London College of Fashion

This is one of the most exciting and challenging projects I have been lucky enough to work on recently as a contractor for London Conservation Services.

Introduction

As part of the University of Arts, London College of Fashion (LCF) is an internationally well known and highly regarded centre for Fashion, Journalism and Media excellence.  The Lime Grove site in Shepherds Bush is home to around 1,600 students.  The site itself is made up of three attached buildings (A,B & C) and a two separate building (D & E) to the back and side of these. An elongated courtyard to the rear of buildings ABC connects all of the sites buildings. The courtyard is currently tarmaced over and little used other than as an access route between buildings or as a car park.  The landscape is fragmented and a bit tatty with more emphasis on parked cars than on reflecting the innovative and creative work going on inside by staff and students alike or on counter balancing this with outdoor relaxation and learning.

Main courtyard area with cars parked

 

Long narrow interconnecting corridor

Project Brief

To lay the foundations for a courtyard that will grow into a green oasis for staff and students to relax and socialise in away from the exhaust fumes and noise of Shephards Bush and pressures of the classroom.

The initial design brief supplied by the college together with and opinions compiled from students and staff over the course of a series of design workshops on site over winter and spring 2012 formed the main brief and preferred features to be included in the LCF landscape.  These include biodiverse planting, learning, social, growing and working spaces and a labyrinth for reflective study, which were to form a coherent whole across the site.

Site Survey

Because it was such a large (over 3000m2) and complex space it made sense to prepare a survey drawing which indicates access, routes, views and other elements so as to consolidate the design issues and themes.

Survey drawing

Design

The proposed landscape design responds to the LCF landscape context of a red bricked Grade 2 listed series of buildings with dense window coverage.  It is important for the landscape to reflect the high standards that the design community would expect from an internationally well regarded art establishment.  The landscape should also nurture and inspire students in their own design practice.

The design influence and concept is inspired by the idea of combining layers of information and history together with overlapping textiles and textures.  Conceptually, this can be thought of more obviously as layers of fabric and montage perhaps but also as woven layers of learning, thought and process.  The landscape aims to both represent and inspire a creative and dynamic state of mind.

Strategic Masterplan

The Strategic Design proposal (above) creates a connected and inspiring whole landscape with a series of identifiable areas corresponding to the different blocks, which contain different spaces for students and tutors to relax, be social, be creative and nurturing or reflective and thoughtful as well as to create a cohesive route between these areas.  A series of interlacing oval forms across the site combine to ground the buildings busy brick and window textures to create flow, changing form and shifting viewpoints.

Main features of note include a labyrinth for reflective study and contemplation, which sits peacefully in the courtyard of the main building and is enveloped by a lush, textured, cool planting scheme.  Also, a series of curved Corten steel walls with irregular curving windows cut out are proposed within the courtyard and bounding some of the edge of the labyrinth.  These would be contemporary artistic features that compliment the rounded form of the paving, provide interesting and shifting views of the landscape through the ‘windows’ and compliment the red tones of the surrounding brickwork.  The structures would respond to changing light and weather conditions in interesting and dramatic ways.  Other art features can be incorporated across the site with potential to develop these with University of the Arts sculpture students to share skills and showcase work.

The proposed soft landscape that envelops and is woven across the site will incorporate significant biodiverse value as well as opportunities for peaceful reflection and growing food and dye plants.

To date the college has had a positive response to the design proposal and the next stage is in development.

Information about Labyrinths:-

http://www.kent.ac.uk/uelt/ced/themes/labyrinth/index.html

http://labyrinthsociety.org/labyrinths-in-places/3259-1-introduction