28 Mar 2011


After another day attempting to gain access to the Millenium Mills site for my studio project (another failed attempt) I decided to see what else was in the local area. I came across a few interesting places, including a community run allotment, Newham City Farm & Beckton District Park

On the north side of the Royal Victoria Dock yet another large office or hotel complex is quickly being erected. The curving shape of the building (I can assume to mimic the surrounding water) is becoming a bit of a cliche, you see it now with a large amount of new builds near to water. The whole area is under constant redevelopment, which will continue for several years, it is not surprising most of it is very corporate due to its proximity to London City Airport & Canary Wharf. Hopefully once the buildings are up then someone will do something about the landscape, which at the moment is very dull & uninspiring.

On the way to Beckton District Park, I stumbled upon this small community allotment. The area was enclosed by a steel fence & locked gate, but there were a couple of men in there who let me in. Originally a bare plot of land, one of the locals took it upon themselves to turn the wasted land into an allotment available for people in the local area.

Dotted around the allotment were these old mannequins, which added a very individual, perhaps slightly spooky element. I did not ask, but assumed these were partly decorative & partly as a deterent to birds & other animals.

Home-made bird deterents made out of household waste items such as tins, plastic bottles, transformed into shapes that allows wind to blow through them & cause movement.

Newham City Farm is one of London's longest running city farms, opening in 1977. The farm offers educational & leisure activities for the whole community, & visitors to the area. Over the years the farm has expanded, gaining many species of animals, including a shire horse, goats, pigs, cows, ducks & many more. Another expansion was the addition of a Visitors Centre; an existing park building that was no longer used has now been converted into the centre which provides classroom facilities & a display room. The farm continues to grow, with developments of new paddocks taking place when I visited.

An interesting steel bull is in the middle of the central paddock

This City Farm is the best I have visited. The whole concept of city farms is a reasonably new one to me, having only visited them this year, however I think they are a great way for children & adults to enjoy aspects of nature & wildlife that typically they cannot in the city environment. All of the ones I have visited, including; Vauxhall, Spitalfields, Newham & Hackney, have all been busy even during the week, showing that they are a very utilised & enjoyed feature within their areas, attracting more than just nearby residents.

This photo (above) shows the lake in Beckton District Park; the third year studio project site of another landscape architect on my course.

27 Mar 2011

Tudela (Club Med) Restoration - Spain

Project: Tudela (Club Med) Restoration
Landscape Architect: EMF Landscape Architects
Location: Cap de Creus, Catalunya, Spain
Area: 200 ha
Completion: 2010
Project Type: Restoration, nature

Image courtesy of Landezine

23 Mar 2011

Post-Industrial Landscapes - China

The site of Millenium Mills, London Docklands, which I chose as the site for my final third year studio project, has pushed me to look into more post-industrial designs. These types of site are very interesting as there is far more involved than just design, like with many projects, as the sites are often contaminated, covered in rubble, in difficult areas, & many other factors. The whole process is far more indepth & time consuming, involving many teams of expertise. I will be continuing to post about post-industrial landscape when I come across any that catch my eye. Here is the first one:

Project: Tianjin Bridged Gardens
Landscape Architect: Turenscape (Beijing Turen Design Institute)
Location: Tianjin City, China
Area: 22ha
Completion: 2008
Project Type: Urban regeneration/renewal

Regenerative design transformed this former derelict shooting range, used as a rubbish dump, into a low maintenance urban park. Rapid urbanisation in the area turned the former shooting range into a rubbish dump & storm water drainage basin for the city, making it a heavily polluted, deserted, littered site. The overall aim for the designers was to create a park that provided a large diversity of nature for the city & its residents; including the ability for the site to purify urban storm water, improve the saline-alkali soil, provide educational opportunities (environmental issues, native landscapes, natural systems, landscape sustainability & storm water management).

The regional landscape is typically flat & used to be rich in wetlands & marshes before it was all destroyed by large scale urban development. The design for the park was inspired by the adaptive vegetation communities that used to cover this landscape & the region. The park was designed in such a way that it is very low maintenance & it just allows nature to work. The top image shows the site at the top centre, surrounded by high density urban sprawl. The second image shows more clearly the state of the site before its regeneration.

The transformed park is unrecognisable from its former derelict, rubble strewn state. Twenty-one "pond cavities" were dug in the landscape, varying in size from ten to forty meters in diameter, & from one to five meters in depth. Depending on the weather, & the height above ground level, the cavities all take on different appearances, some becoming seasonal pools, some water ponds, some wetlands, & some remain as dry cavities. There are wooden platforms stretching out across some of the cavities, enabling visitors to see right inside them.

Storm water is collected in the water cavities, allowing vegetation to grow & creating diverse water communities. Mixed seeds of native plant species were sowed initially to get the vegetation started, but after this plant species were allowed to grow & develop wherever they naturally occured. Different seasons provide different appearances as plant species establish at different times depending on the states of the cavities, whether they are wet or dry during the seasonal changes.

Red steel walkways run through the park, allowing higher views across the landscape

All images courtesy of Turenscape.com

22 Mar 2011

DIY Urban Furniture Testing

The National Graduate School of Science & Technology in Strasbourg, France is a school for enginneers & architects. The whole university campus is undergoing rethinking of its organisation & layout, with the help of the Collectif ETC (an association of architects who aim to transform public spaces) urban street furniture designed by students was tested to experiment with different layouts in the campus car park.

The students started by entering proposals for street furniture, they were able to submit 7 basic modules. After this 33 modules were designed & built by the students, all had to be able to be carried by a fork-lift truck, so the bases are constructed with palettes. The modules offer a variety of uses, from ping-pong, football goals, chess tables, & a variety of seating types for sitting & lying on. The modules were often moved around to experiment with different layouts. With each module is a miniature model in order for for people to inagine & visualise other options quickly. The series of photographs below shows the different modules in their altering states being used:

The furniture was only supposed to be a quick experiment of space, remaining in the car park for only the week, however the furniture had been enjoyed & used so much that the university has decided to keep them there for a few months while real development plans take place.

Images courtesy of Landezine

Architect's Brother

Some striking photography & photo editing by Robert & Shana Parke-Harrison. The style of photography really appeals to me, as well as the use of landscape in every photograph. To see more of these amazing photos click here

Images courtesy of parkeharrison.com

Carbon Footprint

After thinking about, & researching sustainable products & methods I decided it would be interesting to see how my life affects the planet, just from my day to day living. So I searched online for a Carbon Footprint calculator, this is the first one I came across. To calculate your personal carbon footprint you are asked a series of questions under the topics of; Food, travel, home & stuff. The answers you provide are calculated in some way to determine your carbon footprint.

My results showed that my lifestyle relies on the availability of 2.53 planets to support the human race, unfortunately we only have one. The travel section was the highest percentage, increasing my footprint; this probably was due to me flying last year & the type/size of car I drive. Below is the print screen of the results page showing my carbon footprint:


While researching sustainable methods of lighting for use in my studio project, a site which is on the river & has a dock in the centre of it (see Millenium Mills post for details), I came across this new tidal powered lighting system - FLOWLIGHT

Tidal power is not widely used currently, mainly because it is less powerful/takes longer to produce the same quantities of electricity as other more conventional sources. However, it is believed that in the future it will be used far more when other resources run out or provide too much damage to our planet. Water produces a lot of energy within itself, through waves & tides, Irish designer Shane Molloy has looked into this further & come up with a sustainable lighting system. Energy is generated from the flow of a tidal river, which is converted into electricity, which in turn illuminates the lights, using only renewable energy. The first Flowlights have been used to illuminate the dockside of the River Suir in Ireland.

The lights have an outer shell made from carbon fibre, within this is the bespokely designed water turbine blades. The blades of the turbine are designed so that they can operate both clockwise & counterclockwise, enabling them to generate power with the flow of the river at high & low tides. The lighting systems have been developed to react to the levels of water in the river with a 'Tidal Drop Extension Arm', which is constantly altering itself, extending & contracting to keep the turbine at an ideal depth in the water.

The mechanical energy created by the turbines is converted into electrical power, which is then stored in a battery unit within the system. They have built in light sensors which will turn the LED lighting strips on when the natural night fades.

This lighting scheme seems to be a suitable method of lighting many riverside/dockside/waterfronted public areas which are wishing to illuminate the walkways. Sustainable alternatives are obviously well researched in most designs today, due to the high awareness of the state of the planet & its resources. This lighting would definately be a system I would consider when designing the waterfront jetty in my studio design. As these images show they look reasonably attractive & are quite low key & minimal, it would be unlikely that alterations to the style & aethestics of the structure would alter the effectiveness of the energy generator, & so this could be changed to suit specific sites or design styles.

All images courtesy of The Design Blog

18 Mar 2011

Sackler Crossing - Kew Gardens

The Sackler Crossing is a bridge across the Lake at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The bridge is a beautiful piece of architecture & engineering. As part of the third year module LD3002 Fielding we have to write a Management Plan for a chosen site at either Kew Gardens or Richmond Park. The lake & Sackler Crossing is my chosen site, due to its variety of habitats & interesting features. The following text has been taken from my management plan: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew | The Lake & Sackler Crossing | Management Plan, by Alice Hankin

"The Sackler Crossing was installed in 2006 & was the first ever bridge to cross the lake. The name is in honour of Theresa Sackler & Dr Mortimer, two philanthropists, whose donations made it possible for the bridge to be constructed. The designer was John Pawson, a British Architect. The bridge was designed in such a way that it reflects the precedent set by William Kent, an early visionary of Kew's, who wanted features in the landscape to be "stumbled upon" without prior planning.

The exact location of the bridge is purposeful; it forms part of the arc that Wilkinson Eyre planned in his master plan for the Gardens. The arc's central point is the Palm House, & then it sweeps around, cornered by through-views, & bisected by the Syon vista. The curve creates a new circulation route through this section of the Gardens, & the Sackler Crossing allows users to cross the water at this point.

The use of black granite & bronze to construct the bridge "reinforces the elemental character of the esign" (John Pawson -Lake Crossing). The granite lies in bands forming the deck walkway, & cast bronze has been used in vertical cantilevers to create simple balusters. If you view the bridge from either end the balusters seem to be a solid barrier, however from a side angle it is realised that there are hundreds of individual bronze bars, allowing views through to the surrounding water

The bridge has created a new route & enabled far easier access to certain areas either side of the lake, which before were neglected."

16 Mar 2011

Have Pepsi Found The Way Forward??

Pepsi have released a new bottle to replace their current plastic bottles. They are market testing the product next year, with plans for its general use the same year.
The bottles are made completely out of plant material, including; switch grass (a perennial warm season buchgrass, native to North America), corn husks, pine bark & several other materials. Future progressions in use of materials includes orange peels, oat hulls, potato scraps & many other food leftovers from Pepsi's food business.
Coca-Cola are currently producing a bottle made from 30% plant material, saying it will take several more years to produce a 100% plant material bottle, so Pepsi are very proud to release their 100% plant material bottle.

The release of this product could change the industry standards, reducing the use of petroleum-based materials & in-turn reducing the negative effects these materials have on the plant.

To read the whole article click here

8 Mar 2011

Spiller's Millenium Mills

The final project of my Landscape Architecture degree was left very open, I have been given the task of creating my own brief & choosing my own site. There were only a few criteron for the project; the site should be of an appropriate size to allow us to demonstrate analysis, concept & detailed design skills at a range of scales; there should be an over-arching theme that allows us to explore ket issues in contemporary Landscape Architecture, this may be sustainable design, urban regeneration, or many others.

I had some ideas of the kind of project I wanted to develop, but was without a site. I was looking for a post-industrial, derelict site. Inspiration for this was gained from a lecture we had a few weeks ago by Will Sandy (See post "What Is Landscape - Will Sandy"), in which he showed a video of the work being done in Detroit to regenerate all of the derelict land, the Michigan Central Station site caught my eye inparticular. The following video show that footage (Michigan Central Station appears at 9 minutes). The video is the part 1 of 3 parts, all of them are worth having a watch, it shows a lot of the derelict parts of Detroit, & interviews a lot of people who are actively trying to bring life back to the city, mainly by using art.

After researching & thinking for some time, I remembered a site that I have passed by many times & always been intrigued by. On the DLR in London, heading east out of the city, you travel through the London Docklands, which historically was home to a large industrious area. The Thames Barrier Park is often the destination when I travel out this far east, however I have always been more interested in the site on the other side of the DLR track. Spiller's Millenium Mills is a large derelict flour mill, the last remaining industrial building in the docklands.

Founded in 1901 by William Vernon & Sons, the actual mill was not built until 1905, becoming Europe's largest mill of the time. Shortly after this it was bought by Spiller's & named after their "Millenium Flour"; used to make the Millenium Flour & also dog food, which Spillers were famous for. In 1917 it was partially destroyed by an explosion in a neighbouring factory, it was then hugely extended several years later in 1933. The mill has now been derelict since 1984 when it was forced to shut down when the docks were closed, due to huge industrial decline. Since then the building has suffered a lot, with parts demolished, machines ripped out leaving huge open holes, and some vandalism. There are in fact two mills on site, one being Millenium Mills (the largest mainly white building) & a smaller mill attached to the east side of MM, Rank Hovis Mill. There is also still a large white silo which still remains on the site, Silo D.

In 2007 it was announced that Spiller's Millenium Mill will be converted into luxury flats at some point in the foreseeable future, as part of the Silvertown Quays development. I expect this will be less of a conversion & more of a demolition & then rebuild. This is a terrible shame, as although the building is in bad shape & is considered a dangerous site, it is the last remaining proof of London's huge industrial past. This is why I have chosen this site as my Semester II project. I want to revitalise the site & celebrate the past industrial history by using the buildings as the focal point of a new public park.

The site is considered "dangerous" due to the fragile state of the building, & so is completely surrounded by high security fences & there is a 24 hour security car which patrols the site looking out for trespassers. Trespassers are a common thing at Millenium Mills, as the building is considered by a group of urban explorers to be the greatest building to access & explore in the UK. This group are very adverse to the plans of redevelopment as well, agreeing with my sentiment that it should be honoured as a heritage site due to its history.

View west from the Royal Victoria Dock footbridge

The site faces the London Excel, a large exhibitions & conference centre

Rank Hovis building on the west side of the Millenium Mills

The map above just simply show the site (red line border) in context with some nearby well known places/attractions; the Excel Centre, London City airport, Thames Barrier & Thames Barrier Park.

The following video shows footage of some of the site, but mainly the inside of the building, created by someone who took the risk to access this amazing building.