Three inspiring MA Landscape Architecture students from the University of Greenwich, Maddy Gunn, Mei-Ling Schmidt and Ed Scobie, recently formed a new design practice (XMPL) and have already undertaken their first commissions. Read below their story:
During the final term of our Masters we approached the Friends of City Gardens and asked if there was anyway that we could be involved with their initiative to improve the air quality in the City, part of a city wide campaign to highlight the issue of harmful levels of air pollution in London.
We had no expectations of what space we were going to be allocated if any, so we were thrilled when we were given a large space to work with at the Barbican. We were set a very lose brief, the proposal had to be temporary (3-5 years) and had to tackle the issue of air quality. We devised seven initial concepts, all very varied, from using parked cars as planters, to a climbing frame of greenery before meeting again with the Friends of City Gardens again and whittled the concepts down to three that we all felt were achievable and realistic given the time scale, budget and resources available. We developed these three concepts further, writing method statements and getting accurate quotes.
These three designs were then presented to the City of London. We looked at the issues of the designs, looking at everything from maintenance, to security before agreeing on the final design. We then presented this final design to the residents of the Barbican, the feedback we received was entirely positive, meaning we had the green light!
This finished design is based around the concept of creating a space to escape from the pollution and enter into an ‘amphitheatre’ of plants, and therefore clean air! We were really keen to use exciting, unusual and most importantly air quality plants to create an eye catching design. One of the major problems of the site is it is almost entirely shaded, limiting our choice of suitable plants. We settled on a colour palette of whites, silvers and blues, colours we felt best reflected clean air.
We are going to be using corrugated steel drainage pipes of varied dimensions cut to different lengths in order to achieve the amphitheatre. There have been a number of issues along the way that we have had to overcome or work round – perhaps the biggest one has been working out a method of turning industrial drainage pipes into suitable planters.
Alongside doing this project at the Barbican, we were also approached by Crossrail to design a space for them that again highlighted the issue of air quality and helped combat it. We wanted to recycle as many materials from the Farringdon Station building site as possible. As a result, all of the planters are made from recycled air conditioning ducts. We wanted the hoarding behind the site to be painted bright orange as a nod to all the people working on Crossrail aiming for the same shade as their Hi-Vis! Not only this but we wanted the space to feel separate from the surrounding street, again create a ‘room’ with clean air. This site is south facing and very exposed, so the planting here is very different from the Barbican, bright colours, and sun loving, Salvias, Verbenas, Cosmos, Olive Trees, Heuchara to name a few.
We are actively seeking more design work and looking forward to more challenges.
The Crossrail garden has been completed and can be seen on the junction of Charterhouse Street and Farringdon Street, and the Barbican Garden, Moor Lane is being officially opened on the 15th June – we would love to see as many people there as possible!