16 Jan 2012

'A Fragment Of Paradise'

'A Fragment of Paradise' is a concept for a public garden that would be located on the edges of the City of London and created with the help from people who live and work locally. 

The overarching aim of the garden is to create a peaceful setting for rest and enjoyment providing as much green as possible, as well as colour and movement, in a dense, urban, predominantly grey environment.

Within the Open Space strategy of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets has been highlighted the need for a green space around the Shoreditch High St / Bethnal Green area. With the upcoming regeneration of Bishopsgate Goodsyard could come some opportunities.

Why a public garden?

We work in this area where developments happen incredibly fast and the outcome are increasing the retail and housing offer. 
National guidelines state that London inhabitants should have access to green spaces within a distance of 400ft to 1 mile. Shoreditch is an incredibly colourful and diverse place, yet none of the green spaces,  offer colourful flower beds and other than cafe, there is little space other than the wonderful Arnold Circus to sit and relax. LB Tower Hamlets are keen to see green spaces being maintained by the community. From their recent consultation on 'Open and Green Spaces Consultation', the council found that people's main interest for green spaces was 'relaxation'.
Bethnal Green's name derives from an Anglo-Saxon word, the original meaning of it was 'Happy Corner'. This is certainly a fitting when one encounters the vibrant hustle and bustle of the local markets (Bethnal Green, Brick Lane, Spitalfields, and  Bishopsgate). Whilst the incredible liveliness of the area is welcome, a space for relaxation, which would be the making of the people living and working locally becomes all the more important.

How would the project work?

A Fragment of Paradise aims to work with local residents and an experienced and professional garden designer to come up with a concept and project which fits the bill locally.
The timing is very appropriate. Bishopsgate Goodsyard is on the verge of being redeveloped, and the developers are keen to consult the community on the developments.
The garden would be very aware of the context of the site: a temporary 'meanwhile' space. This means that the project in its initial stage would take place on the site of future development and would need to move at a later stage. An important aim is to combine sensitively the characteristics of the location (inner-city contemporary London and British climate) with traditions in garden designs, found in traditional Islam. This would  inform the choice of trees, plants and shrubs and the garden layout.
Why an Islamic design layout?

The 'Islamic Gardens in the UK' report, which the Gulbenkian Foundation supported - read it here - is a very interesting study, which sparked a great flame in our heart as to what could be possible as regards to bringing a community together.
Then, reading Emma Clark's incredibly inspiring book 'The Art of the Islamic Garden' - see it here we thought this would actually be a beautiful garden. Emma actually teaches locally at the School of Traditional Arts (Curtain Rd) and has already shown a lot of support and advice.

The area has a strong muslim community, with Brick Lane earning an international reputation. An Islamic garden would be a great way to join up the various communities co-existing in the area.
Thank you Emma Clark for allowing the use of photographs from her wonderful book. Here, the Prince of Wales' 'Carpet Garden' in Highgrove.

There is a lot to learn from Islam's historical past as regards to design, irrigation, architecture. As a matter of fact, Islam influenced garden design in Europe and shared much in common with Medieval Europe.

In this, there are amazing educational opportunities to develop one's knowledge at any level.
This project combining the best of UK gardening and the wealth of Islam knowledge is essential to remind people of the richness of our cultures and their discoveries across the ages.
So far, the response is incredibly positive. People's eyes lit up at the mention of designing a garden, which is a good sign that this project can inspire people to work together to make something wonderful happen.

How will this happen?

A Fragment of Paradise is entering a consultation phase, during which members of the public, local residents and workers are asked if they 
a. think the area needs more green space.
b. would be interested in contributing (a plant, some time, etc)
If the project gather sufficient local support, Creative City will research the best platform to enable the project to happen.
Local community groups, individuals, residents, schools, artists and experts could get involved - that's the idea - from the design, to the development to the maintenance.
How can you help?
There are lots of things that can be done at this stage, from research and rallying support. Any little help is welcome. 
Research All aspects of research from, water features, plants and shrubs, flowers, which would fit within the Islamic garden design as well as the UK climate. This is really exciting!
ChampionsWe need to spread the word, involve people locally. The more the merrier.

Design : The actual design of the garden! But also graphic design to present of the project to the local community.

Planting / GardeningHelp from budding gardeners with planting and growing from April onwards. Get your hands tucked in.

Workshop facilitatingWouldn't it be great if local schools & community centres contributed ideas for ceramics, tiling, patterns that could then be transfered onto the design elements of the garden ...

There are plenty of local initiatives that have shown an interest in helping out with the project :

To name but a few: 
St Hilda's Food Coop and volunteer's projects, 
Art Against Knives

the Good Gym who coordinate volunteers, 
Spice It Up by the Women's Environmental Network who offer food growing training, 

Spots of Time who could run creative workshops... 

On a practical level, the project will need to raise funds for the consultation, for the meanwhile garden, and most likely for a permanent garden.

We envision this to come from mix sources, funding and private, and hopefully local support.

3 photographs of Moroccan tiles taken at Yves St Laurent's garden, Marrakech, by Asha Rajput.

If you are interested in giving your opinion on this, please fill in our questionnaire: 
Online survey
Thank you so far to Gillian Burton, Paul Hensby, Edmund Wildish, Emma Clark, Asha Rajput, David Laycock and Christina Norton for their continuous support and belief in the project. 

A Fragment of Paradise is a project developed by Creative City, with the help from Coventry University MBA students: Swadha Desai, Krishna Gelivi and Moshin Rachid.
Creative City commissions, produces and presents projects.
In 2008, the Newspaper House by Sumer Erek was erected in London and Liverpool asking Londoners and Liverpudlians to donate their used newspapers. We are currently running BROWSE Video Specs, an engagement method using new video technology.

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For more info, contact karen[at]creative-city.co.uk