Regenerating a Rooftop Garden

The last few months saw the Global Generation team at Regents place embarking on a new journey with Richard Cobden Primary School in Camden. The partnership was part of the wider ‘creative curriculum’ project happening in the areas around Regents Place which also involved Netley Primary School.

Before my initial visit to the School all I knew was that we were going to facilitate the pupil’s involvement in designing a new rooftop garden, I had no idea that the school occupied such an amazing building. Being a local myself, I know Camden well and always admired the beautiful Victorian School house at the bottom of Camden Street. I was awed by the idea that I could help green the top surface of such a stunning local asset.

When I first set foot on the roof, I was even more excited! There was a roofed section, perfect for an outdoor classroom and a large expanse of flat paved roof with ready made trellises on the fences and even a gardener’s shed! It turned out that the roof had housed a garden in the past but due to essential maintenance work in the last decade, it was dismantled and since then has been tragically unused.

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We decided to begin the project by inviting the students to the Skip Garden to get them inspired with what’s possible in small urban spaces like their School rooftop. They focussed on the different kinds of sensory experiences one can have in a garden; tasting strawberries, touching different textures, seeing all kinds of colours and smelling aromatic flowers and herbs. It was amazing to see so many young people exploring the garden and thinking about how their experience there could be carried forward into their own creations. A highlight for me was letting them all hold one of our composting worms!

The following week the Global Generation team visited the school and carried out the first of two design workshops. We reflected on their experiences at the Skip Garden and then started to model their dream garden in pizza boxes! The children worked in pairs using a range of natural materials to create the structure. To add detail and foliage to their pizza box gardens, the pupils made their own felted wool to tremendous effect.

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The models were showcased at School and the entire process was captured in an amazing series of photographs taken by Silvia. The young people were invited to Regents Place and given the rare opportunity to go behind the Lendlease hoardings at 1 Triton street to see the Gantry Garden before seeing Silvia’s photos of themselves and their models in a slideshow on the big screen at the Regent’s Place piazza. It was a poignant end to the project, they had the opportunity to see how huge development projects, changing the face of their local area, saw the value of small rooftop gardens.

We will continue to work with the school with a goal of making the young peoples designs come to life on the school rooftop and hopefully leave and enduring green legacy on the Camden skyline.