This month we all met at Fabrica’s offices to discuss the brief send over by Tamara from Public Room in Skopje. When we visit Skopje in November we will be designing mobile gardens for people with disabilities:
“We are going to use plywood, 2500 x 1250 x 12 mm. The material will be processed on machine, according technical drawings and design provided by the participants. They are going to work in 5 mixed groups, for exchange and also because we are planning to finish the products with the designers form Macedonia from each group in case they don’t manage to finish them on November 16th. The mobile gardens will be exhibited at Skopje Design Week 2019, which will be held in the period 27. November – 01. December (wwww.ministryofpleasure.net)”
We had a really good discussion about the brief and came up with some questions we hope will help us develop and research ideas further ahead of our visit.
We were particularly interested with defining disability. Being quite a broad concept, we wondered whether the gardens were aimed at a specific group, or if they had to be accessible to a variety of people. The needs of a blind person would for example really differ from someone with a hidden disability such as anxiety, or someone with dementia.
As we are quite interested in co-creation, we also wondered whether Public Room had already been talking to potential users about the kind of garden space they would want. This brought up for us a whole lot of questions about the usage of a garden: as somewhere you can relax in (a garden to look at, or a sensory garden) or as somewhere to be active (to plant things and grow things in).
With regards to the design we also wondered about the “mobile” part of the brief. Some of us interpreted it to mean that the overall garden would be moveable from one venue to the other (we imagined pods on wheels that could be pushed around town to find a new location each day) while others understood it as a modular garden, where each element could be moved to welcome different usages and needs.
This also led us to consider the challenges a site might bring to accessibility. If there was a designated site at Public Room for the garden, is it already accessible or would the design need to resolve existing accessibility issues – for example would we have to integrate a ramp to the design, to make sure the garden could be accommodated in a raised area?
We concluded with some really interesting discussions about the health and wellbeing benefits of gardening and being in nature, something many of us in the group recognise from keeping allotments, gardening or going for walks in Brighton’s surrounding countryside.
It is quite interesting to us, given the fact we will be working with the community in Moulsecoomb, that many of the most deprived communities in Brighton are currently engaged in campaigning for greater usage and upkeep of their green spaces, as Brighton’s affordable housing is for the largest part located on the outskirts of the city, blending in the surrounding country side. A group of Whitehawk local residents (ParkLife) is very active in campaigning to save their local parks which have fallen into a state of neglect. The East Brighton social movement, led by a group of local residents congregating at the Manor Hall Gym, is also campaigning (amongst many other things) for better usage and upkeep of the areas’ green spaces due to its direct correlation to improving health and wellbeing in the community. Finally community consultations for the Mouslecoomb and Bevendean Neighbourhood Plan identified the development of “Garden Estates” as a key area of work which will have a significant impact on residents requests for a healthier, happier and more connected community.
From Brighton all the way to Skopje, accessible gardens seem to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
About Garden Estates:
The Housing and Town Planning Act of 1919 which saw the beginning of council housing provision of the UK promoted the construction of new suburban ‘garden’ estates, situated on the outskirts of cities. In those estates, of which Mouslecoomb is an early example, houses were provided with a generous size garden to encourage the tenants to grow their own vegetables, a privet hedge at the front and an apple tree at the back.