A New Park and Three Follies for Unity Street, Bristol 2016-ongoing

This project reintroduces fragments of lost and re-imagined local buildings into both the layout of the site’s landscaping and as a number of follies located across the Print Hall and Unity Street sites. The follies will be monumental, robust, and beautifully crafted. They will suggest the past while affording imaginative and playful new ways of reading and inhabiting the public realm that will be distinctively different from most other local parks.

These proposals have evolved from detailed site and archival research and consideration of the area’s recent history in terms of use, scale and materials. In the last 100 years parts of David Street have been opened, closed, reopened and pedestrianised; Jacob Street has been cut off from Temple Way; Hawkins Street was built; and the fortunes of Old Market have declined. Much of the local area was destroyed in the Second World War, and optimistic post-war planning- in particular, the construction of the Old Market Flyover road scheme in the late 1960s- problematically reshaped local pedestrian and vehicular routes.

The site’s new public realm is intended to contribute to the regeneration of the local area. It will allow for vehicle access while prioritising pedestrian use; reconnect Jacob Street with Temple Way for pedestrians, and open up a new public park between Unity Street and Jacob Street. The materials will be appropriate for their context, and will be both robust and finely crafted in order to add detail and material richness to the area. The art commission and approach to the landscaping have been considered together, and are fully integrated.

Large-scale erasure, reconnection, rebuilding, and removal have defined this site for the last century. These designs address the implications of these radical changes- of memory and forgetting in material terms. From the intimacy of the eye-level detail to the scale of the site within its wider context, they intend to sensitively define its specific sense of place.

CLIENT: Alaska Developments
ART CONSULTANT: Ginkgo Projects

ARCHITECT: Russ Drage Architects

The Unity Street site, outlined in white above, is just South of Old Market in Bristol city centre. It is adjacent to the Print Hall development, outlined in black. My designs for the public realm for both sites were developed simultaneously. Print Hall will be completed in August 2017, and work will begin on Unity Street in the autumn of 2017.

My designs for the public realm for both Print Hall and Unity Street involve creating six follies based on fragments of local architecture, and the lay-out of a new park.

My research into the Print Hall and Unity Street sites revealed the extent to which they had undergone radical change during the last 100 years. Cleared city-centre bomb sites such as this one were often used as informal playgrounds and community gardens before being redeveloped, and as such offered substantially more extensive (though temporary and informal) public space in city centres than had ever previously existed. Fragments of basement walls and fireplaces are surrounded by wild plants, and variations in the ground level divide the landscape into a varied terrain. Despite their apparent timelessness, the site's contemporary local parks have erased their historic street patterns in order to establish undifferentiated green open space. (Photograph: Bomb Damage, Castle Street Area, c1946. Bristol Reference Library Collection)

A crucial part of my research has been to visit and map all the local public open spaces. The map above is the result of my research. Most of these spaces are similar in character to Castle Park, the majority of which were established in the decades after WW2. Of these, few retain any trace of what previously existed on their sites. Like Castle Park, their designs take a naturalistic ‘tabula rasa’ approach familiar within Victorian parks, rather than retaining any reference to their historic urban character. What might a local park look like that took this historic landscape into account?

Surveyed between 1949 and 1951, this map shows the dramatic extent of bomb damage within the local area. Castle Park would later be built on the cleared bomb sites of Castle Street. Note the lack of public open space, and that the only areas marked as such were later destroyed to make way for the new flyover. My project site is outlined in black, centre-right. -Comprehensive Development Area Map (Central Area) No.1 Bristol Reference Library Collection

This Pathe film is a portrait of one such site in East London. Façades of ruined buildings become frames for spaces used for play, recreation and for gardening. -How Does Your Garden Grow? British Pathe Film, 1945. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vW6bLlXS xro

Six examples of local parks with remarkably similar characteristics; individual, large mature trees; minimal, peripheral shrubbery; extensive mown lawns; tarmac paths; familiar street furniture; minimal flower beds; and separate, designated sports facilities and play areas. (numbers relate to map on page 5) These parks present a fiction of a ‘virginal’, arcadian landscape; an island of authentic nature within the the artifciality of the built-up urban context. In fact, each of these sites was previously built on. If traces of these previous buildings remained, what might these fragments evoke?

The Bristol Post building is shown, newly-built, above the Old Market Roundabout (outlined in red). The new garden, built over the site of former David Street buildings such as the Golden Bowl Pub, is clearly visible as a blank lawn next to the newly-built Hawkins Street (outlined in green, top left). At this stage it was unfenced and unplanted- as was Castle Park (outlined in green, below right). Note how much of the park was still paved car-park at this date, and how few trees are present- Castle Park was a new public park built on cleared WW2 bomb sites, and was only completed in 1978.

These maps clearly show how David Street has changed over the last two centuries, and how for most of this time the site has been occupied by tightly-knit buildings. The current garden erases this history. Above left to right; below left to right : Ashmead, 1838; Ashmead 1855; OS 25” 1st Edition, 1873-1888; 1874 Ashmead; OS 25” 2nd Edition, 1898-1903; OS 25” 3rd Edition, 1914-1936

Tracing the earlier layout of roads, pavements and walls of exterior and interior spaces onto the proposed site (shown in grey)

Sketch of proposed landscaping, showing varied patchwork of terraced lawns (the green areas) to the south and variously paved areas (in grey) to the north. The turning circle will be maintained, with greening around the bases of the trees within the paving

Left: David Street, c1968. Bristol Pictorial Survey, Bristol Reference Library Collection. The Golden Bowl pub is shown in the centre of the photograph on the right with its windows boarded up and swinging sign removed. Right: Architectural fragments frame the new public realm, suggesting playful interpretation and a fresh sense of place

Left: Shepherd’s Hall is shown to the left, with its neighbouring building- The Golden Bowl Pub- to the south on David Street. These were demolished to make way for the Bristol Post Building’s gardens. Right: Indicative design of Folly no. 5, based on the David Street elevation of the old Golden Bowl pub. Materials could include stone mullions, pebble-dashed render wall fragments and a reclaimed vintage boot-scraper.

Section through the new Unity Street park, looking East. Indicative views of Folly 5 to the left and Folly 6 to the right. Detailed designs for this project will begin in Autumn 2017.