A major commission to develop a long term project at Abbey Gardens, a protected site in East London, not far from the 2012 Olympic Village. The site contains the remains of a 12th century Cistercian Abbey (St. Mary Stratford Langthorne, Essex) and will be adjacent to a new extension of the Docklands Light Railway opening in 2010.
Collaborators: Friends of Abbey Gardens
Commissioner: Initiated by FOAG for London Borough of Newham
Our proposals for the garden cover several years of development but for at least the next two What Will the Harvest Be? will run at the site, a public-access 'harvest garden' of fruit, flowers and vegetables that literally anyone can use. The garden launched in 2009 and will remain in place pending the development of permanent plans for the site, which include a further design by us.
The idea of the project was to harness the enthusiasm of the local residents' group for growing their own food and to create an iconic garden for them to learn and experiment with this, one that would be inspiring to visitors too. In our response to the brief to design the permanent garden at the site, we included a clause that the success (or not) of the 'harvest garden' would inform how a productive community garden would be included in the permanent scheme: In this way, the current project can be seen as a social and horticultural experiment. Unlike most allotments, it was crucial to us that the garden to be cultivated communally, that noone 'owned' any of it. We employed a Garden Club Leader to regularly head up gardening sessions on site and provide encouragement and knowledge and the site is open dawn to dusk with - so far- no security or vandalism issues.
The influences behind WWTHB? relate back to Abbey Gardens' Cistercian origins when monks used the land as a site of great productivity. The local Newham area - in a state of immanent change and growth - provides an inspiring context, bringing in new transport links, new residents and commuters, and in time the Olympic visitors and competitors. Historically this echoes the hub of travelers, commerce, debate and food production that the medieval Cistercian Abbey, once sited at the heart of a much larger garden, would have been. Later influences such as wartime 'Dig for Victory' allotments and the early 20th century Newham agricultural 'squatters', the Plaistow Landgrabbers have also inspired us.
See the project website for how to visit or use the garden, one-off events you can join in with and more details on what's growing.