The Need for a Park
The will to find temporary respite from the bustle of London’s congested streets has been built into every aspect of the city’s urban fabric since Nash’s Regents Park in 1814. Today, an increasing number of urban interventions such as Greening the City and Guerilla Gardening show that there is movement towards living in a Leafy London. This project takes the next logical step and revisits the core city fabric and implants air, light and nature back into it. The long bleak walls of the Farringdon Cut will be replaced with entry to a gently undulating rolling green landscape structured by trees and resting places and set against the neo-classical Old Sessions House of 1612.
The Park will stitch together disparate areas of the City severed by mid-19th Century Industrialisation. The Cut & Cover method of train building left divisive scars in the heart of London which have as yet not healed fully. The ‘Cut’ will replenish and return to its natural state using the latest technological advancements to hold it in place. But the Park does not advertise this. Instead it uses the technology to provide a space that is fundamental to all of us. By virtue of its legible design it will not vie for attention against the 19th & 20th Century developments around it but instead offer up a place for all who wish to use it; albeit the rushed commuter, the stressed shopper or the leisurely Sunday cyclist.
A range of activities
When designing a park on this scale it is not physical size that matters most but rather the range of activities it can host. A well designed park can hold many surprises, especially in the way it interacts with the surrounding buildings. Using the corner of Old Sessions House as a focal point to establish an embedded park, we intend to give an enduring appeal to the area based on its immediate and sometimes hidden history. It will be designed to feel so at ease in the neighbourhood people will wonder just what was there before. Just as Kenwood House or Hampton Court is the master of its own landscape, the Old Sessions House will break free of its role as a roundabout and will be reinvented with the stature of a Stately Home in miniature. It’s crypt café will emerge into a pavilion offering restaurants, cafes, ice cream parlours and other simple pleasures to be taken in with a drop of sunshine and a gentle breeze.
Borrowing from the English Picturesque geniuses such as Capability Brown the Park will become a vignette of a how Nature is a force for the pleasure of human beings, and how such plans can come to fruition even if they are a century or two late.
Covering the span of the ‘Cut’ would not ordinarily be easy. However by combining the principles of Buckminster Fuller (small parts in an organised whole form a strong structure) and the classic principle of an arch it would be possible to bridge the distance across the cut. The gentle arch forms a part of the topography – a hill – becoming an extension of the natural incline from the new park to Clerkenwell Green. By being raised as an arch the reference is made to the great traditions of Industrialised Station building below. The beauty of the structure will enlighten the commuters below as to the great traditions of British architecture and engineering such as Gilbert Scott and the Brunel Family. The park marries the technical possibilities emancipated by the progress of science and technology with the need to feed the human desire for a cultivated wilderness. Human innovation will support the Nature above.
Earth over air
The recent developments in green technology have allowed for almost any surface to become alive with vegetation albeit vertical or horizontal, 300m in the air or floating on water. Combining the use of extensive and intensive green roof technologies will allow for a combination of lush grass, 10m high trees, planting beds and tall shrubs landscaped to offer a range of spaces within.
Nutrient rich Bricolit formed of a combination of crushed brick and plant food can sustain a broad range of vegetation including orchards, roses, oaks and maples. A permanently fed reservoir of water means the roots are nourished and fed continuously to ensure the best living conditions for plants which, in turn, will support a micro-ecosystem of other animals that contribute so vivdly to the experience of a London Park.
A park for all
The park will have a diverse range of users. Commuters, workers, residents, tourists, train operators etc etc all regularly pass the site. The site is nestled between the Gold Markets of Hatton Garden, Exmouth Market, the City, Smithfield Market, Kings Cross and Farringdon. With so many people and destinations it seems miraculous that the park has not been attempted before. This park will have no restrictions and will have no barriers. It will be open from all sides to all who wish to use it. It is well overlooked and owing to its prominence along several routes, security in the park will be self-governed. By virtue of its openness and accessibility the park, as with most London Parks, will be all things to all people who need a moment of respite in the city. In addition, The Pavillion, a landmark building will give good overlooking and security to the park at night.
The details of planning such a park are far off and this proposal makes no attempt at resolving the issues in one hit. It is deliberately polemic: a challenge to Londoners. We want people to seriously question blighted parts of the City and feel that they can contribute to making it better on a grander scale. Fitting right into the Government’s Big Society and Localism Agenda we urge the people of Clerkenwell to form a vision of a better place to live in so that they have more space in which to reflect, express themselves and live out their democratic lives. For too long have the train’s Cuts in London’s Landscape disturbed the people who live in it. Quite simply, we want to rob the trains of light to liberate the people above.
A Chartered Member of the Royal Institute of British Architects