We were asked to design the site for the Millennium exhibition around the dome built by Richard Rogers on Greenwich Peninsula, with the idea of preparing the area to welcome a city within thirty years. Around this bend in the Thames, the ground is polluted by past industrial activity to such an extent that a veritable tabula rasa was necessary, digging down to a depth of a meter and a half.
The project consisted in imparting a landscape quality to the peninsula not through the preemptive greening of the area that was asked for, but rather through the creation of a context in which pieces of the city could later be built.
Without any recoverable traces from the past, without a guiding program for how to proceed, what remained possible in terms of reference for the project was geographical scale, and to work towards a geological and ecological coherence.
The site in its totality is organized with a framework that sculpts out clearings, and separates the trees which have yet to reach maturity. This pattern is based not on a hierarchy in design, nor on an aesthetic whim, but solely on the rules of planting.
One of the more important lessons learned through this experiment relates to time management. Pragmatically, vague areas were avoided, where if parks had been created prematurely they would by now be vandalized and abandoned. The intervention carried out came to resemble more an infrastructure than a park. In avoiding responding directly to what was asked for by the project, the result endeavors to generate a texture and materials, rather than a form. Our approach nonetheless falls well within the parameters of the project, creating a living environment through artificial processes, creating an intermediate nature.
English Partnerships Greenwich Peninsula
MDP Michel Desvigne Paysagiste, with Christine Dalnoky
Rogers Stirk harbour + Partners, Architect
150 ha (370 acres)