LFA and the London Borough of Camden reveal Phoenix Road Performing Gardens by NOOMA Studio

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LFA and the London Borough of Camden reveal Phoenix Road Performing Gardens by NOOMA Studio
Somers Town Acts © Luke O'Donovan.

LONDON.- The London Festival of Architecture has unveiled ‘Phoenix Road Performing Gardens’ installation, designed by London-based design and architecture practice, NOOMA Studio. Located on Phoenix Road, ‘Phoenix Road Performing Gardens’ is the winning scheme of the LFA’s competition ‘Somers Town Acts’ in collaboration with the London Borough of Camden.

The competition invited architects, landscape architects, designers, and artists to develop a creative design in Somers Town to support the programme of events planned for a weekend-long road closure on 24-26 June 2022. The road reopened on Monday 27 June, but the main elements of ‘Phoenix Road Performing Gardens’ will remain on the pavement for the Somers Town Festival on 9-10 July. After the Festival, the planters will be rehoused in the gardens of the local community and each structure will find a new home in a local school, as per Camden and NOOMA Studio’s desire to provide benefits to the local community beyond the Festival.

The residential neighbourhood of Somers Town is home to a diverse and well-established community and has a unique history that has changed throughout the centuries: from initially being private estate land through to receiving refugees from the French Revolution in the late 18th Century and being the home of many radical thinkers and activists. Located directly north of Euston Road and nestled between King’s Cross and Euston, Somers Town sits in an area that is undergoing large scale redevelopment, including HS2 construction and the British Library Extension. Whilst King’s Cross and Euston have experienced significant growth throughout the years, Somers Town and its residents have yet to see the full benefits of surrounding regeneration.

In response to the LFA 2022’s theme of ‘Act’, ‘Phoenix Road Performing Gardens’ provided a street garden for the people of Somers Town, which facilitated performance, showcased the spirit of the local community, and explored alternative scenarios for the road to be pedestrianised during its weekend-long closure. The road was divided in three acts: the speaker, the performer, and the storyteller.

Addressing the busiest corner of Phoenix Road, the speaker’s podium acted as Somers Town’s own speaker’s corner, a platform for residents and visitors walking through with something to say. ‘Phoenix Road Performing Gardens’ also featured a performing stage on the central point of the road, offering an opportunity for passers-by to practice, play or observe a theatrical moment. The storyteller celebrates oral tradition with a playful structure, which offered entertainment for children and parents over the weekend with storytelling and music workshops from Tyan Kids and Kindle Corner Kids.

The 24-26 June 2022 weekend programme of events featured performances by school children from Regent High School, and local groups including The Place, a local contemporary dance school, which established spontaneous spaces on Phoenix Road and provided a platform for the local community to perform, meet, and exchange. The Somers Town Museum organised a community meal on Saturday 25 June and provided smoothie-making bikes as a form of entertainment for the local community. Other local organisations also took part in the festival in more improvised ways, such as Somers Gallery which provided recycled materials for children to build and decorate their own houses.

‘Phoenix Road Performing Gardens’ has also provided an ecological legacy to Somers Town and its surrounding neighbourhoods. Having partnered with local community gardeners, Global Generation, NOOMA Studio built the installation using borrowed plants, which will be gifted to Somers Town after the close of the installation, to increase the area’s ecological infrastructure. Global Generation planted all the planters and nurtured them in the story garden, located behind the British Library, for six weeks. They also organised and led a tour of the Story Garden on Saturday 25 June as part of the weekend programme of events. The installation featured reusable and demountable materials, such as barrels and timber. This approach has allowed for a limited waste and lower carbon impact, but also a unique and memorable landscape.

‘Phoenix Road Performing Gardens’ provided room to experiment with what becomes possible in the car-free environment of Phoenix Road, offered a safe, accessible, and playable space for all, well-connected and integrated with the local community.

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