In the context of London, the term ‘landscape’ has a special meaning. From the space of a pot plant to the magnificence of a well maintained park to the wild and open stretches of the river, the variety of ‘landscape’ applications seems endless. But in London there is an increasing need to make new spaces out of existing where they have failed, have been compromised, have not been maintained, have been reduced, or simply have not been found.
The sustained uncoordinated and site centred implementation of housing, road, and other major development projects over the last 100 years has left a unique ragwork of public spaces in London. They are none the less prized for that.
Many of our landscape projects have involved, and been inspired by, such spaces. A catalogue could be charted that would probably always remain incomplete: a 1960’s shopping parade, an empty car park, a service yard, a grass road margin (familiar throughout the outskirts of London), the space between road and back of footway, a tarmac hardstanding, forecourts of ambiguous ownership, a dark bushy park…
In every public space project we find ourselves doing the same thing; understanding what is there (mapping), and discovering what people want to use it for (asking). Without this process we would not have dared to remove trees from Acton Town Square, or propose a 7m high fence with climbing plants to counter a road junction.
Even with tiny projects, our inclination is to try to bring a spatial quality of openness and connection that comes from a desire for any space to be inclusive in its availability for use. The next stage of London’s landscape is about finding new relationships; new proximities between existing parts that can be re-shaped, re-used, brought together; new ways to share resources. We need to consider what can happen at the edges of these rags, and determine where the tapestries that result are open ended and where they need to be neatly finished.