In the last few nail-biting months of the Wharfdale Road greenwall project King's Cross Community Projects has moved firmly into the design, construction and installation phase.
At last week's project meeting hosted by E C Harris, artist Neil Ayling presented his first draft design to the delight of all present. His brief was a difficult one, and somehow he's manged to achieve what we thought was impossible. We'd asked him to give us:
A stunning sculpture reflecting the industrial history of King's Cross, particularly the area around the station and canal, yet it must also be modern and not harking back to the past in a negative way.
Deep planters that would house a range of planting and enable as much water retention as possible to minimise the need for irrigation.
Consideration of the range of views the wall will have – from the flats next to it, the pedestrians and traffic in the street, from Balfe Street opposite and from as far away as St Pancras.
A structure that would maximise use of limited space noting that it faces west and also gets a great deal of sun in the summer months.
A 'trellis' that enables plants to clamber up.
A sculpture that would positively benefit from changing light throughout the day and dramatic changes to plant foliage throughout the year.
A sculpture that can be subtly lit to show it off in the early winter evenings.
A structure that would not be reliant on the wall for its integrity and would enable access to the wall behind for maintenance.
A structure that is safe and secure and does not adversely impact the security of the buildings either side.
A sculpture that will form a new ‘vertical landscape’ that could be viewed from as far away as the upper platform on the east side of St Pancras Station.
New nesting and perching places for birds, bats and insects so that the greenwall will complement the existing King’s Cross green corridor including the canal and Camley St Natural Park.
The images here show the first model of Neil's design. Imagine the 'handles' of the 'spoons' having cut outs so that they form a stylised trellis with lots of hiding places for urban wildlife. (Click on any of the images to enlarge them.) Imagine how the design will change as plants scramble up and over. In summer it will be lush and green, in autumn the leaves will drop and in winter planting will mainly remain only in the bottom of each spoon. Imagine the changing shadows as the sun moves from east to west during the day.
The design is now being refined by Neil and checked by our structural engineer Alan Conisbee. Our landscape designer Marie Clarke and horticulturalist Mike Jackson are busy designing the planting scheme. Following that we’ll run a consultation process to get your feedback before we draft up our planning application.
And, for the eagle eyed among you who noticed the trial pit we dug at the site a couple of months ago, we have excellent news. The soil analysis from the pit shows that we can create a planting bed the length of the sculpture so there will be ground level planting too. We also found that the site is perfect to take the weight of the sculpture itself – and Neil's design will not require any weight bearing by the wall.
If you’d like to know more about the project, do visit our website or send us an email. We are still raising funds towards the full costs of the greenwall – very many thanks to those that have already donated. If you’d like to make a donation do click here. All donations will be acknowledged on a plaque next to the sculpture.