Friday, December 12, 2008

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Paragon Gardens x 2

Paragon Gardens is a long public garden in two parts.

Part One:

Part Two:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Friday, March 21, 2008

Aesthetic Control

...landscape works to existing park including: removal of existing hard surfacing, furniture and railings, tree felling, thinning of existing shrubs, removal of some existing planting, new macadam footpaths, new seating & new shrub and perennial planting.

So, sometime between 10 July and 23 October 2007, between the two occasions when you stop by to capture video, they appear: concrete spherical objects of various sizes, decorated occasionally with leaf motifs.

The applicants have provided indicative details of the type of concrete seating/stepping stones which are proposed to be installed. The design of these has not been finalised and will be the subject of a planning condition. However their size as gauged from the submitted examples is considered acceptable.

Seating/stepping stones? You try to sit on one: cold, uncomfortable, you wouldn’t want to sit here for long and you certainly can’t step on them.

It is intended that thinning out the vegetation and removing the fencing will open up the park and reduce its attractiveness to drinkers who allegedly congregate there.

So super strength topplers then, White Lightning upsetters, inebriate unbalancers, there’s nowhere to sit, nowhere to stretch out and sleep out of public view, the drinkers can’t use the space and no-one else can. Thank you, you think.

It has been confirmed by the Metropolitan Police that the proposal will be likely to increase usage of the park thereby will help reduce fear of crime.

Design based on fear, of the perception of a threat, the aesthetics of paranoia.

The overall layout and design of the park is considered acceptable and no objection is raised to the proposed lettering and areas of landscaping/hard surfacing.

Perhaps the lettering is not objectionable in itself, but the inscription tells you that the place has been rewritten as a transient rhetorical space - not a ‘non-place’ or loose space but one from which you can only leave - a “move along please” space. The local authority has created a highly determined space, they expect you to find your own way, they even write it on the path and then they tell you where to go: not here.

Cited text from Southwark Council’s recommendations after application for planning approval.
Applicant: Mr J Sheaff, London Borough of Southwark

Reg. Number: 06-CO-0125

Application Type: Council's Own Development - Reg. 3 (Council's Own Development)

Recommendation: Grant

Case Number: TP/1120-137

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Life Out of Doors

"...A LITTLE CHANGE, AND A GLIMPSE OF LIFE OUT OF DOORS, MAY BE USEFUL IN HELPING YOU TO KNOW YOUR OWN MIND" reads the text along the path in David Copperfields Gardens, its centre coinciding more or less with the halfway point of the path, where it forms a junction with the pavement along New Kent Road, snaking like a Google Earth street name imprinted on the ground.

On the face of it this appears to be some kind of a condescending entreaty to the locals to get out of the house and out of doors in the hope of some self-improvement. This would be misguided indeed especially considering that the garden is overlooked by flats on the Heygate Estate, the 1970s council housing development once notorious for the kinds of social problems associated with so-called sink estates, now slated for demolition as part of the Elephant and Castle regeneration; for those residents still occupying their flats another direction from Southwark Council for them to get out of their houses might be taken with some bitter irony. So what is this text?

A footbridge crosses the New Kent Road at this point, and the long narrow public garden that runs from the footbridge to Harper Road is called David Copperfields Garden. It opened in July 2007 after a complete re-landscaping. A plaque erected in the original garden in September 1931 by the Dickens Fellowship explained that this was the place where in the Charles Dickens novel, David Copperfield stopped "in the Kent Road ... at a terrace with a piece of water before it, and a great foolish image in the middle, blowing a dry shell". The plaque adorned a plinth with a small statue that lost both its shell and its head to vandalism. The newly landscaped gardens include benches with a design based on the milestones that David Copperfield passed on his fictional journey. - Wikipedia - New Kent Road

So how does this text relate to David Copperfield’s ‘milestones’? It is in fact a quotation from the Dickens novel, specifically from where Copperfield’s aunt suggests:

“It has occurred to me,” pursued my aunt, “that a little change, and a glimpse of life out of doors, may be useful, in helping you to know your own mind, and form a cooler judgment. Suppose you were to take a little journey now. Suppose you were to go down into the old part of the country again, for instance, and see that—that out-of-the-way woman with the savagest of names,” said my aunt, rubbing her nose, for she could never thoroughly forgive Peggotty for being so called.
- Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, Chapter XIX. I Look about Me, and Make a Discovery

So the advice that set the fictional Copperfield off on his great journey is now being extended the people of New Kent Road, to get out of doors, to leave town.

But what does it mean to literally embed a literary text in the fabric of the pavement? How does this differ from the more symbolic texts of place names that provide topographical personal psychic resonance long after the significance of the name has become worn out? How long before this literally literary text that isn’t a name, wears to a shape where it becomes part of the symbolic text walked by each pedestrian in their relation to their city?

The name David Copperfields Gardens might have already shaded into abstraction in some everyday lives, but the introduction of an unattributed text into the very ground connects, not as a literary allusion to the worn-out place name (which incidentally appears nowhere in the regenerated gardens), but to its own direct significance as a text, perhaps after all can only be read as a message to the denizens of the New Kent Road from their municipal planners.

Monday, February 11, 2008


video captured 10 July 2007

portable/iPod mpeg-4 (.m4v) version

"...all the fences are now down..."

Yes, all the fences are now down at David Copperfields Garden, but I haven't had a look yet. I am assuming the old plaque that the Dickens Fellowship erected will be there somewhere, although the plinth has been taken away. I read on the plans that the new design features suggestions of David Copperfield's journey to Kent, with milestones etc, but can't confirm this yet.
London SE1 Forum Discussion - 9 July 2007

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Crossing the Road

As you leave the roundabout, you think of these decisively worn paths, small interventions into a derisively planned landscape, loosening the tight municipal space, not just paths of convenience but also of desire, not simple transgression but a complex give and take between public space and private possibility. And you understand that, while these paths exist in the context of a planned environment, it would be impossible for them to ever be part of the plan.

portable/iPod mpeg-4 (.m4v) version

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Footpath

A short track situated on the corner of the roundabout, opposite the junction with Great Dover Street. The track proceeds roughly northwest from the main central tarmac pathway that extends north across the roundabout. The track has been worn into the grassed area…

portable/iPod mpeg-4 (.m4v) version

Would it make good design sense for planners to consider the route of the footpath worn through regular use by walkers when developing a pedestrian environment?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Friday, January 18, 2008

"...implementing a scheme..."

Transport for London will be implementing a scheme at the Bricklayers Arms during the current calendar year, however, no firm dates are available yet. This scheme originated primarily to regulate the traffic in a safer more efficient way at this location, but then grew into one to provide more direct, safer crossing points for both pedestrians and cyclists.

All four arms of the Bricklayers Arms Roundabout will be controlled by signals, including the westbound slip road, three of which (southeast, southwest and northwest) will have pedestrian and cycle facilities, and allow access to the central island of the roundabout, and the facilities constructed within. The northeast arm will have facilities to cross
Tower Bridge Road but not to access the central island. All stop lines will have advanced cycle stop lines provided.

TfL do not currently have plans to fill in the subways as such, but some alterations may be undertaken in carrying out other works, but that's not to say it won't happen at a later date.

- Transport for London statement March 2002