Duncan Terrace Garden is one segment of a series of linked and linear public spaces known as the New River Walk. The New River Walk is built over the route of the historic New River, a constructed water channel completed in 1613 to provide a clean water supply to London. The New River runs from its source in Herfordshire to a reservoir at New River Head (near Sadler’s Wells, London EC1). Following initial improvements to sections of the New River Walk at Astley’s Row and Pleasant Place, remapp were asked by the London Borough of Islington to produce outline proposals for further sections. Duncan Terrace Gardens represents the first phase of this strategy aimed at revitalising essential public spaces and viable green routes, within a heavily built up inner-city context. At inception many local residents and potential park users expressed that there was a lack of invitation into what was often characterised as a dark and unsafe place.
The existing dense vegetation, made up of overgrown trees and shrubs, was thinned and reduced to open up sightlines, also enabling opportunities for more diverse and varied microclimates throughout the site. The more dappled shade from the existing canopies, and creation of open sunny places, facilitated new layers of understory planting and a new raised turf area on previously bare and compacted soils. Sequences of seasonally dynamic, colourful, textured layers and mixes of shrubs, perennials, grasses, ferns and bulbs have reanimated the sensory experiences of the garden. New level entrances and paths were installed, to ensure open access for all. A main path weaves through the site with subtle changes of direction, to enhance the experience of the transitions of planting ‘rooms’, reveal and enlarge the sense of space within an essential linear park, and carefully work around existing tree roots. The layout of the path also evokes the angular route of the now piped and buried New River, uncovered in historic map research. New side entrances and branches of the main path respond to local desire lines and mean there is a regular flow of people through the garden. A timber boardwalk route leads through a grove of trees drawing attention to the qualities of the woodland habitat which encloses it. The very intensively used new turf area is located within the sunniest place in the garden, replacing eroded expanses of tarmac and rose and annual beds. It is raised and framed with a bespoke low wall, (used for sitting), embossed with a rose motif that recalls the old municipal rose beds and gives the garden its own identity.
The process of community engagement was commenced before the design process, and has informed and enriched the design principles at all key stages of the project. The park users are a diverse community, reflecting the social and cultural surroundings, and the park has become an enlivened stage made ever-changing by patterns of weather and seasons.
Approximate Map Location
Islington, London N1
London Borough of Islington
|Type of scheme|
Parks and gardens
Winner, design under 1ha category, LI Awards 2010; Islington Society Award for Architecture and Conservation: Best New Design in London Borough of Islington 2009; Britain in Bloom 2009: Special Mention; Horticulture Week 2009 awards, shortlisted for Ã¢â‚¬
Extending the function of the public space to a much wider and more diverse range of park users, and enriching and maximizing the qualities of the garden.
Structural Engineers: Price and Myers
Soil Scientists: Tim OHare Associates
Arboriculturalists: ACS Quantity Surveyors: Baillie Knowles
London Borough of Islington
London Borough of Islington, both capital and Section 106 funding
A restrained palette of materials to uniquely characterize garden: sustainably sourced timber boardwalk (European oak); timber benches; bonded aggregate paths; bespoke patterned concrete; refurbished railings; new ironwork gates.
John Woods Nursery
The conditions for new planting at Duncan Terrace ranged from areas of heavy shade under mature tree canopies (with heavily root bound and dry soils), to areas of dappled shade, and two principally open sunny areas at both main entrances. The shade areas have been planted with varying perennial/ fern/ bulb/ grass and shrub mixes to give definition and character to overlapping but separate 'planted rooms', whilst also retaining continuity with repeating species. A balance of evergreens and foliage textures in the shade areas aims to provide all year interest, after the spring highlights of woodland flowering. The sunny borders at the main north and south entrances (at either end of the garden) have also been planted with herbaceous, bulb, grass and shrub mixes, but using distinctly different colour palettes: white/ yellow/ orange and red to the north end borders, and blues/ pinks/ reds and purples to the south end borders.
The old garden was largely characterized by its quite static evergreen shrubbery, whilst the new planting scheme has introduced a more changing and seasonal character to the garden, where park users often exclaim that it has become a different experience each time they enter. Though the scheme has been designed and intended as a low maintenance scheme, it is also hoped and planned that it could continue to develop and be cared for in the hands of its enthusiastic and diverse user group.
The detailing of the scheme aims to retain as much surface water run off as possible and recycle it into planting and turf areas. Land drains and permeable paving used to capture, store and distribute water.