Architecture for People and Plants: The Spiralfields

In March this year, building work began on the new Spiralfields community garden on a plot of land recently handed back to the farm by Network Rail. The permaculture project, designed by Roundfield landscape architects, incorporates a roundwood sheltered walkway and seating area overlooking the city skyline, a large trough for harvesting rainwater from the shelter’s roof, raised vegetable beds, a forest garden with fruit trees and shade plants, nitrogen-rich hedgerows to be used as mulch, and a totem sculpture fixed in a spiral plinth. The low-carbon build is being carried out by Fletcher Worley and his horticultural design and build team at Chauncey Gardens, alongside a team of volunteers from the local community co-ordinated by Richard Walker at the farm. I have been documenting the transformation process since the delivery of the UK-grown cedar logs in April. The project is due to be finished in the Autumn.

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1. Delivery of UK-grown cedar trunks.
2. 15 tonnes of green waste compost from the EcoPark Compost Centre in North London.
3. The Osmani Men’s Gardening Group debarking the cedar logs.
4. Digging through layers of old buildings to create holes for the trunks.
5. The decking is made with reused scaffold planks.
6. A plum line to check the logs are straight.
7. The logs are hoisted up using a winch and pulley system.
8. A jig made with scrap wood and old paving stones from the garden.
9. Bean poles at the back of the garden.

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Concept sketch by Roundfield, looking south east from seating area.

A short video showing Fletch and his team’s carbon-free method for hoisting up the weighty logs: 

ArchitectsArchitecture Without Architects by Bernard Rudolfsky, originally published by MOMA New York (1954) to accompany the exhibition of the same name. A wonderful book displaying different examples of vernacular architecture, including dwellings built inside living trees and the labyrinthine entrances to the Inari Shrine in Kyoto made from unsawed trunks.

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And here is a bean pole structure I proudly built (middle) tied with strips of flax leaf grown on the farm. Thanks to Richard, I recently discovered that there is a type of friendly bacteria in soil that has a serotonin producing effect on the brain. So the ecotherapy results of gardening are that direct.

On a similar note, I am excited to visit the new rooftop woodland garden at the Southbank Centre this summer. The project is an extension of the nearby Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden. Created as a partnership between the Southbank Centre and the Eden Project, both gardens have been built and maintained by staff and volunteers from the recovery and wellbeing Grounded Ecotherapy gardening team from Providence Row Housing Association.

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