Monday, July 18, 2011

HTA's Town Centre Gardens opens to the public

HTA Landscape Design has completed the prestigious £3.3m scheme to restore and regenerate the Stevenage Town Centre Gardens, Hertfordshire. This is the first modernist, New Town landscape to receive investment from the Heritage Lottery Fund and incorporates the UK’s first pre stressed granite bridge.

HTA’s landscape team was brought in by Stevenage Borough Council and the Green Heart Partnership to restore the four hectare park, which was an integral part of the original Stevenage New Town development and had become run down since it was built in the late 1950s.

The initial phase of the project commenced in 2006 with support from the Government’s Growth Area Fund and included masterplanning for the site and the restoration of its original features and framework.

The main phase involved the faithful restoration of the remaining parkland, lake and play area with a new sensory garden creating a stunning contemporary intervention in an undeveloped area of the site. This work was funded by a successful application to the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Parks for People’ – a first for a New Town park. HTA acted as Lead Consultant, Landscape Architect, Contract Administrator, Architect and Project Manager.

The centrepiece of the refurbished gardens is a pre stressed granite bridge designed by HTA, spanning 14m with a deck thickness of only 28cm and a weight of 22 tonnes. The bridge has no beam or piers and is the only one of its kind in the UK.

Other refurbishment works included the renovation of the lake and fountains, memorial and sensory gardens, new public toilet, a 1,500sqm play area, 1.5km of new paths and ecological enhancements including the planting of over 50,000 bulbs and 1,500sqm of wildflowers.

James Lord, director of HTA Landscape Design, comments: “The Stevenage Town Centre Gardens has been an exciting and fulfilling scheme to work on and we are proud of the two UK firsts that have been achieved as well as the recognition of  of heritage status for this modernism landscape. New Towns are coming of age and the Gardens are a significant asset that deserves to be looked after; they are the Capability Brown landscapes of the future.”

UKs only prestressed granite bridge engineered by Kusser Granitwerk in Germany
The design includes a comprehensive wayfining and interpretation strategy

Public WC and park keeper's office with 'leaf motif' concrete cladding

The lake and fountain have been faithfully restored to its mid century glory.
The lakeside promenade has been restored in line with the original design.

A new senroy garden constucted of six bespoke asymetriacal white concrete planters.




Purpose: project requirements, scope, context, philosophy and intent:

To create a new vision for the Town Centre Gardens that preserve, reveal and restore its heritage as one of the first New Town Parks whilst transforming it into a welcoming, exciting place for the 21st century.

To create a park that evokes the New Town Era and the modernist philosophy underlying its design whilst being clearly contemporary and avoiding pastiche.

To create the vibrant, cultural and recreational open space resource within a town centre that was central to the New Town philosophy.

To increase use, diversify audiences and promote cultural excellence by creating an exciting environment where a wide range of activities can take place.

Significance:

Stevenage is internationally famous as Britain’s first New Town.

The Gardens are the primary open space within the New Town and are an important example of modernist twentieth century design.

They embody the hope, aspirations and philosophy of the post war era - providing cultural facilities set in parkland, access for city dwellers to fresh air and open space and a formal part of green link between the town centre, adjacent neighbourhoods and onwards to the countryside.

The New Town Movement is a major part in the social history of Britain. The project is remarkable because many of the first generation of residents to use the Gardens are still alive and able to contribute to the process. We were able to interview the original landscape architect and work with the original artist to restore sculpture within the pond.

Innovation:

The centrepiece of the refurbished gardens is a pre stressed granite bridge designed by HTA and engineered in Germany by Kusser Aicha Granitwerke, spanning almost 14m with a deck thickness of only 28cm and a weight of 22 tonnes. The bridge has no beam or piers and is the only one of its kind in the UK.

Restoration of Women and Doves Sculpture: Winner of the Royal British Society of Sculptors Otto Beit Medal for Excellence in Architecture, 1982.  We worked with the original artist David Norris to restore the sculpture. During the tender period the original and specified foundry went into administration and we had to find another company capable of carrying out the work.

A celebration in 1950’s materials: HTA designed  largescale bespoke concrete planters as the main feature to the new sensory gardens. At over 7m by 7m, each planter consists of two interlocking triangles with walls that twist from vertical to a 60 degree inclination. 

HTA designed the patterned relief to the toilet block elevation and worked with the precast specialist to ensure the success and durability of the design. The graphic creates a visual reference to the cast concrete relief on the nearby underpass which was created by the well know contemporary artist, William Mitchell in 1973.

 

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