img(height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=2939831959404383&ev=PageView&noscript=1")

Marie Price

Satellite view of Site B  back gardens.
Satellite view of Site B back gardens.

The Overlooked Back Garden: Voyeurism in the English back garden
University of Westminster

Tutor: Harold Charrington


 

Marie Price wonders if years of observing rear gardens from the train as she commuted from her parents’ house to university subliminally inspired the subject of her Medal-winning dissertation: The Overlooked Back Garden: Voyeurism in the English Back Garden.Another factor was her own love of gardens.

‘The garden is always a place I really enjoy being in and working in – I try to make the most of it,’ she says. ‘It’s one of the few domestic spaces that is quite unpredictable. You can’t really control external factors that act on it, such as neighbours, children, dogs.’

Understanding the term voyeurism in the wider sense of people-watching, her dissertation explores this tension between the private and the overlooked, considering the general chronological evolution of London terraces as gardens became associated with leisure rather than work. The dissertation considers degrees of overlooking at different scales: from the city; the street; from within the houses; and from within the garden.

Historically, the nature of back gardens has been little-studied, possibly because of their essentially private nature. However with the benefit of satellite imagery, Price was able to analyse rear gardens in 203 terraced properties in four London sites of varying centrality, and document variations and commonalities in walls, overlooking, relationship to the house, rear extensions, seating positions and foliage.

 

  • In the Garden, Henry Hoyland c.1930.  Two women overlooked from the neighbouring property.
    In the Garden, Henry Hoyland c.1930. Two women overlooked from the neighbouring property. Credit: The Garden Museum, London
  • Site A computer model showing the variety of back extensions and their relationship with the garden...
    Site A computer model showing the variety of back extensions and their relationship with the garden...
  • The computer model shows the overlook from neighbouring gardens where red is the neighbour to the left, and blue the neighbour to the right.
    The computer model shows the overlook from neighbouring gardens where red is the neighbour to the left, and blue the neighbour to the right.
123

The text looks at the contrast between the personalised back garden and the homogenised terrace front, and considers its use as ‘a flexible room which encourages diverse and simultaneous occupation, contesting and reinforcing household relationships’.

Often there can be a false sense of privacy – in the most centrally located terraces for example, short gardens mean that neighbours may have a better view of the gardens than their owners themselves do.

In her conclusion, Price suggests that private rear gardens have been a cause of the paralysis of social cohesion, and calls for more awareness of those who overlook them.

She puts forward the idea for a more communal approach to encourage greater connectivity, with groups of neighbours agreeing to try taking down garden barriers for a defined time and managing a shared larger garden together.

Judges praised her ‘imaginative and lively engagement with a very topical discussion’ and were particularly impressed with her ambitious synthesis of historiography, empirical case study analysis and digital mapping technology.

After completing her Part 2, Price is now working as an architectural assistant at muf – and still experiencing the views of rear gardens on her daily rail commute.


Return to the main President's Medals page

Latest

Anyone who considers the one-off house to be simply the indulgent end of design should think again – we round up some rich examples of sustainable, stylish and innovative properties

Experts showcase sustainable, stylish and innovative houses

Recognised as one of the giants of the design world,  Enzo Mari was also staunchly ethical, believing that design should serve people rather than profits. Pamela Buxton visits a retrospective of his work at London’s Design Museum

A retrospective of Italian designer Enzo Mari at the Design Museum demonstrates his commitment to empowering the user

First-of-its-kind MSc teaches skills in generative design and design optioneering, making new AI tools for architecture possible

Artificial intelligence joins the syllabus for engineering and design

War delayed John Dryburgh’s baths, designed with the reinforced concrete specialist Oscar Faber, for over 20 years, but they were worth the wait

Design was compared to London’s Royal Festival Hall

Interiors specification suggestions ranging from kitchen to bathroom, floor to ceiling

Comfortable, practical and stylish ideas for interiors specifiers