The Urban Physic Garden
This summer a medicinal garden will bloom on a slice of neglected London land
This summer the designers of the Union Street Urban Orchard will return to 100 Union Street, Southwark to transform a derelict site into the Urban Physic Garden, a pop-up community built garden celebrating medicinal plants which will host an on-site cafe and summer festival of events.
The Urban Physic Garden will be shaped by the hospital and the pharmacy, with a focus on medicinal plants and herbs. From wild seeds in vacant lots to domestic herbs found in back gardens to exotic species gathered around the world, plants have been used to cure all kinds of ills - from traditional remedies in teas and tonics to the latest and cutting-edge pharmaceutical treatments.
During May 2011, the Urban Physic Garden will be built by volunteers bringing and learning skills from carpentry to gardening. The Garden’s organisers are inviting people to volunteer their brains and brawn to help with the build and planting. They’ll be running a series of workshops throughout the month where people can get involved and learn new skills. More information can be found at www.physicgarden.org.uk
Summer in the Urban Physic Garden will be a festival of talks, workshops, film screenings and events. The garden will provide a platform for artists, designers, gardeners and health practitioners from a diverse range of backgrounds and cultures. It will be a place for lively debate – an outside space where a range of people can come together to explore the role of plants in science, health, well-being and the environment.
From 11 June until 15 August the Urban Physic Garden will open to the public. The opening weekend on 11/12 June will see a free programme of events, talks and workshops exploring medicinal plants and the health and well being of urban environments.
The Urban Physic Garden will be designed and produced by Wayward Plants, a collective of designers, artists and urban growers under the creative direction of landscape architect Heather Ring. The garden will be host to a range of invited artists projects, including the return of Oliver Bishop-Young’s ping-pong skip and a UK premier of the play-structures designed by the Serbian collective Skart, previously shown at the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale.
The site for the garden has been very generously provided by the developer Lake Estates. Architectural structures made from reclaimed materials will create a series of garden rooms, with plants grouped by hospital departments. A decommissioned ambulance will become the kitchen of pop-up supper club Rambling Restaurant. They will be serving up surprise lunch and dinner menus, including edible herbs and flowers, to enjoy within the garden.
The area of Southwark around the garden has a long history as a center for caring for London's sick and poor - from Southwark Cathedral and the Old Operating Theatre to St. Thomas and Guy’s Hospitals. The garden will serve as a case study for emerging plans to create a physic garden in one of the historic quads at the Guy’s campus of King’s College. Plans for a garden are part of proposals to develop public access to King’s Museum of Life Sciences, which is housed on the Guy’s campus.
Excitement is building and the project has attracted the attention of a wide range of public figures, from the Mayor Boris Johnson to south London’s foremost Guerrilla Gardener, Richard Reynolds.
“It’s great to see a group of artists, designers, gardeners and local volunteers, coming together like this to improve the urban environment in our neighbourhood. Our cities need more of this kind of project.” Donald Hyslop, Head of Regeneration and Community, Tate Modern
“There is potential for so much more precious life in the derelict plots in the heart of our cities. The Physic Garden, like the Urban Orchard before it, will bring not just plant life, but lively people together to be inspired and enriched by the space and each other. The very purpose of a Physic Garden is about life enhancement. Whilst this garden is fleeting, the ideas it provokes will be more permanent” Richard Reynolds, Guerrilla Gardener and author of “On Guerrilla Gardening” (2008)
“I welcome the inspired Urban Physic Garden as one of our more creative spaces helping London to seal its status as a thriving garden city.” Boris Johnson, Mayor of London
“Energetic and educational community projects like the Urban Physic Garden are good for both people and the planet. I'm looking forward to eating lunch at Rambling Restaurant's on site ambulance!” Arthur Potts Dawson, Acorn House / The People’s Supermarket