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Turning Jubilee Gardens into a ‘world-class’ park

London SE1 website team

Four concept designs for Jubilee Gardens, the South Bank green space between the Festival Hall and County Hall dominated by the London Eye, have been revealed.

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Thomas Heatherwick presents his concept for Jubilee Gardens in the Royal Festival Hall's Chelsfield Room

Four leading design teams were shortlisted in December 2004 and briefed to create a new vision for the park which is as soft and green as is sustainable. Their design concepts were showcased at a public unveiling on Monday chaired by Rowan Moore, director of the Architecture Foundation, and at an exhibition which will tour Waterloo as part of the consultation process.

Local businesses, community groups, statutory authorities and the South Bank Centre have joined forces to form the Jubilee Gardens Steering Group which is leading the redevelopment.

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Jubilee Gardens seen from the Royal Festival Hall

"The design teams have brought fresh, inspirational thinking to the space," comments Ted Inman, chair of the Steering Group and CEO of South Bank Employers' Group. "These ideas have the potential to completely transform the face of the South Bank and the way people use and enjoy the gardens. We are now looking forward to finding out how they excite the local community."

The successful design team – not final design – will be announced in early June. The results of the consultation will enable the design brief to be finalised at this stage. The winning team will then respond to the final brief and undertake additional consultation.

The design teams' concepts for the gardens are:


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A new undulating landscape of hillocks and mounds creating a series of mini-territories where people can find their own space. Formed into a cell-structure, the largest of these opens up towards the Thames to create a cove-like place, inviting people to the river. The image of a 'cove' is used as a metaphor to further structure the space, a place where you can escape from the bustle of life, or explore and have fun at the shore. The Gardens extend out onto a new beach deck, giving access to the river foreshore, with a sandy beach potentially extending into the cove during summer months. South facing mounds half enclose a large event lawn, giving the perfect vantage point for performances whilst picnicking or for simply sunbathing surrounded by seasonal floral displays. Other features include a semi-sunken café emerging from under a hill and a colourful playground with a bubble fountain.

Gross Max

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Once the South Bank was a patchwork of river sediments, pleasure gardens and timber wharfs. This design reflects upon this rich cultural and ecological tapestry in a bold and contemporary manner. The design is based on strong contrast between a series of intimate stroll gardens and a large field for events. The gardens are a horticultural extravaganza featuring mist gardens, heated garden walls for the growth of tropical plants, seductive nocturnal gardens and even a series of floating gardens on the Thames. Strips of different soil types reflect the original Lambeth Marsh river sediment and allow the juxtaposition of different types of vegetation. Wooden boardwalks are reminiscent of the former riverside timber wharves. Contemporary composers will be invited to compose a series of ambient park soundtracks. An intense experience of nature and outdoor recreation.

Gross Max have recently worked on plans for Potters Fields next to Tower Bridge.

Thomas Heatherwick, with Land Use Consultants and Dan Pearson Studio

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This design hinges on an interlinked system of large objects arranged around a central lawn, Similar to enormous 'grow-bags', the objects are filled with soil to form richly planted gardens. Others are topped with seating, performance space and children's play areas. Ramped pathways lead people up through the new landscape towards elevated viewpoints over the gardens. The design combines a traditional English garden space filled with exuberant planting with a dynamically sculpted architectural environment. The gardens form a protective horseshoe around the central open space. Tilting the landscape allows all of the gardens to be visible from different aspects, creating a safe and welcoming environment. A café is wedged between two of the modules, taking advantage of the prominent location and giving fine views over the gardens to the Thames and London Eye beyond.

Heatherwick, who designed Manchester's 'B of the Bang' and the roll-up bridge at Paddington Basin, has worked on designs for the Great Maze Pond approach to Guy's Hospital.

West 8

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West 8 conceives Jubilee Gardens as an holistically-designed, organic, lush and green park. Trees and flowers, blooming throughout the year, will provide a botanic ambience. The metaphor of Green Trafalgar has been adopted, exploring the park as the main green gathering space of the South Bank – a central Green. This design seeks to achieve the integration of function, feature and programme within a sophisticated topography. Surfaces, trees, flowers, benches, edges and activities work in unison. Paths become fluid and inviting, capturing and intensifying desire lines. The undulating plane of the topography provides prime lookout points, capturing dramatic views of the London skyline and the South Bank. Framed panoramic views are opened by undulating hills. The topography also cultivates intimate spaces, micro-climates and refuge within the park. At night, a theatrical spectacle of light will subtly animate and play with the new weaving landscape.

Where to see the designs

You can find out more by visiting the Jubilee Gardens website. The designs can also be seen at the Royal Festival Hall on Tuesday 10 and Wednesday 11 May 10am-6pm.

On Friday 13 and Saturday 14 May the exhibition moves to a tent on Waterloo Millennium Green, also open 10am-6pm.

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