ISSUE 30  |  Summer in the City

Meet Me In The Alley: Picnic in Central London

July 26, 2012 11:00 AM

BY Stacey Lindsay

We’ll call it an alley revolution: A neglected walkway in central London transforms into a bright, child-friendly destination during a weekend of mingling, dancing, and art.

Located in the city’s King’s Cross neighborhood, architectural firm Squire and Partners decided to give life to the cobble back street that runs through the firm’s office location. Collaborating with landscape designer Jeremy Rye and artist Anna Garforth, the firm turned the space into an unexpected picnic area and pop-up garden, complete with grass seating, rope swings, and a large graphic moss installation. Deemed The King’s Cross Picnic, the project attracted around 500 visitors (including one movie star) and made for a delightful weekend for children and adults.

Photography by James Jones and Mickey Lee.

Above: To beautify the several crumbling metal railway walls surrounding the space, the firm turned to artist Anna Garforth. With restrictions against permanent changes, Garforth used tape and Velcro to attach moss pieces, creating a large scale graphic art installation. Landscape architect Jeremy Rye supplied the native English flowers, waking early to buy them fresh from the market.

Above: The crowds gathered around the alleyway, resting on the moss beds and lounge seating. The firm purchased the trees and donated one to the local council after the event.

Above: To create the grass beds, the firm collected used pallets from local businesses and reinforced each with additional plywood. They attached heavy-duty castors and covered the pallets in Wow! Grass!, a soil-free grass that grows in felt made from recycled British textiles.

Above: Children were given sidewalk chalk to decorate the surrounding walls, making a mural.

Above: One of the surrounding walls; by the end of the weekend, the chalk art stretched across two streets of space.

Above: Every hour, The Place Dance School youth dancers performed.

Above: To provide an escape from the quotidian London rain showers, the firm transformed 06 St. Chad’s Place, a restaurant/bar in the old Victoria warehouse along the alley. The space provided an indoor setting that was fluid with the outside; the grounds were covered in more grass, refreshments were served, a bespoke games table offered chess, and two large swings hung from the rafters (equally popular with children and adults). The ladies from the London artisan shop The Poundshop were also present, selling artistic items at low prices.

Above: A knackered participant takes a respite in the grass.

(N.B.: Interested in seeing more gardens? Browse our gallery of rooms and spaces to see more than 400 images of outside inspiration.)