Lambeth Walk is famous worldwide, not so much the road but the song written by Noel Gay for the musical Me and My Girl. Those who live there will remember a vitality to the place that has to a large degree disappeared as a result of inappropriate development or neglect. One such area is a square that hugs the right hand side of the street as you walk up from Black Prince Road. It’s the site that I’ve recently been asked to design.
The square is 24 metres in each direction, paved with brick. Most people say ‘blank canvas’ when they see it. Near the road stand two metal masts embedded in non-sensically large concrete platforms. That’s it, except for a couple of small trees placed randomly.
There is no route through to anywhere except flats and shop fronts, so it feels quite cloistered. I’ve worked at trying to reinforce that feeling as much as possible, while conscious of the need to keep the place open and safe.
I decided on a centred idea, as there was no strong route through to anywhere. It made more sense to design a space that would attract people and hold them there awhile, so there had to be ample seating and quiet areas with scope for more privacy. In the centre is a large circular bench made of FSC hardwood slats on steel supports. And this wraps around a raised lawn planted with a multistem tree. Orbiting this is a zig zag, symmetrical pattern of more benches and large planters which act like dots to the straight lines of wood.
I’ve used Belgian brick pavers for most of the hard landscaping. They achieve the seemingly impossible job of seeming both old and new. They echo the past but often have a modern energy about them. Running along three sides of the site I’ve designed a pathway made of sandstone slabs cut on a diagonal and teased apart to create a leading zig zag pattern. Dark grey pebbles are laid in and around them.
Planting will need to be low maintenance and have a mixture of low hedging, deciduous trees, shrubs, drought resistant perennials and grasses.