Set between the school and two playgrounds, this street – with its daily clash of car and pedestrian drop-off and pick-up – was unsafe and unhealthy. It was crying out to become a ‘family space’ and the community wanted a space to hold events to bring them together. The white city estate is the sixth most deprived local area in England. School pick-up and drop-off was clearly a problem with parents describing it as being stressful and like ‘a military operation’. Interaction between many parents was limited to fraught car encounters and the character of the street environment at these times meant families on foot generally rushed away. There were also simple needs such as there being nowhere safe locally to learn to ride a bike.
Our clients, London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, saw the opportunity to provide a better space for the community at the same time as creating a landscape that manages rainwater through Sustainable Drainage (SuDS). As landscape architects who specialise in SuDS landscapes, we developed concept ideas for a new urban park with the functional aspects of SuDS being completely integrated into the space as a whole and how it could serve the community’s needs. We balanced the need for a large event area with the potential for smaller community events and the need for intimate social interaction. We sought to improve links between the school and the playgrounds and demote vehicular traffic through careful planting and signage feature placement. We design our SuDS landscapes to ‘come alive when it rains’ and attract people to venture outside to see water flowing through and filling up features.
In this project we particularly wanted interesting things to happen in the raingardens that frame the main school entrance. These presented the opportunity to intercept roof runoff at an overhead level and exploit the drop down to ground level by creating what we have termed ‘rainsculptures’. Overhead channels carry the water flow away from the building toward a ‘rainchain’ formed of a helix of steel ropes secured to the base of the raingarden. When it rains, water flows over the steel ropes and is spread between the splaying ropes as dancing sheets held by surface tension. Randomly each sheet’s tension breaks and quickly disappears to be reformed moments later. This spectacle draws people out from the school when it rains to see water appearing to flow up and down between the ropes.
SuDS requires a different approach to tree and plant selection. The aim is to create a fully-planted surface with a dense root mat without reliance on chemical herbicides and fertilisers. This reduces the potential for erosion, maximise soil infiltration and protects watercourses from agro-chemical pollution. At Bridget Joyce Square we further developed our 20 years of SuDS planting knowledge to devise two main planting typologies that have become a fundamental driver of the park’s unique character. For the broader, expansive soft landscape areas, the planting needed to be robust enough to tolerate the footfall of playing children and be maintainable by routine landscape maintenance. The raingardens each side of the school entrance deserved a more intimate, colourful gardenesque style and we could rely on more intensive care and maintenance by the school and a local community gardening organisation. The chosen ornamental Birch trees are ideal for SuDS basins due to their light canopy allowing vigorous plant growth beneath and their small, quickly broken-down leaves which prevent blockage of inlets and outlets. Aesthetically, they also combine very well with an understorey of grasses.
The everyday functionality of the park is aimed at families and children with playful ingredients that have turned an un-safe and air-polluted route to school into a fun and adventurous one! Raised basin walls introduce younger children to supervised wall-walking until they are confident enough to tackle the ‘Wiggly Wall’ alone whilst the more adventurous children teenagers and adults skip, scooter and cycle along it. A new gateway, emphasised by a contrast paving strip and bridge across the main basin, creates a positive link between the new park and the playground. Whilst the extensive granite basin walls are sittable, formal benches have been provided throughout with a cluster outside the more open school entrance to enable parents to meet whilst waiting for their children. To the wider community the new space is a safe and pleasant route to walk or cycle through, or to pause in relative peace and quiet when the children are in school. The community have already held a number of events in the park. We endeavoured throughout to balance the needs of the community with making the park an exemplar of creative and sustainable rainwater management and believe we succeeded in providing a public landscape which genuinely serves the community it belongs to. In the words of one local mother : “It has actually started to bring the community together!”
Entrant office name: Robert Bray Associates
Role of the entrant in the project: Landscape Architect
Project location (Street, City, Country): Bridget Joyce Square, Australia Road, White City, UK
Design year: 2014
Year Built: 2015