London has its great parks but, like any city which has developed over the centuries, there are uninspiring and unloved spaces left over from past building development which, to those who can spot the potential, can become areas for relaxation, enjoyment and imaginative improvement to the urban environment; the most stimulating of these involve collaborations with artists and designers.
Outside the Burlington Gardens building of the Royal Academy, “Unexpected Hill” designed by SO? Architecture and Ideas is a translation of traditional Turkish ceramic tiles into a new public space. Viewed from above, it links to the geometric patterns of historic Islamic designs, while the three dimensional structure acknowledges ‘Muqarnas’ traditional architectural ornamented vaulting. Inside is an interactive wall designed by Tamer Nakisç. Given that this landscaped artwork is sponsored by Turkish Ceramics, an opportunity has been missed to have more ceramics on display or more links to contemporary exhibitions on Turkish art in London or in Istanbul such as ArtInternational being held in a week’s time and Contemporary Istanbul celebrating in its 10th year in November.
South of the River Thames, in London Bridge, a dreary brown brick lump of a building and the boring paved area outside it has been transformed by fashion designer Zandra Rhodes and garden designer Joe Swift into a well-landscaped pocket park set against new vibrant hot paint colours on the brickwork. The Greenwood Theatre Pocket Park has been created by Team London Bridge and Cityscapes, working with King’s College London, Network Rail and the Mayor of London’s Pocket Parks Programme.
‘The London Bridge area is becoming very vibrant and exciting! Once, one could only go to the London Dungeons and look down the lonely railway tunnels to Sweeney Todd land! Then I persuaded Riccardo Legoretta to design the Fashion and Textile Museum, which many regard as the initial starting point of The Regeneration! Since then has come The Shard and the total rebuilding of London Bridge station. The area is thriving and exciting! With many people moving into here to live and many more walking through to the restaurants and station, it is essential to both green and liven-up all the ‘dead’ areas so that it becomes a pleasure to pass through, regardless of the weather.
The Greenwood Theatre has been a large brick eyesore for many years, so when I was approached to work with Joe and enliven this space I jumped at the chance! I felt we needed colour to spread “sunshine” into the area, and the plants to make it a fabulous place to sit and linger in. It really is a lovely exciting project.’(Zandra Rhodes).
Both schemes show what can be done with the involvement of designers and artists in small unloved areas to create worthwhile additions to the public realm and the city environment.