Thursday, 1 October 2015

King's Cross Skip Garden: a first-rate pop-up designed and built by architecture students

An imaginative temporary community garden built by students next to a temporary open air swimming pond at King's Cross

Adjacent to the marvellous King's Cross Pond, is the charming Skip Garden, which I visited after my swim (read about that here).

It's the result of a collaboration between the Bartlett School of Architecture (University College London) and Global Generation. Like the pond, the garden is temporary, and on a building site. It's called the Skip Garden because at its heart are half a dozen second hand skips (dumpsters to my North American friends), which are used for growing herbs, vegetables and fruit, and it's a community project with funding from the Big Lottery as well as a host of corporations. The idea of using skips is that they can be moved to another location when the site is developed; the current location is the fourth.

As well as the skips, there are other charming and innovative structures on the site, all projects by architectural students, designed and built by them. Everything is made from recycled or reclaimed material. Here re some of them, in no particular order.

The 100 Hands Wall (Christophe Dembinski) a rammed earth wall that forms the back of a dining and growing hall. "100 hands" because lots of people were involved in building it.

The Chicken Coup (Valerie Vyvial), made from a silver birch tree trunk and bamboo, home to three chickens.

The Glass House Lantern (Rachael Taylor), made from reclaimed each windows and a shipping container, enclosing a growing space, and used to host evening gardening sessions.

The Earthbag Cool-Store (Alessandro Conning-Rowland) uses recycled coffee sacks filled with earth. Evaporation from the damp earth-bags cools the storage room. The garden's office and a decking area are found on its roof. A ventilation stack facing the sun helps move air through the storage room.

The toilets are Rain Loos (Carrie Coningsby), made from reclaimed railway sleepers and boards. A membrane stretched over a space frame collects rainwater, which goes into the flushing cisterns.

At the entrance to the Skip Garden is the Skip Garden Kitchen, serving seasonal food made from produce grown in the garden, where we had a cream tea. (That's my towel and swimming trunks drying on the bench)

The tea was excellent, the scone and jam exceptionally good. Thoroughly recommended.

What a marvellous way to use a vacant building site. How wonderful for the architecture students to be able design and make buildings in their second and third year that get used and enjoyed by the public.

If some of this sounds a bit familiar to readers of this blog, you might recall the Nomadic Community Garden in Spitalfields, another movable community garden on a building site. The two gardens make an interesting contrast. The one at Kings Cross is well funded, backed by large institutions, supported and designed by a School of Architecture. The Nomadic Gardens in Spitalfields is run by a few individuals on a shoestring, decorated by artists and friends dropping in and helping out. Both are excellent. Which do I prefer? I couldn't say. Both are worth a visit.

Incidentally, now that it's October, it's much cheaper to swim in the King's Cross Pond. It's only £3.50 for a session. Wet suits allowed.

Both the Pond and the Skip Garden are temporary, so if you are interested, don't leave it too late.

For more background, watch this video by the project organisers: Building a Community

Skip Garden and Kitchen
Tapper Walk
King's Cross
London N1C 4EQ
Open Tues-Sat 1000 - 1600

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