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What are you working on: Deborah Nagan

What are you working on: Deborah Nagan

The landscape architect tells Zia Allaway about her new Crossrail project

Renowned for her ground-breaking designs, landscape architect and MD of (uncommon) Deborah Nagan relishes complicated and unusual schemes that allow her and her team creative freedom. She was a speaker at the SGD Spring Conference, and is presently working on a new project for Crossrail.

What is the Crossrail project you are working on?

The architects, Weston Williamson, have asked us to design a landscape around Crossrail’s ventilation shafts in Stepney, East London. It’s an enormous building site at the moment, where huge drill bits have tunnelled out the railway. But once the cavity has been filled in there will be little evidence of what lies below, apart from vine-clad buildings that enclose the ventilation shafts.

Tell us about your design plans.

The client would like us to just cover the area with grass, but we are pushing for a more imaginative and sustainable design, one that will reflect the tracks that run beneath the surface and celebrate the people who have worked on the project. Grass may be easy to install, but we have to consider sustainable drainage systems, and a rain garden may actually be a more cost-effective option in the long run, as well as being a lot more exciting.

We are proposing elements that look like train tracks to contextualise the garden, and flowerbeds filled with bright orange plants, such as heleniums, to reflect the high-vis jackets worn by the workers. The beds will be the exact width of the tunnels and located directly above them.

When can we expect to see the new garden?

Work has already begun on the ventilation shaft buildings, but we still have to get the final planning permission signed off for the landscape. Assuming this goes through, we are hoping the garden will be open in spring 2017. 

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