Brown Hart Gardens

Gateway Sculptures

Location: Brown Hart Gardens, Mayfair, London

Client: Grosvenor Estates

Size: 10,000 ft public garden on top of a Victorian Electricity Substation

Status: Ongoing

Brown Hart Gardens is a raised public garden space immediately south of London’s Oxford Street. It sits on top of an electricity substation designed by Sir Stanley Peach, who built an enormous 950sq m roof on it and a domed gazebo with steps at either end for access. Currently there is a café to seat 50, and an assortment of seating areas and large planters filled specimen trees and perennials.

At each corner of the garden are plinths which are used to showcase temporary sculptures. It is on these plinths that we were asked to create a living sculpture to enhance and compliment the gardens and the surrounding residential and commercial area.  All the while focusing on greening up the area, increasing biodiversity, creating something beautiful for residents and putting Brown Hart Gardens firmly on the map as a destination venue.

The Design Approach: Celebrating the Victorian Era

Brown Hart Gardens was originally designed by Richard Grosvenor in 1887 at the height of the industrial revolution. It was exactly at this time that intrepid travel and exploration to far away exotic countries such as Asia and The Americas saw the arrival of some of our best loved species of flora and fauna. Orchidelirium (the obsessive collecting of rare orchids) was one such craze and, it was this link to Richard Grosvenor’s past which gave us our concept.

It was important to us that whatever sculptural element we designed had an organic feel to it, so by extrapolating the shapes and textures of rare orchids, we were able to create a structure that would not only be a stand-alone piece of art, but also a frame to accommodate planting. Materiality was also key to the finished design, whereby, we studied the surrounding architecture and took colour, material, texture, and durability into careful consideration. We will use recycled steel in a mesh format resembling the textures on the petals of orchids, allowing the structure to become a frame for plants, a habitat for fauna, be light enough to sit on the plinths, but durable enough to withstand all the elements.

The scale of these four living sculptures had to be carefully considered not only from a planning point of view but aesthetically. All views had to be justified, from residents in apartments looking down, to locals having coffee on ground level. They had to be large enough to be a talking point but not overpower and diminish the domed structure of the entrance to Brown Hart Gardens.

Creating a micro biodiverse environment was hugely important to Grosvenor Estates brief as part of their overall ‘greening up’ plan. We knew we wanted to develop a structure that was self-sustaining in terms of irrigation; the structure will be designed that any rainwater falling into the leaf formed shapes will run down through the mesh to the planting beneath. The planting itself will be able to withstand the temperature differences and dry winds that are more prevalent in cities. Lighting will be kept to a bare minimum to reduce disruption to the feeding patterns of birds on insects.

This is an incredibly exciting and challenging project as there are so many facets and aspects to consider, but we believe we have come up with a solution that is a beautiful combination of looking back to the Victorian era and creating a vision for the future.

Service offered: Landscaping

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CGLA are an award winning team of Landscape Architects, Garden Designers  Landscapers and Garden Maintenance Operatives working in Buckinghamshire, London and the South East, as well as on prestigious design projects across the UK and abroad. We are currently working in Oman, Jersey and France, and welcome enquires for design, landscaping or garden maintenance. Contact us here