Some Genuine Community Community Parks

19 Aug 2016

The Garden Bridge is a total top-down, aggressive development imposed on the local community and wider London with little consultation, no design competition, low public support and only using notions of engagement, participation and environmental or transport improvement as a smokescreen to enable public funding and create a false appearance of ‘good’. Real urban change can come from the bottom up, from citizens who best know the local needs, concerns and who will benefit most from genuine improvements. By doing this spaces then also improve for those passing through as well as for the tourists. Imagine a London with tens of thousands of bottom-up community-led improvements like this instead of huge, ecologically-damaging top-down vanity projects like the Garden Bridge.

A previous post looked at some bridges around the world to highlight the incredible expense and lack of creativity in the Garden Bridge. In this one we look at some community parks and greening strategies which both work for the community, visitor and city and offer a plethora of possibilities of how London could improve once it shakes off the shackles of the Garden Bridge.

All prices are approximate & adjusted for inflation to today’s value.

Guerrilla Gardening, London, UK
Any size you want

The most direct form of community actionm guerrilla gardening and seedbombing see local residents simply assume responsibility for their local neglected spaces, however small, when those who manage them seem to have given up. In london the Guerrilla Gardener, Richard Reynolds, works with neighbours to improve grey space ignored by Transport for London or the local authority to create a greener city, an improved pedestrian environment and real bottom-up community cohesion.


Heavenly Hundred Garden, Kiev, Ukraine
Approx £6,000

What was an empty urban space used for fly-tipping, this space was transformed after activists pulled down the fences to construct barricades during the Ukrainian revolution. The protests resulted in hundreds dying at the hands of the police, and the local community took over the space to occupy it as a meeting and cultural space to discuss the future of their democracy and mark the memories of lives lost. The resulting shared space represents true bottom-up political action and hope for a just society.


Edible Bus Stop, London, UK
Approx £30,000

A strip of land at a Stockwell bus stop has been transformed by community gardening and donated plants. What was a desolate urban pavement covered in bollards is now a beautiful oasis for those waiting for a bus, local residents picking herbs for cooking or the passing pedestrian. It is maintained by the community and imbues safety and comfort to an everyday street. Those behind the project are now developing a whole Edible Bus Route, details here.


Place au Changement (Place for a Change), Saint-Etienne, France
Approx £30,000

Nearby residents were asked to contribute to ideas of how to transform an abandoned urban space in the city and three sets of workshops were run from 8am until 9pm every day for the whole community to take part in developing a design solution for all. Given practical construction and design skills, the community worked with Collectif ETC collective to then build their new space, strengthening social ties and giving real agency to the project.


Ulap-Platz, Berlin, Germany
Approx £1.1m

A stairway remaining from an 1879 cultural and trade fair had been lost among the roots of urban copse after the fairground had been abandoned then bombed in the war. In 2005, with the surrounding area becoming developed, a design competition was launched to repair the space. The response was to add a new stairs parallel and to open up the surrounding spaces, leaving a genuinely connecting, pedestrian space which leaves a trace of the site’s past use.


“Water Square”, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Approx £4.1m

An urban park with environmental concerns right at its heart. Each year much of Rotterdam floods and huge underground tanks to store the waters are expensive to construct and maintain. Water Square incorporates above-ground water storage into its design and the design process was participatory with the local church, residents and future users of the space. Gutters channel the water around the site and when not flooded the sunken spaces form usable community spaces from a sports court with teired seating to stages for dancing.


Park am Gleisdreieck, Berlin, Germany
Approx £15m

An abandoned railway industrial zone had become an unexpected natural wilderness in the middle of the city, and while many people visited and used the spaces it needed development into a formal park to aid connectivity between nearby areas and offer more cohesive accessibility for all ages and social groups. The result is a mix of large open space and the small, sensual spaces which were allowed to develop over the years of abandonment to nature.


Landschaftspark, Duisburg, Germany
Approx £25m

Designed with direct participation of residents’ associations, this park treated the original industrial site as part of the local heritage and sought to develop an ecological ‘repair’ of the past. Re-using and utilising the industrial monuments, it suggests an approach to re-greening a deindustrialising Europe while working with community to give new cultural and recreational spaces.


These are just a few examples, of varying sizes, where cities are changed for the better environmentally, for communities, for walkability, connectivity and social agency. There are thousands more examples all over the world, and many more which may come into being – including the Peckham Coal Line and Friends of the Flyover in the UK.

Organisations such as Just Space exist to help communities come together to have ownership of their urban environment, and there is a wealth of information out there for those who want to improve their bit and Spacehive offers crowdfunding for community-led urban improvements.


The way in which our cities and politics is changing. Social media and the internet can help bring people together and share ideas, while people rebelling against top-down patronising developments like the Garden Bridge are now reacting by forming their own groups and affecting real change in their own streets.



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