seedbed of London, had we not built up so many human-made layers on top of the natural landscape.
The vertical structures in the garden were constructed of the reused bricks. The largest was made in the shape of the aerial view of the new platforms at the station and the metal that came from Matthew Childs’s Hampton Court garden was positioned upright to reflect the inner curve of the tunnel. These elements anchored the garden to the space of the station itself. Holes were drilled in the vertical walls to show how even the most industrial of materials can be adapted to provide habitats for invertebrates. Similarly, gab ions were filled with a mixture of any broken bricks and the stone, to provide vertical interest, but also a place where plants and animals could find a home. Leftover CEDEC from the show was also used to create piles of loose material where solitary bees might nest.
The gardens are in situ at Stainer Street until the end of September 2019.
With thanks to everyone involved who made this project an amazing success, but also to Benjamin Vogt and John Little who inspired me to push the envelope with using native plants and insect habitats. You can listen to my interviews with them here: