Monday, 22 June 2015

Rupert Spira Tiles - Rear of 100 New Bridge Street

Whilst preparing for the Magna Carta walk for the City of London I came across the rear facade of 100 New Bridge Street, in Waithman Street (named after a Draper, former Lord Mayor of the City), approached from the main street on the left side up the stairsway in Pilgrim Street. An extraordinary sight and lovely surprise of a series of twenty-three large hand-made stoneware tile panels of 1992 by the potter Rupert Spira (b1960).

The Escher-like patterns are a wonder to behold. You assume there are going to be repeats but there is nary a one! The glazes are a mix of beautifully mottled reds, blues, turquoise, green and grey, and it is hard to believe the panels are flat rather than three-dimensional.

Rupert Spira studied at West Surrey College of Art and Design and from 1980-82 trained with Michael Cardew at Wenford Bridge.

In the early 1990s Spira was producing pots at Lower Froyle, Hampshire, when he was offered a commission for tiles. At Swallow Tiles in Cranleigh he discovered how to produce tiles by hand, in interlocking shapes and with a full palette of glaze colours; he then made 18,000 tiles for a garden in Paris (1991) and carried out the 1992 commission for developers Rosehaugh Stanhope (also of Broadgate fame) for 100 New Bridge Street. 

Financially secure from the tile making, Spira returned to making pots, experimenting with simpler forms and monochrome glazes, totally different from the New Bridge Street panels, his sole British tile commission.

Rosehaugh Stanhope in most of their developments in the late 80's early 90's always incorporated a budget for art works and sculptures. Broadgate the largest of these sites has extraordinary works including a Serra.

Where is Rupert Spira now?  Check out his latest creations here:

Friday, 5 June 2015

WALK: Magna Carta 800 - What is the 'Great Charter'?

I will not be at Runnymede on 15th June, but at Temple Church in the City of London, where King John was first presented with the Articles of the Barons in January 2015. He ignored their list of grievances instead ratifying the Church's charter whereby he made promises to give them full independence, basically appeasing Pope Innocent III his feudal overlord.

His lack of attention to his Baron's demands led to unprecedented action by them, and the eventual outcome over several charters and as many years,  became the foundation stone of the British Constitution.

The walk starts at Blackfriars and ends at the Guildhall Art Gallery where you will view the London Charter of 1297.

Beech Gardens, Barbican - Picture Update

This last week has been amazing, well I'm very lucky at least one week in everymonth is filled with something about history, gardens or gourmet delights, this week is no exception, but I must focus on Beech Gardens.

The Blog below was without updated photographs of the Nigel Dunnett Garden and I managed to get round to it on sunny Tuesday this week, before attending a meeting on the 34th floor of the Launderdale Tower, so we also have a view down in to it too.

I will be there on Saturday 13th June to meet the group for Open Garden Square Weekend who will be joining the talk by Louisa Allen of City of London Corporation Open Spaces.  If you cannot book on to this the area is accessible to the public so you can always walk through it on your way to another fascinating green space in the City.

Now for photos!

The pool is a work in progress and the planting will be designed by Nigel Dunnett

Not part of the planting but too lovely to miss - Eastwards

From the 34th floor of Lauderdale House

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

City in Bloom 2015 - Barings Roof Top Gardens

City in Bloom is a flagship annual horticultural event organised by Friends of City Gardens for the City of London to celebrate the huge variety of flowering and green spaces within the Square Mile. It is open to all within the City including residents, community gardens, city corporates and other commercial enterprises, churches, schools and other institutions. Last year City in Bloom had over 90 entries. This year we are hoping to have about 120. City in Bloom is part of a larger UK competition organised by the Royal Horticultural Society called Britain in Bloom.

City in Bloom is entirely organised by volunteers, and I am pleased to say I am one of them.

Last year we made contact with our nominations by visiting them personally, this year we have a database containing all the information we collected last year so not quite so personal, which I miss. However, I did get the opportunity to visit a new nomination, the stunning roof garden created by Barings Asset Management Limited high above Bishopsgate.

The atrium at 155 Bishopsgate
Barings can trace its origins to 1762 when it was established as a firm of merchants and merchant bankers. They traded in commodities ranging from woollen cloth and timber to spices and silks as well as providing banking services to other merchants.

There are in fact two roof gardens and the aim was to improve the view from the meeting rooms, provide hospitality facilities and make a positive enviromental impact. They appointed a renowned landscape architect Charles Funke to create the gardens.

The Baring family had always been keen horiticulturalists and their Hampshire estates reflected this. They are also related to Gertrude Jekyll who designed a garden for Durmast House in Burley.

The plants selected reflect Barings long history, such as Camellia sinensis which represents the commercial tea plant. Tea was also a commodity they carried in their own clipper ship 'Norman Court' built the same year as the 'Cutty Sark'.  The Northern terrace is inspired by Asia and the Southern terrace by Europe. Here is featured a 70 year old Cork Oak (Quercus suber), there are also arches of Japanese Larch.

On the Asian terrace is a Quercus Dentata, aka Daimyo Oak, this has been grown as a miniature form yet retains the leaf size of a fully grown tree. Sorry no photograph.

Can be seen here

The garden provides herbs for the in house chefs. There are also two fruit trees, Malus nana (dwarf espalier apples) and a pear tree.  There is a globe of the world water feature reflecting Barings global activities, and proves to be an attraction for dragon flies. Also six Goldfinches have been spotted this spring. During my visit there were several groups of bees busily gathering nectar from blooms.

The Camellia is in there somewhere

We hope to encourage Barings to join Open Garden Square Weekend in 2016 so we can share with you the delights of this rather special roof top paradise.

Beech Gardens, Barbican EC2 - Creation of a new garden by Nigel Dunnett

In the introduction to The 1959 Proposals & Final Scheme for the Barbican the architects Chamberlain Powell & Bon set out their ambitions 'Despite its high density the layout is spacious; the buildings and the space between them are composed in such a way as to create a clear sense of order without monotony. Uninterrupted by road traffic ... A quiet precinct will be created in which people will be able to move about freely enjoying constantly changing perspectives of terraces, lawns, trees and flowers seen against the background of the new buildings or reflected in the ornamental lake' .

‘.. key elements are the vistas between the blocks and the disciplined landscape, here given hard lines of fountains and formal squares of trees. There are 23 acres (9.3 hectares) of open space, including 12 acres (4.8 hectares) of public walkway … where planting was set in large concrete boxes, some of storey height to permit trees to be grown.’ Chamberlain, Powell & Bon by Elain Harwood (RIBA Publishing) 2011

The original landscaping at Beech Gardens was sparse, formal with giant concrete planters and set out over a grid pattern. By the late 1960s early 1970s the residents wanted a softer look. Hence the construction of raised beds that meandered across the expanse. It was planted with trees and shrubs interspersed with seasonal planting. An irrigation system had to be installed to ensure the trees would survive in such a shallow depth. Over time it was a concern the trees were growing too large for the site, remember Beech Gardens is effectively a roof terrace. Plus the business premises below, complained of damp and water ingress which could have been caused by several things including the age of the building, possibly blocked drains or part failure of the watering system.  The jury is still out, but something had to be done and extensive work began.

In these two pictures you can see Floradrain© Powerful drainage and water storage element of thermoformed hard plastic for use on intensive green roofs and roof landscapes. It is made from recycled plastic.

Below there is Geotextile of thermally strengthened polypropylene, applicable as filter sheet above drainage elements for normal mechanical stress.  This is only one of three layers each lightweight including FLL tested, hot air weldable sheet, applicable as root and rhizome protection for extensive and especially for intensive green roofs.

The top layer of tiles were removed to fix and waterproof, a long project which is only just coming to an end. The meandering raised beds have been reinstated exactly as before but with a four layer system to avoid leakage of water into the area below and yet nurturing the plant stock above.
A special seal has been set down to stop water seeping through, on top of that a sustainable urban drainage system, the black upside down containers, allow water to drain through but also retain water to become a mini ‘reservoir’ to allow plants to absorb the moisture. A further covering of fibrous absorbent material to again hold moisture and to support the growing medium above.

Substrate "Zincolit Plus" Mineral Substrate for extensive greenroofs in single or multilayered constructions (made from crushed high quality brick - again a recycled product).
System Substrate "Roof Garden" Substrate consisting of Zincolit (high-quality crushed bricks) and other selected mineral aggregates, enriched with Zincohum (subnstrate compost enriched with fibre and clay materials). Particularly suitable for intensive green roofs with demanding perennials. Deeper thicknesses can support shrubs, bushes and tr5ees. The vegetation can be established by planting plug plants.

A shallow lake will be reinstated also under and around the overhang with planting recommended Nigel Dunnett.

The original tiles that covered the area were made and imported from Portugal in the 1960s, it has been a long and difficult task to find a suitable replacement to satisfy English Heritage and the Grade II listing (as a whole) of the site.

The residents wanted trees again and that is understandable, but no irrigation system is to be installed, thus the complex system of layers to retain moisture as described above.  As trees grow they get weightier so their position within the landscaping is paramount. Only 14 trees will be planted on a grid system, they will be set over the pillars that support the structural loading.  A hose pipe facility will be provided for any necessary top up during particularly dry spells.  The trees need to be planted within a narrow time frame so the pressure was on.

Photographs taken in 14th April 2015

Trees planted are silver birch, flowering cherries, prunus serrula. Shrubs will have leaf and berries to give year round interest or colour such as mahonia and spindle berry. Additional to the trees and shrubs will be 22,000 plants which had to be planted no later than the end of March, choices again to encourage bio diversity and nectar rich.

Here are some of the plants included in the extensive list of over 50 varieties:

Sedum ‘Jose Augergine’
Achillia ‘Terracotta’
Euphorbia characias 'Humpty Dumpty'
Thymus ‘Silver Posie’
Salvia 'Caradonna'
Limonium platyphyllum

Photographs taken on 6th May 2015

The design and implementation is under the auspices of Nigel Dunnett, famous for his Gold Meadows at the London Olympic Park 2012. As a renowned roof garden expert we hope his creation for the City of London Corporation, the Barbican residents and the public, will be a great success. A challenge indeed as the whole project has been up against the clock from the beginning. The results? Only time will tell, as people with gardens, and responsibility for them, know.

Beech Gardens is accessible to the public and is featured in Open Garden Square Weekend 13/14 June. Louisa Allen from Open Spaces, City of London Corporation will be giving a tour on Saturday June 14th at 10am. Well worth a visit.