New Skip Garden update

I look back on my day and so many aspects of what Global Generation is about were popping up around me; much of it a result of our collaboration with the UCL Bartlett School of Architecture. Second and third year students have designed and are building many of the structures of our new Skip Garden. With our cafe opening next week and their degree show at the end of June, the pressure is really on, writes Jane Riddiford.

At our morning catch up, one of our chefs Sadhbh shows me photos of a giant cantilever shelter being wheeled by 6 people along the main road from The Bartlett School yard to the Skip Garden. It looks more like a catamaran for the World Cup than the shelter that goes above the urban wetland dining area, AKA the grey water system for our kitchen. Now in place, this highly engineered contribution makes sense. It is a wonderful contrast to many of the ingenious low tech structures that are now populating the garden.
See the video of the ‘Welcoming Shelter’s’ journey to the Skip Garden:

There is a natural cool store underneath our office which is being made of earth filled coffee sacks provided by nearby Caravan restaurant. I had my doubts about why the cool store was so large.  However it was a thrill to see it being used today as an intimate space for children from St Aloysius primary school and construction workers, who were doing a poetry workshop as part of our bi-weekly Lunch and Learning session. A second group of eight year olds were busy in the classroom nailing down scaffold boards laid out as a rough-hewn version of a parquet floor. The third group were outside cleaning glass bottles which will be part of an inhabitable hydroponic hedge.

While the Lunch and Learning was going on, a volunteer from the Centre of Alternative Technology (CAT) in Wales was learning about rammed earth from one of the Bartlett students. They were making the back wall of our new poly-tunnel; a feature that will store heat in the day and give it out at night. This will be the largest rammed earth wall in London. Meanwhile, I was meeting with a group from Notting Hill Housing Trust who are working on a The Aylesbury Estate, a large housing redevelopment in London.  Their thank you email conveys what we hoped would happen in terms of wider interest for the project:

“Thank you so much for hosting us at your skip … I don’t want to say garden; “world” seems more appropriate. It’s huge! Your project totally blew my mind and I think all three of us have come away with our creative juices well and truly stimulated.”
- Nathalie Websdale: Marketing, Communications and Involvement Manager

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Next up was an interview from two UCL PhD researchers about our perceptions of having a composting toilet as part of the new Skip Garden. Thomas Berry writes: “The Great Work of our times is moving the human community from its present situation as a destructive presence on the planet to a benign or mutually enhancing presence. “  

For me, the toilet like so many of the structures is yet another doorway into the realisation that we are all part of a vast interconnected story which we can draw on for inspiration. We need to find ways to contribute to this story for the benefit of future generations. It is an ecological way of being that endlessly surprises and makes sense of entering into projects in which the end result is not yet written.

One of the most important features of the Skip Garden is that it provides a platform for bringing different people together. As Paul, our Garden Manager would say: “it is a garden of a thousand hands”. In that spirit it is time to say a huge thank you to Jan Kattein and Julia King, tutors at The Bartlett School and their students who have brought with them mums and dads and professional volunteers from some of London’s leading architect and engineering firms.

Thank you also to the volunteers from nearby businesses like The Guardian and Google who have felt a day helping in the Skip Garden is a worthwhile thing to do. And finally a huge thank you to the ongoing help from the onsite construction companies BAM, Carillion and Kier – without you this project would not be possible. And to newer partner ISG and engineering subcontractor Michael J Lonsdale for helping us with the plumbing for the new Skip Garden Kitchen.  This has been invaluable!

My day ended with a quick swim in the new King's Cross natural bathing pond; we have arranged a handy trade of free coffee in return for free swims. Finally as I am about to get on my bike to head home, I see Andy our head chef. “I am smiling,” he says. “We are plugging in all the new kitchen equipment ... so the kitchen might just be ready in time for our opening.”