Christ Church Gardens
In the dense townscape of north Southwark some 200 metres south of Blackfriars Bridge, the street frontage is broken by tall London Plane trees signalling Christ Church Yard. This land was given to the Borough of Southwark in 1900 as a public garden. In 1999-2000 it was remodelled. The reopening was on 16 June 2000 – the centenary of its first opening – to the sound of a specially composed fanfare played by a professional brass quintet. In 2002 a fourth phase of work was completed paving and planting the south garden and a children’s play area. The area is now a vibrant community garden managed but eh Bankside Open Spaces Trust.
This urban design project was unusual for a number of reasons:
- funds were a mixture of public and private donations from EU grants to local companies and individuals.
- the design was developed in close collaboration with users who formed the client group and maintain the gardens in perpetuity
- management systems were set up for continued maintenance and care by the community
- the design incorporates high quality materials including York stone and purpose-designed benches yet was realised for well within the original budget because resources were focused where they were needed.
- London Borough of Southwark – Regeneration
- John Marshall’s Charity
- Hanson Brick
- Shepherd Neame
- Metropolitan Public Gardens Association
- many local companies and individuals.
The London Spade 2000 for innovation in public garden design awarded by the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association.
A plan of the garden. Blackfriars Road is to the east, running north south
The garden has within its boundaries distinct areas each of a different character, based on the micro climate and the connections to the city beyond. Important pedestrian routes lead to and through the site, but it is also a place of arrival, a ‘green oasis’.
North of the church the paving is cut at a diagonal to link Rennie Street and Blackfriars Road, and a sun-trap is created for lunchtime enjoyment. Benches were used architecturally to define the spaces, with different configurations in different areas. Here they are scattered like beach towels…
East, facing busy Blackfriars Road a stone forecourt is flanked by flower beds framing the church tower.
South of the church is a contemplative garden, under the canopy of London plane trees, is separated by a low holly hedge. Here the benches form a ring for contemplation, set sufficiently apart to give a sense of privacy and sufficiently close together to talk to your neighbour if you wish.
In the southern corner of this space is the brightly coloured children’s play area.
South west is a beer garden, where pergolas of hops shade trestle tables – you can drink beer under a canopy of hop leaves in the centre of London.
The western edge is formed by a scented herb bed curling around the listed water fountain which was refurbished and made operational as part of the works. In this part of the site old grass species survive from the pre-urban flora of the south bank of the Thames.
- Southwark, London, UK
- London Borough of Southwark, Christ Church Garden Group, Marshall's Charity
- Project Architect
- Marcus Beale Architects
- Quantity Surveyor
- Pierce Hill
- Groundwork Southwark
- Calabasas Ltd
- Marcus Peel Photography