BY TOBY PORTER
One of the South Bank’s most used but least appreciated parks is to be turned into a blooming wonderland garden, complete with a modernist shed with beehives on its roof.
A competition to transform Bernie Spain Gardens, next to Gabriel’s Wharf and the ITV studios on Upper Ground, has been won by a pollinator garden concept designed by West 8.
Residents and workers currently use its curved seating alcoves, facing the river, as a natural gathering space, but it is also regularly used as a thoroughfare.
But after the revamp, visitors will be able to interact with nature in two pollinator gardens at the park’s heart enclosed by an intimate glade-like setting complete with a custom-designed gardener’s pavilion.
The upgrade is intended to transform the garden from its current function as a pedestrian thoroughfare into an idyllic garden throughout the seasons.
It is will feature an abundance of nectar and pollen-rich flowers, which should provide an ideal habitat for foraging, shelter and nesting for birds, bees, butterflies and moths.
Scented floral displays are also planned, which will provide a valuable resource for declining pollinator populations at risk because of habitat loss, introduced diseases, pesticide poisoning and pollution.
The new gardener’s pavilion, inspired by a traditional garden shed, will be built in wood and glass, with several rooftop beehives.
The botanical, educational and community focus of the new layout is designed to pay homage to the legacy of Bernadette Spain, a campaigner on health and housing in the 1970s, after whom the gardens are named.
The competition, launched at the end of 2017, was run by Coin Street Community Builders (CSCB), which owns Bernie Spain Gardens.
West 8 was one of five shortlisted competition entrants, and its design director Adriaan Geuze said: “The gardens are a sleeping beauty that will become an adored haven not only for flowers and pollination but also for people.
“The participation of the community will be an integral part of the of the revitalisation and future success of the upgrade of the northern garden. The seasonal pollinator gardens will become a meeting point for the area’s diverse community of residents, office workers, and visitors.
“The design vision for the Gardens is deeply rooted in the English DNA of creating gardens.
“It will be a horticultural display garden and an educational landscape for children and for everyone who does not have access to a garden.”
CSCB and West 8 are now tweaking the design following feedback from residents during the competition process.
A reference group of residents is to be established which will include one or more horticultural training practitioners.
CSCB hopes to submit a planning application by the end of the 2018.
Its group director, Iain Tuckett, said: “The panel unanimously recommended the appointment of West 8 to take forward its proposals, which had greatest public support.
“The panel were impressed by all the designs, each team responded with a different but credible response to the challenges of our brief. We can only commission one team to take its proposals forward but all five teams showed ingenuity, imagination and real care in developing and presenting their proposals.”