An Urban Orchard Appears in London

ping pong photo

Images by B. Alter : Ping Pong on a Skip

The Union Street Urban Orchard is just that: an orchard of 85 fruit trees and more, created on an abandoned site in the east end of London. It's a community project, with volunteers helping to build and plant.

Part of the London Festival of Architecture, it's a wonderful example of bringing urban spaces alive and bringing back nature to the inner city. Included in the orchard is a zero-carbon pod and the world's first (?) ping pong table on a dumpster.

urban orchard photo

The Orchard

The garden will also house a greenhouse, a living wall, a tire garden, and a railway arch turned into a cinema. It's completely organic in that everything is donated or found and the design works itself from there. The wooden pallets serve as stands for the plants which are interspersed between the planks. Plants are planted in burlaps grow bags; most are annuals and will be given away over the summer. There are also fruits (strawberries) and some vegetables being grown. Trees are being grown out of the middle of old rubber tires.

A plant adoption and exchange programme is being planned for one weekend. Donate one and pick one up. The Guerrilla Gardener is coming to give a workshop and there will be a cinema in the railway arches.

the pod photo

The LivingARK pod

The garden will also be home to the LivingARK, a zero-carbon pod which will be the "grandest shed ever." It was designed by the architects from the ZED Factory and is made of fir and insulated with sheep's wool. The roof is a green roof with layers of grass and sedum being laid on a rubber undermat. The barrel shaped pavilion is completely off-grid: the water will be gathered from the rain (good luck this month) and there is a compost toilet.

Two hardy souls will be living in it all summer long. They have created ProjectARK , a social enterprise set up "to gather and promote products, ideas and services that help against climate change." Not only will they be staying in the pod, they will also be talking and teaching about sustainability.

Located on site is The Nest, a pavilion created by the Finnish Institute which serves as a lovely airy pergola.

Also, the world's first ping pong table ingeniously created out of a dumpster by Oliver Bishop-Young. The work is a continuation of a series that he has done, which includes swimming pools, parks, and skate ramps: all of which make use of the potential that he sees in abandoned things. He says that "Skips are such good places for claiming space in the city and sharing it with people, not cars. They are tools for DIY town planning."

seed house photo

Seed House

The Seed House is the most ethereal structure on the site. It consists of an open shed and bottles. They will be filled with seeds that people donate and then passed on to the next person that wants them. It is part of the whole philosophy of the garden: everything in the Urban Orchard will be recycled and reused or given away at the end of the project.

urban birds photo

Urban Bird Houses

In September the garden will be dismantled and all the trees will be given to local estates and other community gardens to remain as a lasting legacy of the 2010 London Festival of Architecture.

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