LT Studio and Piers Taylor lead community regeneration project
This pleasure gardens pavilion in Watchet, Somerset, was constructed in just three days by a group of local residents led by architect Piers Taylor of Invisible Studio and landscape architect Marc Dix of LT Studio.
The team was challenged to build a timber canopy and stage with ground modelling and planting to reclaim an overgrown Victorian pleasure garden at the coastal town's Splash Point for community use. The 50 largely unskilled volunteers built the structure during a 'design as you build' workshop in early September.
Ground modelling and the reclining stage have been designed by LT Studio landscape architects to provide a versatile space for picnics and outdoor events. To cope with the exposed clifftop location, robust plants have been chosen for the surrounding landscape, including Carex Comans and Briza Media grasses.
Planting will continue throughout the autumn using designs drawn up during the workshop. Further ideas for the landscape, devised in close collaboration with the local community, include a sensory area, an edible garden, a wildflower meadow, a boules court, stargazing areas, a maze, and a barbeque zone.
The pavilion itself is made from a series of dry laminated green timber hoops and involved no mechanical fixings and few tools. Timbers were bent into shape and tied together with jute ropes, which will become stronger over time as the rope shrinks when wet and the timber seasons. Even the rope was made on site, using a rope-making machine – a nod to Watchet's maritime history. Expert timber advice was provided by specialist Charley Brentnall.
Marc Dix, Director of LT Studio, said: 'The project represents an opportunity to create an exceptional public space for Watchet – a unique visitor attraction and a legacy for the community to enjoy for years to come – acknowledging the pleasure gardens that once stood at Splash Point.'
Commenting on the three-day build, Piers Taylor added: 'The Pleasure Build Up event has harnessed the potent energy of an extraordinary local community who came together over three days to reclaim an area of wasteland and transform it into something spectacular. Something incredible has come from the shared endeavour of a group of people – a beautifully planted piece of public landscape and a structure that was designed and constructed by local volunteers using technologies and techniques that reflect Watchet. This project has shown what is possible in a single weekend – and sets out an exciting vision for change here in Watchet.'
The workshop was organised by the Onion Collective Community Interest Company – a local social-enterprise group aimed at harnessing collective expertise for social and community benefit – and funded through a grant from Big Lottery's Awards for All. Further projects are planned for Watchet by the CIC.