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MacEwen 2021 longlist: Community endeavours

Gardens for summer and winter, a floating church and a revitalised cemetery feature among projects that involve a lot of restoration and repurposing

  • Credit: Jan Kattein Architects
  • Credit: Jan Kattein Architects
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The Story Garden 
Jan Kattein Architects for Global Generation                            

This is the base of Global Generation, a London charity working with young people, businesses and residents Camden, Islington and Southwark to create healthy, integrated and environmentally responsible communities. On an empty plot between the British Library and Francis Crick Institute, the garden is a green social space in the heart of the deprived area of Somerstown, created while long-term plans for the site are developed.

A wish to give a sense of ownership over the new space for local people meant an unusual approach; we only built half a garden, limiting our input to the design of essential infra-structure so that space was left for others to become creatively engaged, allowing room for customisation and adaptation for future activities to take root.

To date, 1000 people have built planters and garden furniture, spread mulch and watered seedlings. A pottery kiln has been erected and an oak forest and story space set around a hearth. Students built a wooden roundhouse and picnic area of textile reinforced earth. Workshops, holiday activities and volunteering engages with families, schools and young people. Along with community allotments, Story Garden is an essential social space, fostering safe, supportive exchange between people in an outdoor setting.


 

  • Granby Winter Garden.
    Granby Winter Garden. Credit: Assemble Studio
  • Granby Winter Garden.
    Granby Winter Garden. Credit: Assemble Studio
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Granby Winter Garden
Assemble for Granby 4 Streets Community Land Trust

The derelict terraced houses at nos. 37 & 39 Cairns Street in Granby, Liverpool, have been converted into a new shared garden, freely accessible to local residents and the wider neighbourhood. Granby Winter Garden sits at the heart of the neighbourhood, an indoor garden, meeting and events space and accommodation for artists-in-residence.

The project was inspired by resourceful and creative community-led efforts to rebuild Granby. A Community Land Trust secured 10 empty houses to renovate them as affordable homes. The Winter Garden was first envisaged as part of a network of projects, proposed by Assemble to help support Granby 4 Streets’ aspiration of community ownership and benefit. An unexpected indoor garden, it was imagined as a creative, sustainable and inclusive social space – a neighbourhood focus.

The indoor planting was a collaboration with local residents. At the front there’s a double-height space for trees to grow, and at the rear a potting/ propagation room serves building, street and the wider Granby neighbourhood. Community gardening and creative action has been central to positive change in the area and the Winter Garden celebrates this and supports it.

Assemble teamed with Granby Workshop, also on Cairns Street, to produce hand-made ceramic elements including hand-dipped marbled tiles, a range of double fired blue Cyanotiles, BBQ-forged Smoked Ceramics and pigmented encaustic tiles, which clad the rainwater pond in the back yard.

  • Treadgolds, Portsmouth.
    Treadgolds, Portsmouth. Credit: Peter Langdown Photography
  • Treadgolds, Portsmouth.
    Treadgolds, Portsmouth. Credit: Peter Langdown Photography
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Treadgolds, Portsmouth
Pritchard Architecture for John Pounds Community Trust

One of Portsmouth’s hidden gems, Treadgolds was the ‘Ironmongers of Portsea’, established in 1809 and trading there until 1988.  Seen as a Victorian time capsule, it has a Dickensian feel with its dark shop full of nuts & bolts, fascinating tools & fittings, machinery, and much of its old stock.

Purchased by the Trust in 2013, it seeks to provide a 'Gateway for a Happier and Healthier Life for All' through inclusive services for the working-class people of Portsea, with their traditional links to the Naval Dockyard. Phase I saw completed a thriving Community Garden. Pritchard Architecture’s Phase II sees a sensitive remodelling of this unique piece of social and industrial history, to create a Health & Wellbeing centre providing multi-use activities and meeting space, reception, toilets, and mezzanine training room.

It fosters new pride in the neighbourhood, provides an affordable function venue for local people to hold social events, and creates greater connections for the community, with outdoor therapeutic growing in a very urban neighbourhood. It is a base for learning and employability training with referrals from Into Work, MIND and Friends Without Borders and provides regular drop-ins for residents and weekly over 50’s group.


 

  • Genesis, London.
    Genesis, London. Credit: Gilbert McCarragher
  • Genesis, London.
    Genesis, London. Credit: Gilbert McCarragher
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Genesis, London
Denizen Works for the Diocese of London

This floating church and community hub is designed to reach emerging communities along London’s canal network. The brief called for a ‘conspicuous presence’, so the architect proposed a kinetic roof that, when raised, would flood the interior with light and emit a warm glow at night to attract passers-by.

The vessel accommodates up to 60 people but is compact enough to navigate under the canals’ low bridges. The plan is that it be moored at a different location every five years, being supported by the local parish and creating events tailored to its specific needs; a form of consultation process presaging development of a permanent, land-based building.

Stakeholder workshops showed that the space needed to be free of religious symbolism, so as to be welcoming to all. Community function was key so it was designed to be adaptable to accommodate a diverse programme of events. Unusually for a boat, platform lifts and a Part-M accessible WC ensure inclusivity.

Genesis is small enough that everyone can be noticed and peaceful enough that people can breathe deeply. It provides a space along a towpath for people to heal, talk and support one another without fear or judgement.

  • Rectory Lane Cemetery.
    Rectory Lane Cemetery. Credit: Siobhan Doran
  • Rectory Lane Cemetery.
    Rectory Lane Cemetery. Credit: Siobhan Doran
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Rectory Lane Cemetery, Berkhamsted
Hugo Hardy Architect for Friends of St Peter’s Berkhamsted

A three-year, £1 million Lottery-funded project conserving and landscaping a neglected 1.2ha cemetery by the volunteer Friends of St Peter’s Berkhamsted.

A unifying design by the landscape architect in the second phase created three distinct zones, with accessible paths and parking and estate fencing. There’s a performance canopy, ‘Celebration of Life’ wall, repurposed Sexton’s Hut, a willow-woven ‘sofa’ and ‘Volunteer’s Retreat’ in the wildlife area.

Conservation and innovative design has underpinned the transformation of this dead space. Events have been developed for audiences: ‘The Graveyard shift’ and ‘Seeing the Light’, family book festival, promenade theatre, bee sessions, creative writing and dusk photography.  The space is now used by more than 60,000 members of the community.

It as a resource, a living place: a place of pilgrimage, for interring ashes or adding beautiful glass tiles to the Wall to commemorate loved ones. People can connect with nature to restore health and well-being, exercise dogs, do Pilates or enjoy the wildlife and far-reaching views.

The project has met the challenge of weaving public participation, enjoyment and celebration with the restored sense of personal space, dignity and sanctuary. It’s hoped it will serve as a model for the rest of England’s 30,000 struggling cemeteries.


 

  • BCA Covid Garden and Wayfinding.
    BCA Covid Garden and Wayfinding. Credit: Urban Symbiotics
  • BCA Covid Garden and Wayfinding.
    BCA Covid Garden and Wayfinding. Credit: Urban Symbiotics
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BCA Covid Garden and Wayfinding, Brixton
Urban Symbiotics for the Black Culture Archive

This project realises an updated environment for the Black Cultural Archives (BCA) to meet Covid-19 guidance while creating ambient, enhanced spaces and clearer wayfinding. Stakeholder engagement had identified a desire to make the archive’s HQ more outward-facing and inviting but once the pandemic hit all plans were on hold.

But with loneliness and the disproportionate effects of coronavirus on BAME people, the scheme was reimagined as an opportunity not only to open up the building in a safe way but to prototype methods of creating space more in tune with its community and responsive to a wider population in need of greater awareness.

Installing a vibrant global garden (complete with tropical plants and steel drum barrels) at the building’s front near Windrush Square, a welcoming, tangible link was created between the historic contents of the building and the local community. Similarly, by moving the admissions point to street level, entry to BCA exhibits has become more accessible and appealing to passers-by.

The new garden offers a safe, socially distanced space to interact with visitors and staff. This is integral to the centre’s functioning as a community service, helping to combat negative effects of increased isolation within society.