Thursday, 11 April 2013

Urban renewal; Eastside City Park Birmingham

Bitterly cold and threatening to snow, it wasn’t exactly the ideal weather for a leisurely stroll to soak up the atmosphere of the new park in Birmingham’s Eastside; you had to keep moving to stay warm! The area adjacent to the Millennium Point Science Museum site was full of Easter holidaying parents and children having fun with the experimental gadgets and gizmos, whilst the rest of the park was almost empty, other than the ubiquitous skate boarders who obviously don't feel the cold!

There was plenty of places to sit and throughout the park and I could imagine office workers and commuters stopping to relax in the new uber-cool surroundings on a warmer day. I was impressed with the variety of seating and the consideration that had gone into their design and placement; wooden snaking benches underneath an oversized pergola structure, love seats and recliners, geometric block benches reinforcing the design and secluded benches set in beautiful symmetry;  there was somewhere for everyone to sit!

For me the planting looked slightly municipal – but that is often the case and after all this is a public park which will have to be easily maintained.  However, it’s a shame they didn't take some inspiration from the Olympic Park and incorporate softer areas of wild meadow planting, which is so desperately needed for our endangered bees. Maybe that’s for a later stage?

A geometric theme of clean lines, blocks and pattern repeats ran throughout the park sympathetically reflecting its urban surrounds; A run of black pergola type structures and white oblong stone seating, framing Silver Birch trees, looked like a representation of a railway line, regular block seating combined with square flower beds of mass planting contributing to the graphic grid effect, even the beach hedges and yews were clipped into rectangular blocks...almost Mondrian style!

I absolutely loved the dominating group of block sculptures, cast in rusting iron, with their lacework representation of nature, trees and flower heads. A man-made representation of nature, in materials synonymous with the midlands...very clever. This rusting iron work is also used for the gigantic lighting posts and as decorative railings around the Science Park. There’s a sight worry about the iron leaching into the light grey granite though!
I look forward to a summer visit, when hopefully I will be able to sit a while to people-watch outside the newly refurbished Victorian pub, whilst enjoying an alfresco beer or two!

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