Studio Karst, Singelpark Design Competition, essay
Singelpark Ideas Competition June 2012. Alice Foxley and Joachim Vogt, Studio KARST 1Discover the Garden of LeidenIntroductionWelcome to Leiden, a city and potentially also a garden. The key torevealing the identity of the Singelpark lies in understanding itsfundamental role as the garden boundary and threshold of Leiden. Itspotential is enormous. In response to the Singelpark Ideas Compeitionbrief, we propose that the development of the Singelpark is used toreveal the latent Garden of Leiden. We forecast a time when Leiden isrecognised as an outstanding botanical city, a centre of science andknowledge offering a world-class quality of life. The people of Leidenare naturally disposed towards tending the Garden of Leiden, as evidencedby their thriving subculture of street planting. The conditions necessaryto fulfil the potential are already present or developing in Leiden but astrategy for intensification is required. Our proposal focuses on threethemes - the structure, botanical and maintenance strategies of theGarden of Leiden.StructureLeiden is a small, compact city and an archetypal example of humansettlement, with clearly defined boundary, thresholds and a centralgathering place (De Burcht) located at the confluence of two branches ofthe old river Rhine. Because of its fundamental structure, Leidenstrongly reminds us of an archetypal garden. The archaic image of theconfluence of two sacred rivers enclosed by a wall is interpreted in thegeometry of the earliest Persian gardens, which where reinterpreted inChristian iconography to depict the Garden of Eden (1). Eden wasconsidered appropriate precedent for the design of the first botanicalgardens, which is why we also find similarities between the structure ofLeiden and Clusiuss structure for the Hortus Botanicus (2, 3-4).1 2
Singelpark Ideas Competition June 2012. Alice Foxley and Joachim Vogt, Studio KARST 2To reveal the latent Garden of Leiden, we need to define and strengthenthe function and character of its boundary, thresholds, water system andcentral gathering place. Apart from De Burcht, which lies outside thescope of this competition, these priorities can be addressed through thedevelopment of the Singelpark. It is an extraordinary culturalopportunity.The following section shows a simplified section through the Garden ofLeiden:Boundary (Singelpark) De Burcht BoundaryThe existing Singelpark is a composite boundary, composed of the Singelcanal, the outer ring road and buildings and inner ring of formerfortifications. The following section shows how we propose to radicallystrengthen the existing function and character of this boundary:Singel Gardens Singel Canal Singel Promenade33 4
Singelpark Ideas Competition June 2012. Alice Foxley and Joachim Vogt, Studio KARST 3The Singel Promenade:The Singel Promenade becomes a formal promenade aligned by a double alléeof trees. The continuity and generosity of the Singel Promenadeencourages people to use it as the primary means of circumnavigating thecity: 2 hours by foot or 20 minutes by bicycle. The existing grassyembankment is replaced with the hard standing typical of local canalarchitecture - to enable the necessary widening of the promenade, and theplanting of a second inner row of trees. (The outer row is comprisedmainly of existing trees.) Along the Singel Promenade are existingbridges and so thresholds to the Garden of Leiden are optimally definedby crossing water.The Singel Gardens:The first impression of Leidens identity is given at the moment ofcrossing the water. For this impression to be that of a botanical city,
Singelpark Ideas Competition June 2012. Alice Foxley and Joachim Vogt, Studio KARST 4the Singel Gardens must strongly and coherently express abundant andexotic plant life. An impression of vitality is associated with thethriving of human life of the city. A botanical strategy will unite theidentity of the individual Singel Gardens.The Singel Gardens are connected by the Singel Gardens Trail - anintentionally informal right of way, indicated by way-markers. The SingelGardens Trail is for explorers and flaneurs. People wanting to quicklyand directly circumnavigate the Garden of Leiden will use the SingelPromenade. Intensifying the complimentary qualities of the SingelPromenade and the Singel Gardens Trail will encourage people to use eachside of the Singel Canal in different ways, offering engaging pedestrianexperiences and encouraging people to cross back and forth over thewater. The Singel canal becomes integrated.Ferry-boats continuously travel along the Singel Navigation on both sidesof the water offer further possibilities for exploration and discovery.Botanical strategyA planting strategy for the Singel Gardens needsto reinforce thereputation of the Garden of Leiden, to be flexible enough to allow forfuture urban developments and uses and to be maintainable - practicallyand ecologically. If it is to be influential, it needs also to beradical.Love of life and the living world is a fundamental human condition and isexpressed through people’s deep affinity for plants. More often than not,a vivid and abiding sense of wonder and wellbeing is provoked in thoseplaces where nature and human nature are experienced as complimentary.Intensity, variety, abundance and mysterious exoticism are the botanicalqualities required to compliment Leidens rich cultural identity.Maintenance strategyThe Garden of Leiden is an ambitious long-term vision, requiring top downand bottom up participation. It should engage the community of Leiden,and attract investment from National and International partners.Frameworks for development need to support the identity of the Garden ofLeiden and help maintain it long into the future.
Singelpark Ideas Competition June 2012. Alice Foxley and Joachim Vogt, Studio KARST 5Schematic sections through the Garden of Leiden, showing the structureand character of its boundary: