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FIELDS OF WHEAT

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Image courtesy of Agostino Osio: Stefano Boeri ‘Bosco Verticale’ stands above the wheatfield

The final harvesting is happening now in our part of Somerset. Long eared barley, Hordeum distichon, is the last of the crops to be taken in and we can see the combines out working across the fields during lunchtime walks. The open wheatfields are part of the mosaic of woodland, pasture or grass leys at the estate where we work, a landscape which has been farmed in much the same way for generations. What we take for granted here though can be a surprising intervention, even an otherworldly experience, in an urban situation.

Over a period of 35 years Hungarian born, American artist Agnes Denes has cultivated unlikely, highly prominent urban sites transforming them into wheatfields by importing soil and seed and creating a curious and memorable juxtaposition of urban skyscrapers and rural crop. The first project “Wheatfield – a Confrontation” carried out in New York in 1982 which the curator Jeffrey Weiss called ‘perpetually astonishing ….one of Land Art’s great transgressive masterpieces’ was a means of reflecting on issues of ecology, climate change and the future of the planet – all subjects which remain at the forefront of environmental discussion today.

Dene’s latest wheatfield in the urban core of Milan was created in 2015 and proposed a reference to the simplicity of the land, the source of all life and prosperity. In creating the work she enlisted the help of the public and local residents. In Italy where the agrarian economy is still a strong and current part of society, the artwork’s involvement in building community and social engagement was clearly understood. It culminated in an event on 9 July 2015 when tourists and locals were asked to participate in a great harvest celebration in which the corn was cut and everyone took home a bundle of straw and a bag of seeds. Dene asked that we ‘plant seeds for future generations to harvest’ and reflect on the need to take responsibility for our own future and pass on fundamental values like sharing stewardship and solidarity.

Much of our housing design work is concerned with underpinning the health and wellbeing of new communities and the way that people can be brought together through strong landscape and green infrastructure. The sharing and growing of local food can be an important focus for shared endeavour which builds relationships. Taking this further at Didcot we proposed the ‘Grow, Cook, Eat’ – a bespoke facility for local people to unite in the shared production of fruit and vegetables. The proposal includes a building with cookery facilities making the potential for cookery demonstrations and celebrations of the harvest to be at the core of the new housing for the garden town.

Sketch9

Ref:

www.designboom.com
www.agnesdenesstudio.com
www.southoxon.gov.uk

 

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COMING IN FROM THE COLD

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freezing-cold-wallpaper-1When I was a child, central heating was still uncommon and our house was draughty, partly heated, and only warm in particular zones.  My mother complained if doors were left open and was always telling us to put on more clothes as we “looked cold”.  My father by contrast would stride outside, bringing in wood and great wafts of fresh air.  He never mentioned the cold and enjoyed being outside, logging or working on the garden.

As we grow increasingly urban I wonder how many people are losing their connection with the environment on a really basic level.  As we spend all our time in centrally heated rooms and dash to our heated cars do we ever get cold?  Are we so continually comfortable that we have the same aversion to cold that my mother instilled (inadvertently) in us?

A couple of years ago we acquired three hens and their husbandry caused a major shift in my appreciation of this.  In the early morning, rushing to get ready for work, feeding the hens and letting them out would overlap with making tea, and I would dash out to tend to them in my pyjamas, while the kettle boiled.  Breaking the ice and refilling their drinker was a focused speedy activity that I carried out shivering, barefoot in my wellingtons.  Stopping one day to take in a great gulp of freezing air, I realised that instead of being something to avoid, it was energising.  Instead of fearing it, literally shrinking from the cold, I allowed myself to feel the sensation of cold air on my skin and to my surprise it felt good.

Is fear of being cold stopping us from being regularly exposed to the external environment.  Do we only emerge from our heated cocoons when the sun breaks through?  How much do we miss by staying inside when our connection to the outside world is hard wired, instinctive?  And with the loss of exposure to the elements are we missing out on things which are important for our well-being, such as fresh air free from building pollutants, good emissions from plants and trees,* the beauty of the environment, the beneficial and calming effect of simply being outside?   In Japan there are studies which support claims for the benefits of Shinrin-yoku or ‘forest bathing’ – that exposure to nature positively creates calming neuro-psychological effects through changes in the nervous system.**

I am sad that my daughter will never see the fantastic patterns of frost on the inside of the windows that we used to delightedly discover as children before running shivering to the bathroom.  And I would hate to know that entire generations are being starved of the beneficial effects of being outside when being cold is such a minor impediment to accessing so many health benefits.

phytoncides (wood essential oils), which are antimicrobial volatile organic compounds derived from trees, such as a-pinene and limonene

** Shinrin Yoku: Forest Medicine. Studies so far have demonstrated reductions in stress, anger, anxiety, depression and sleeplessness amongst the subjects who have participated. In Japan there are now 44 accredited Shinrin Yoku forests.  In addition, the level of the hormone serum adiponectin is also increased. When this hormone is present in low concentrations it is linked with obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome, among other bodily disorders.


            

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Quality and Audit

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Novell Tullett has teamed up with Hydrock Highways Engineers to offer a comprehensive quality & audit service for highways and public realm design schemes. Novell Tullett’s long-standing experience of the delivery of street and place schemes, will ensure that quality of place will merit equal consideration with that of safety. Our collaboration with Hydrock raises the value of the safety audit service to local authorities and private developers alike.
Those seeking to restore character and sense of place in locations which has previously been dominated by traffic should contact us.

maginifier Highways

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A welcoming courtyard garden for the elderly

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Concept design reduce

Early concept: An easily navigable yet rich space

‘The outside is as important as the inside’ was the brief for a development of new apartments for elderly people with extra care needs. Easy access to a safe, navigable and stimulating outdoor space is well recognised as an important tool in maintaining mental and physical wellbeing. Subsequently each of the 60 flats has a private balcony or ground floor terrace for residents to enjoy as well as a central courtyard garden.

A shaded outdoor dining area and a large terrace for barbecues and communal events will encourage participation and daily interaction with others, while a potager garden with raised beds, a greenhouse and potting shed is an opportunity for therapeutic activity and physical exercise.

In response to the limited walking opportunities around the site, a labyrinth garden has been designed to allow residents to enjoy a meditative walk through scented plants which leads them back to their starting point. There is also a screened area for drying laundry in the fresh air which is a familiar activity that will encourage residents into the garden.

Generous, level paths of resin-bound gravel will give easy access around the site, with resting and activity areas delineated by natural stone or warm brick. There is an emphasis on planting with bright colour, nostalgic scents, and nectar for wildlife to bring enjoyment and cognitive stimulus. Client Bristol Charities was pleased that, despite the site constraints, the design offered them everything on their wish list.

Orchard Homes in Stockwood was designed by Alec French Architects in Bristol and has been granted planning permission. Work on site begins in 2016.

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Out damned spot

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Relax, no murder has been committed – the stain is mulberry juice.

We were lucky to be given the key to a secret courtyard in Bristol which is filled by a mature Mulberry tree – Morus nigra – hung with fruit. The dark, black-red fruit are like loganberries, sweet, juicy and easily crushed. Our scrumpings went into a glamorous, late summer party cake, got crushed into juice and eaten with muesli for breakfast – local, versatile fruit full of vitamins!

Mulberries are great trees, though spreading and dense canopied which means they are too overpowering for most gardens. Used in the wider landscape they can be statuesque, coarse textured and as demonstrated provide great crops of fruit. The Romans introduced Mulberries to Britain and they have thrived here, being especially common in the Royal Parks. Since 2000 the Queen has been the holder of the national collection of mulberries at Buckingham Palace, and in the early 1600s her predecessor James I had aspirations to build an industry which would compete with the French silk industry. He commanded the planting of many mulberry trees to develop silk production in Britain. Sadly the species planted was Morus nigra whose leaves are too leathery for the silk worm to digest, he should have selected Morus alba, so his attempts at commercial take-over fell flat but the heritage of his trees planted over 400 years ago lives on at the Chelsea Physic Garden. There one tree in particular is said to have originated from the trees originally planted by James I.

For web Blog

links
http://www.clarkebond.com/

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URBAN BEES AND THE UK PAVILION AT MILAN EXPO 2015

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pool 029 72

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chatting with Joe Wheatcroft in Source – a great deli in St Nicks market Bristol – led me to a close encounter with some urban bees last week. It was Joe’s idea to get some hives located on the market roof and after several years of trying, an approach to the new managers of the market paid off. Since the late spring Joe’s bee hives have been insitu with 2 colonies of bees now being built up.

Unseen by those shopping below, the hives are located within the shelter of high parapet walls, the roof is sunny, quiet, undisturbed and remarkably close to large sources of pollen. The landscape of Castle Park provides a huge reservoir of tree pollen with Limes being favourite species, but there are also a lot of cherry trees, satellite beds of vegetables and lavender hedges.

The beekeeper Quintin, with his Iraqi beekeeping mentor, deconstructs the hive, lifting out screens alive with bees dazed by pollen and a gentle puff of smoke. The hives have the brood area in the lowest part of the structure closest to the entrance. Here the Queen lays her eggs in a rugby shaped arc and the eggs are tended by the drones. In the layers above this the bees lay down pollen which becomes honey once it is regurgitated and the moisture levels reduced. Here it is stored for the winter and sealed off by a layer of wax once the cell is full. These upper frames are only taken by the beekeeper once he is sure that the hive has enough food store to last the winter.

According to the Guardian:
Bees pollinate a third of everything we eat and play a vital role in sustaining the planet’s ecosystems. Some 84% of the crops grown for human consumption – around 400 different types of plants – need bees and other insects to pollinate them to increase their yields and quality. These include most fruits and vegetables, many nuts, and plants such as rapeseed and sunflowers that are turned into oil, as well as cocoa beans, coffee and tea. Crops grown as fodder for dairy cows and other livestock are also pollinated by bees. And it’s not only food crops that rely on bee pollination, cotton does as well. As a result, annual global crop pollination by bees is estimated to be worth $170bn.

So it isn’t just for honey making that the bee performs a vital role in food production. Yet colonies of bees are vulnerable and may be lost to colony collapse, falling prey to Varroa mite and other parasites. In the southwest we lost 30% of colonies over last winter alone, so encouraging and sustaining bee populations should be high on everyone’s list.

Our colleague, artist Wolfgang Buttress, (designed the columns in our scheme at the Podium in Broadmead) has recently completed the extraordinary scheme for the UK Pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo which is designed to highlight the plight of the honeybee. You can see Wolf’s evocative structure on the link below.

Uk pavilion Milan expo 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Links

http://www.source-food.co.uk/
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/17/why-are-bees-important
https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=104&v=vjQnOdZ9DHA
http://www.wolfgangbuttress.com/expo-2015/

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MILFORD DOCK

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We are delighted that our public realm scheme for the regeneration of Milford Dock in Pembrokeshire has received planning consent. It is part of a £70 million transformation of the historic fishing town by the Port of Milford Haven which will combine traditional maritime industry with tourism, retail, leisure and housing. With our colleagues Turley, we have incorporated public spaces, new cycle and pedestrian routes, shared space and a seaside garden as well as a special ecological area where the freshwater stream meets the harbour.

Here are some of our sketches and visualisations of what is to come.

View from sea 1

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Freezeway

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Freezeway 2       Edmonton Freezeway

When we tell people we are landscape architects, we often get the comment: ‘Oh I keep thinking about doing something with my garden…’

While we do design gardens, it’s not all we do. One of the joys of being a #landscapearchitect is that the role draws on so many different skills and is only limited by imagination. So it is gratifying to read that it is a landscape architect who has designed a new ‘Freezeway’ for Edmonton in Canada.

The simple premise, by Canadian student Matthew Gibbs, is that in a city where the winter temperature averages at -12 degrees Celsius, why not flood an 11km long disused rail track leading into town to create an icy commuter skating route into the city centre. ‘I wanted to look at what it would take to make people fall in love with winter.’ Said Gibbs.

It captures the essence of landscape architecture completely – making the city more liveable, reducing pollution and energy use, providing opportunities for health and wellbeing, boosting the local economy and harnessing simple, people-orientated design.

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FAIRCHARM HARDWORKS

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FAIRCHARM HARDWORKS

Having discussed the ecological aspects of the Faircharm Estate design in a previous post (12th December) I though it was time to review other facets of the design.

Creekside Context

The Faircharm Estate is located on Deptford Creek at the crossing of the footbridge, railway and Docklands Light Railway that slides between Deptford Town Centre and Greenwich. Sitting between busy, diverse Deptford and historic Greenwich, the Creek is a rift through infrastructure, industry and unique ecology, and it is here that energetic creative practice finds a place. The Faircharm development draws on all these influences to provide an engaging landscape for existing communities and new residents.

The Faircharm Peninsula

At the confluence of the Ravensbourne basin with the River Thames, Deptford Creek forms the tidal reach of the river, cutting through the ridges of strong clay at the faultline of low gravel and sands. On either side lie the two villages of Deptford and Greenwich which are built on higher ground.

Key pieces of Victorian and 20th century infrastructure surround the site including Bazalgette’s pumping station and fuel storage sheds; the steel lifting bridge; Mumford Mill and the listed brick viaduct which formed London’s original rail link to Kentish farms. The dominant brick buildings are key characters within the mix of concrete DLR viaducts, glass residential developments and the leftover landscape of undeveloped bomb sites.

The site is formed of four deep-plan buildings, served by a narrow, central, access passage leading to the creek and a space, once docks, now the site’s car park. The Faircharm estate is made from tucked away yards and hidden slots between the remains of the industrial buildings; the stoops and stairs with craning views upstream on the hard flank of the Creek; these characterful spaces are embraced in the design of the landscape.

Responding to the Creek

The landscape and public realm proposals have been shaped by several key technical, legal and eclogical constraints which affect the continued use and protection of the creek wall by its many stakeholders.
The positive outcome of working with these constraints has been to consider the wall as a key landscape element which is a balcony to the creek, rather than a barrier to it. Our proposal is to create modest and controlled access up on to the thickest sections of the wall. The pockets of colonised planting which have self-seeded on thin layers of accumulated soil will be left in situ.

The Proposal

The intention of the proposals was to find an approach, language and method in which to found a new set of mixed-use public spaces that complements and supports the existing ecological, social and spatial networks creating a unique and robust set of public spaces which encourages engagement with wild landscape and creative public life.
To structure this work, the project is broken down into three interconnected elements – each drawing on the industrial heritage of the existing context. These are:

A Shared Street: Access for residential and business vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians

The proposal extends the permeability of the Crossfields Estate, which lies opposite the entrance on Creekside road, into Faircharm via a central Street. This is a shared hard surface which provides service access for vehicles and a pedestrian route to the creek and the proposed public activities at its edge. The surface is laid with Ultifinish, an ashaplt with the exposed aggregates which is rich in colour and texture.

Off the main route areas intended only for pedestrians are paved with clay blocks, this softer smaller scale unit is also used in the entrances to the buildings emphasizing the routes.

Within the street, building-mounted lights and signage keep the shared surface clear and give the tall space a more intimate scale in the evening.

Courtyards and Gardens: A set of spaces hollowed out by the architect’s interventions into the retained brick structures.

Cutting away the core of the existing building blocks allows daylight into their deep plans and reveals a pair of sheltered courtyards surrounded by the activity and life of the studios and workspaces that surround them at ground level. The gallery and the café will be encouraged to spill out into the outdoor spaces.

The courtyards are paved with grey granite paving setts in a running bond across the space, binding the materials of the buildings together with the planting. The narrow entrance to the southerly courtyard has clay pavers for a softer feel.

Creek Edge: A thickened ecological landscape alongside the water

This area has two types of surfacing. Soft impact areas are laid with pale red Cedec which is a permable aggregate with a neutral pH which will be seeded with native plants. The beauty of this material is that it can be shaped and seeps through this area of the side like the movement of water and yet is still practical and strong enough to take maintenance vehicles. Outside the vehicle paths a growing medium made of crushed aggregates will be seeded.

The area to the south has a harder feel as there is occasional access for maintenance vehicles. It is paved with a combination of recycled concrete sleepers and tumbled setts, laid flexibly, with joints again seeded with native plants. The relaxed way in which these materials are used allows them to interact in a fluid way.

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FAIRCHARM ECOLOGY

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FAIRCHARM ECOLOGY

Novell Tullett has recently completed the design for a mixed use (light industrial, residential and commercial) scheme in Deptford, east London, the Faircharm Estate. The ecological design was unusual and is described below.

Creekside Context

The Faircharm Estate is located on Deptford Creek at the crossing of the footbridge, railway and Docklands Light Railway that slides between Deptford Town Centre and Greenwich. Sitting between busy, diverse Deptford and historic Greenwich, the Creek is a rift through infrastructure, industry and unique ecology, and it is here that energetic creative practice finds a place. The Faircharm development draws on all these influences to provide an engaging landscape for existing communities and new residents.

At the confluence of the Ravensbourne basin with the River Thames, Deptford Creek forms the tidal reach of the river, cutting through the ridges of strong clay at the faultline of low gravel and sands. On either side lie the two villages of Deptford and Greenwich which are built on higher ground.

The site is formed of four deep-plan buildings, served by a narrow, central, access passage leading to the creek and a space, once docks, now the site’s car park. The Faircharm estate is made from tucked away yards and hidden slots between the remains of the industrial buildings; the stoops and stairs with craning views upstream on the hard flank of the Creek; these characterful spaces are embraced in the design of the landscape.

Habitats within the existing site

On the face of it there is little wildlife interest on this urban site. In fact, despite the limited opportunity, the diversity of colonising vegetation is surprising. The flora is characteristically wild, ruderal species exploiting every available crevice. On closer inspection the site supports a highly diverse range of wildflower species.

Counter-intuitively places like this are important for maintaining wild populations in an area. Places like Faircharm help reduce the chance of local extinctions, and if managed properly can considerably enhance the wildlife potential. Retaining this wildness and natural colonisation is a key concern of this proposal. The habitats fall into two distinct types or zones.

Terrestrial Ecology

The flora is a curious mix of native species and archaic and recent introductions from around the world. It contains species that were here before the Romans and have continued to survive and thrive, becoming part of London’s urban flora. Highlights include Colt’s-foot (Tussilago farfara) also known as Poor Man’s Baccy; Pellitory-of-the-Wall (Parietaria Judaica); Garden Angelica (Angelica archangelica) a wetland plant growing on dry land near the Creek here establishing itself in a gap between concrete; Late Michaelmas Daisy (Aster x versicolor) of North America origin that has become common in the wild; Rosebay Willowherb (Chamanerion angustifolium) a plant that has come to have a strong associations with London. It came to public attention during the Second World War when along with Oxford Ragwort (which also grows wild here) they coloured bomb sites pink and yellow.

Intertidal Creek Walls

The flora is highly diverse with a mixture of wetland and dry land species often growing side by side. It is typical of Deptford Creek and again entirely wild. Highlights include: Perennial Wall-rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia) a species of flowering plant in the mustard family; Hawkweed Oxtongue (Picris hieracioides); Ivy-leaved Toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis) introduced from Europe to London a little over 400 years ago; and Pink Water-speedwell (Veronica catenata).
The planting and seeding strategy further reinforces the idea of balconies to the creek, with areas around benches unsown and more forcefully managed to create a structure of pocket clearings.

The Proposal

The intention of the proposals was to find an approach, language and method in which to found a new set of mixed-use public spaces that complements and supports the existing ecological, social and spatial networks. Concerning the ecology we responded to the creek, its productive edges, its flow, and the continual rise and fall and associated depositing of rich sediment.
Along the Creek Edge we have created a thickened ecological landscape beside the water. To support the idea of edges and flow, the area has two types of surfacing. Soft impact areas are laid with pale red Cedec which is a permable aggregate with a neutral pH which will be seeded with native plants. The beauty of this material is that it can be shaped and seeps through this area of the site like the movement of water and yet is still practical and strong enough to take maintenance vehicles. Outside the vehicle paths, a growing medium created from crushed aggregates recycled from site will be seeded.
The area to the south has a harder feel, with a natural play area for smaller children. Potential access areas for heavy vehicles are paved with a combination of recycled concrete sleepers and tumbled setts, laid flexibly with joints again seeded with native plants. The relaxed way in which these materials are used allows them to interact naturally.
The actual creek edge has been thickened, forming a deep edge of rubble and crushed aggregate which will be left to colonise naturally.
Indentations in this edge give access to the creek wall and almost 180 degree views to the water and the viaduct. As an important flood defence, the creek wall will remain unchanged, expect for improved fencing and pedestrian access along the wider parts of the wall to appreciate the views.
The area outside the residential building has been given privacy by the planting of a small grove of native birch and cherry trees planted through cedec, which creates a ragged edge with the adjoining reclaimed concrete sleepers and granite setts.
Secure cycle shelters will have living roofs, layered with crushed aggregate and rubble to encourage natural colonisation.

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