Groundwork Landscape Architects

Portobello Four Shops2 min read




Background & Objectives: 

The project aims to transform the central open space of Portobello Estate from a run-down area famous for youth nuisance in to a high quality oasis that residents can be proud of, want to look after and which encourages a sense of self-worth and aspiration that things can improve. Aspects of road safety and traffic management have also been improved.

The scheme is based on long term consultation and engagement processes including specific youth engagement. The scheme is next to the community run Rainbow Café which has been refurbished in recent years and worked as a great location for community activity regarding the project. The Turning the Corner Groundwork project has had significant impact in engaging precisely the group of young people that hang around the shops. The community engagement team at Groundwork have worked for years in keeping the estate engaged and informed and have linked in to the Soul Portobello event as part of this process. The Soul Portobello event happens on the site every year and has been useful for focusing thoughts and activities to do with the development of the project.

Design Solution

The design of the green spaces has been kept simple but crisp with some soft lines in the paving and paths. There has been some limited provision for better parking making access to the shops less difficult for cars and pedestrians. The shop fronts had two large areas of unsightly rough render that was often graffitied. It was decided that for the scheme to work these two frontages needed to be transformed. Clearly there was an opportunity for community engagement through art works for these areas. There was also the need to create features that would pull the youths away from the shop doors. The most durable option for such artwork was felt to be stone work. The community interviewed the artists and were involved in brief development. The artist ran workshops with the community both on the design, in making mock ups and in doing the carving. Many of the discussions at this design stage were directly with the youth and have been critical to the project’s success.

This year most of the scheme has been implemented including landscape works to four large grass areas with three large stone leaves as focus points /seating/ leaning areas. Works to move the bus stop a little along have improved safety around the junction. Planting to the area at the back of the site softens the scheme. The shops and the most vulnerable residential property have been included in the scheme with new railings and walls to match the Clifford Ave scheme. The finished scheme, 2012, included some highways work to change the roundabout to a crossroads.


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Mark Knight

Landscape Team Leader

Yorkshire Team

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