In Brockley, South East London, on a site previously used for fly tipping, Frendsbury Gardens has grown into a vital shared space and wildlife garden that improves community safety, cohesion and wellbeing.
With rubbish, knives and needles often found discarded many felt the space was unsafe. Fed up with the littered disused land, local residents got together and came up with a plan to transform the wasteland into a community garden. In 2008, Lewisham Council sold the land to the volunteers responsible for Frendsbury Gardens for a single, symbolic pound. The aim of the sale was to reduce crime around the estate and to bring its surrounding different communities together.
Nadine Hibbert, chair of Frendsbury Gardens, secured funding from Lewisham Council, National Lottery and others, and led a team of volunteers to create the oasis of nature. Today the garden is used by hundreds of local people as a space to be or a place to learn and play. Accredited horticultural training courses and informal workshops on gardening and recycling has given the local people the knowledge and skills to keep the park maintained.
The garden is one of the Capital Growth’s 2012 growing spaces which encourages the use of land for growing fruit and vegetables. The food grown can be harvested by the community for their personal use and Frendsbury hold healthy eating and cooking courses, teaching people what to do with the produce they harvest.
A true community hub, Frendsbury Gardens hold weekly events including wellbeing sessions to improve the health and wellbeing of the more isolated members of the community, therapeutic gardening sessions for those with mental health issues, a free after school club, and classes for children under five are held several times a week and include bug hunting, pond dipping and story time. The project is also working closely with local partners, schools and voluntary organisations to provide employment and educational opportunities.
The garden is open to the public and can be enjoyed seven days a week from dawn to dusk. However, a lack of shelter limited the usability of the space. A sheltered outdoor classroom and performance space is vital in providing the local community the facilities and support of Frendsbury Gardens all year around.
Aligning with the community spirit of the project, visitors and local residents were encouraged to participate to decorate the tiles which form the protective roof of the structure and to help build the structure itself.
Ramboll led the design, structural engineering services and sustainability strategy for the outdoor shelter, whose unusual spherical shell geometry proved to be a technical challenge throughout the process.
With unskilled volunteers constructing the shell, the structure was designed with the assembly process in mind. This made the design process more complicated but kept construction as simple as possible. The complex shape could only be realised through advanced parametric modelling techniques, breaking an unusual form down into simple flat packed plywood ribs.
Timber was the natural material choice; its lightweight nature makes it easy to handle on site and can be cut and fixed together using hand tools. Plywood pieces were cut and manufactured offsite, then slotted together like a large piece of flat pack furniture. This strategy minimised the time on site, limiting higher risk activities and making the build inherently safer by design.
Ramboll dedicated substantial time and effort in the design phase to developing a well thought through construction sequence, detailing simple yet robust and easy to install connections, and providing clear documentation of construction process to support any inexperienced volunteer. Members of Ramboll’s design team also take on a resident engineer role and will be on site providing technical support, alongside contractor Mace, throughout the duration of the build which is scheduled for completion by end of May 2019.
All project team members have donated their time, expertise and materials pro-bono to help Frendsbury Gardens achieve their vision. Alongside Ramboll, the project team includes contractor Mace, architect Tom Kyle, GKR Scaffolding, OSC Sales and Cut & Construct.
Ramboll has always been a company driven by a sense of purpose and a strong set of values. Frendsbury Gardens aligns perfectly with Ramboll’s mission to create sustainable societies where people and nature flourish. As a signatory of the Time to Change Employer Pledge, Ramboll is a strong supporter of the mental health agenda and was proud to provide pro bono expertise to help Frendsbury Gardens increase the support they offer to the local community.