Design Brief

The client, Furtherfield, would like to create a space that inspires individuals and communities, whether local or further removed, to connect with one another in a way that is meaningful and positive, and that generates further and ongoing connection. Furtherfield would also like to increase both the opportunity to connect digital with physical space and the variety of new ways in which this could be achieved.

The designer would like to extend Furtherfield’s gallery space out into the open air of the park and to manipulate its immediate environs such that the gallery features more prominently in the park. The Manor House entrance will, through the use of soft and hard landscaping, be visually connected to Furtherfield Gallery so as to lead people there.

The designer would like to create a place that brings people together by stimulating connection within and between communities. This will be fostered by creating an attractive, legible and diverse landscape that is and feels safe and secure, and by allowing for the democratisation of the space and its use. Such will be achieved through considered arrangement of topography, planting, access and circulation. These factors should encourage a variety of programmes, including casual as well as organised activities and events. Programmes the design will cater for could include but would not be limited to: expanded community gardening; fêtes and fairs; food and cultural markets; fitness activities; and after-school clubs.

The designer’s philosophy dictates that a strategy of design should be implemented that is ecologically sound as well as environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. Thus, materials, plants and methods used must respect each of these factors. The connection between Finsbury Park and other green spaces in London will also be an essential element in this endeavour.

The stretch between the Manor House entrance and Furtherfield Gallery is currently used recreationally by residents of the boroughs of Haringey, Hackney and Islington. It therefore has a wide spectrum of user groups, diverse in socio-economic standing, culture, ethnicity, race, religion, politics, etc. (TransitionFinsburyPark, 2010). Other users include commuters and people walking or cycling through the park and its locale. The Mackenzie Pavilion is currently used by Furtherfield Gallery and its visitors.

The area around Furtherfield Gallery does not take advantage of the opportunity to advertise itself as a gallery, and although at the centre of the park, its situation within its immediate environs seems like an afterthought. The new design will establish the gallery as a clearly central feature within its context and the park as a whole. A new layout for this area will make the gallery the focal point of the site and attract greater numbers of visitors. Garden rooms will be constructed around the building to offer places for people to gather and for the gallery to extend outdoors as an open-air museum (Warpole, 2000) and to host events during hospitable weather. The space will also connect the gallery to the amphitheatre, which could be used as general seating, for casual recreation, and to stage events and shows. Whilst visually and functionally altering the vicinity of the gallery to make it a gallery space, the layout will not be prescriptive. Innumerable and widely varying programmes will be accommodated in order to allow Furtherfield to use the area to further their aim of connecting digital and physical space in way various and changing.

A small area of the park currently houses a community garden. In order to encourage its use by a far greater number of local residents the layout of this will be redesigned and the size dramatically increased. Its physical structure and the placing of facilities and buildings such as tool shed, compost heap, toilets and break area will be carefully considered so as to allow for a centralised and democratic management of the gardens. It is hoped that this will inspire locals of all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, as well as the unemployed and the homeless, to get involved with the gardens and to connect with one another. The layout of the gardens will also have the potential to accommodate programmes such as fêtes using the gardens’ produce and after-school gardening clubs.

The community gardens will be expanded but not moved from their current home at the Manor House entrance of the park. Since this is one of the main entrances, it will be designed so as to afford a sense of arrival at a destination. To achieve this the space around the entrance will be kept open and given the feel of a plaza-like area. The planting will spill out onto the pavement outside the park gates as an advertisement for the park and to engage with the street and to draw in passers-by. Hard and soft landscaping features will lead people from the community gardens through the park towards Furtherfield Gallery. The inevitable messiness of the community gardens will be disguised with neat rows of orchard planting. Not only will this improve the entrance aesthetically, but the blossoming trees will contribute to achieving the goal of creating a park that encourages biodiversity by, for example, offering nectar upon which pollinating insects can feed. The metal fence along the boundary of the park will be replaced with hedging, as will the fences throughout the park.

Expanding and redesigning the community gardens will be a step towards sustainable living (Sarkissian, 2009; Girardet, 2005). They will contribute to the reduction of food miles (Girardet, 2005) since the produce will be used by residents and perhaps local businesses (Steel, 2008), and users will be able to benefit from productive physical exercise.

As well as being an entrance, a transition from street to park, the Manor House gates are also an exit, a transition from park to street. Thus they perform the function of connecting users of the park with the rest of London. The park will be designed having in mind the aim of connecting Finsbury Park with other green spaces, and this exit will have features that connect users with places to the east such as Hackney’s East and West Reservoirs, Abney Park Trust Memorial Park and Clissold Park, and Haringey’s Chestnuts Park, Downhills Park and Lordship Recreation Ground, as well as other public parks further afield.