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Market Parklet

Market Parklet

Weathering steel and bare concrete give an industrial aesthetic

Pre-Registered SGD member Deborah Nagan of (uncommon) describes how a litter-strewn, unloved wasteland near Waterloo Station was transformed into a pocket park called (f)lowermarsh

For the past 18 years, I have had an office in the Waterloo area, and saw the opportunity to make a nice garden in Lower Marsh, which is home to a popular home-cooked food market. In 2012, we made a proposal for the space, with no backing.

The proposal was designed with the market stalls in mind and seating was a big priority – people buy food at the market, then want somewhere to sit. We also proposed a more clearly defined entrance to the Leake Street tunnel, which attracts world-class graffiti artists.

The local BID, ‘We are Waterloo’, took an interest in the scheme, and it was submitted for Mayor’s Pocket Park funding with their backing. We were awarded funds, which were matched by Lambeth Council. The project had a complicated start – the BID had to acquire the lease for the land, which is owned by Network Rail, and market traders weren’t keen on losing a large storage container that they leased from Network Rail. But we always knew that progress would be slow.

Seating was central to the design

Work on the garden finally started in April 2015. Central to the concept is a rough railway/industrial aesthetic using weathering steel and bare concrete. The pavement colour and the Corten planters (from Kinley Systems) echo the facade of Waterloo Station and are matched by rusty orange planting that includes chaenomeles, helenium, achillea and carex, with accents of deep purple from plants such as Coryllus avellana ‘Zellernus’. The plants were supplied by Robin Tacchi and Barcham Trees.

Planters on the streets are not without their challenges. People sit on them and squash the plants, and put their rubbish in them. The planting is dense to deter people leaving stuff, but looking after the space is not so much about plant maintenance as rubbish picking. The seating was created on site, using steel road-plate as seat backs embedded in cast concrete blocks.

We used Lambeth’s contractors, Conways, who fitted in the work around their other jobs to keep the project economical. Conways, residents from the Waterloo quarter and my colleague Miranda Schut and I planted up the area. Seeing us planting up the scheme embedded us in the hearts and minds of the stallholders. It’s now a lovely place to sit and have lunch. 

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