Design competition to improve Bernie Spain Gardens launches

Bernie Spain Gardens north park looking worn down

Five landscape architects have been shortlisted in a design competition to upgrade Bernie Spain Gardens on London’s South Bank. The competition, launched at the end of 2017, is run by us as the owner and manager of the gardens.

The five shortlisted competition entrants are:

  • Bradley-Hole Schoenaich Landscape

  • J & L Gibbons

  • Kinnear Landscape Architects (KLA)

  • Reynolds Design

  • West 8

Four landscape practices were shortlisted from a long list of nine. The 5th shortlisted entrant – Rachel Reynolds – is the winner of a graduate competition organised by Coin Street and the London College of Garden Design and run in parallel with the wider competition.

The gardens
Bernie Spain Gardens is located between Stamford Street, London SE1, and the River Thames on London’s South Bank. The gardens are enjoyed by residents, workers and hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Named after Bernadette Spain, a local campaigner on health and housing provisions in the 1970s, the gardens have not had a major upgrade since they were created in 1988.

The brief
The brief is to create a public open green space of high quality and sustainability and focuses on the northern section of the gardens between Upper Ground and the River Thames. It includes requirements to upgrade paths and lawns, introduce integrated irrigation, and create year-round horticultural interest with sensory planting that attracts wildlife. CCTV, lighting, seating and new facilities for maintenance staff and gardening training programmes are also included in the brief. The brief is based on Coin Street’s aspirations for the gardens and the outcomes of consultation.

During 2016 Coin Street undertook consultation locally about its desire to improve the gardens – from the quality of the grass and planting to the relationship with its surroundings. Over 250 people were involved and over 700 comments gathered. The survey results can be found here.

The survey revealed that the gardens are highly valued although a significant proportion (42%) of respondents felt that they were ‘beginning to show signs of wear and tear’. The northern part of the gardens – the area closest to the river – was highlighted as needing the most attention.

The competition panel
The selection panel, chaired by Paul Finch, ‎programme director at World Architecture, comprises Sue Foster (Strategic Director, Neighbourhoods and Growth, London Borough of Lambeth); Rob Smith and Kfir Yefet (board members of CSCB); Iain Tuckett and Alison Pinner (respectively group director and deputy group director of CSCB). The competition is being organised by Ted Inman (chair of Jubilee Gardens Trust).

Coin Street's group director, Iain Tuckett, says “From a very strong field the panel concluded unanimously that these practices had the best understanding of the complexities of the site. This included how to create a quiet space in a very busy area and how to meet the different needs of local residents, employees and many thousands of visitors. We look forward to seeing how the designs progress and to selecting a winner.”

Process and next steps
Shortlisted competition entrants have attended a briefing session with soil and security specialists and cost consultants. A midway guidance meeting will be held with each team during January. The practices will present their proposals at a public meeting on 15 March followed by an open exhibition on 16 and 17 March where users of the gardens and others will be able to feedback their views. The panel will hold final interviews and select a winner in April.