Friday, 27 January 2012
Since the controversial new toilet block was finally completed in Bridge of Allan, the space around it, known as Provost Park, has largely been left untouched and is a sad space in an otherwise beautiful and prosperous village. The Provost Lamp has been renovated and given a new life but its surroundings have yet to be brought up to the same standard.
It was in the middle of the cold snap last winter when we first met up with Gavin Drummond and Liz Rankin from the Community Council. They were putting up the village Christmas tree in the park to try and add some sparkle to what was otherwise an uninspiring space. At least the thick covering of snow hid the lack of interest underneath! At the meeting Liz and Gavin discussed some of the ideas that had been considered for the space and asked if we were able to pull together some thoughts.
From that meeting, we were able to go away and develop some concept drawings. This initial stage of the design process gives clients a couple of choices of what can be done with the space, and often clients choose bits from each and ask for these to be brought together. These were presented in February 2011. The concepts were discussed in detail and good feedback was provided. Vialii left copies of the drawings with Gavin and Liz so that further feedback could be gained from other community council members who were interested in the project. All this information was fed back to Vialii in June 2011, allowing them to move onto the final design pack.
In terms of inspiration and our choice of design style, there were three main requirements which jumped out at us from the outset. Firstly, the community required a practical area where they can relax and enjoy the world going by. The space needed to be usable by everyone in the community whether that’s families, couples or elderly so path widths and surfaces were important. Plentiful seating was clearly important too. Secondly, the area had to look good. Provost Park has been a contentious issue for some time and we need to address this and create a space to be proud of. It needed to be a space that would be easy to maintain too. Bridge of Allan is incredibly fortunate to have the Friends of Bridge of Allan, a local voluntary organisation who look after many of Bridge of Allan’s public gardens and carry out fantastic work in the community. We wanted to design a space that the Friends felt comfortable taking over once it was complete. It’s a great space, right in the middle of the village so it needed to have the “wow factor” and be fitting of its focal point in such an attractive village. Lastly, we were keen to reflect the Victorian inspiration which surrounds the park and the spa village and design a garden which would be appropriate for the space.
The main focal point for the design, along with the Provost Lamp, is a stunning, cast iron gazebo, situated in the centre of formal gardens. Victorians loved symmetry and topiary so we made sure these were key features of the space. Vintage style bricks edge wide pathways suitable for all members of the community. Wrought iron screens will surround the toilet block providing a nicer backdrop to the gardens and reflect the design of the gazebo as well as some details inspired by the village itself. In the corner closest to the toilets, an ecclesiastical garden is to be created, reflecting the park once being the site of a church. Liz has managed to obtain beautiful pew benches from one of the village churches which will sit in this area looking onto a centre bed of perfumed plants. The central focal point of this area will be the existing stone fountain which may be possible to be recommissioned as a working water feature. Behind, the embankment will be cleared and planted with a mix of feature trees and ground cover plants.
The wall which runs the length of Provost Park will boast new interpretation boards highlighting some of the key features and historical information about Bridge of Allan. To the front of the park, a grassy area has been included incorporating the popular annual flower bed and seats looking out to the street.
The planting is a mixture of formal topiary as well as smaller shrubs, bedding plants and bulbs. The aim is to keep the gardens fairly low maintenance to reduce pressure on the Friends of Bridge of Allan, who will take over responsibility for the garden once it is complete.
It’s been a delight to work with Gavin, Liz and the team and we are honoured to have been asked to be involved in such an important project and to be able to give something back to the community. We love the final design and were delighted to hear such positive feedback from the community during the recent consultation. We look forward to seeing the actual gardens being constructed in due course but the real icing on the cake will be seeing local residents and visitors using and enjoying the space.
All at Vialii