Vauxhall City Farm

Story Telling Benches

The Brief

The Ecology garden at Vauxhall City Farm faced stiff competition for land and resources from areas where animals were more popular and therefore more important to visitors and staff.

To change the role of the Ecology Garden in relation to the farm by:

• Repairing to existing Rain Temple

• Clearing the site of rubbish

• Engaging community


Vauxhall City Farm

The Outputs

We designed the repair and rebuild programmed to allow maximum engagement and participation and use of unwanted materials and rubbish on the farm.

  • Removal of cement from benches.
  • Repair to foundation, reinstatement of rammed earth tires as stem wall.
  • Cob made and used to create benches
  • Tree cuts embedded in cob as seating
  • Sculpted figures made Earthern floor laid
  • Site cleared and ‘rubbish’ used to help build the structure

The project was successful in its use of community whose work to create a beautiful space helped re- balance the role ecology at the farm. The area now serves to celebrate the unsung heroes of ecology; the worms and insects and beetles that this area of the farm wanted to include in its educational activities.

The Outcomes

We engaged Young Farmers to design and produce 3D models for the new area, to be inspired by the ecology garden.

We worked with first time young offenders to remove the concrete from structure. This group gained news skills and a heightened self-esteem, learning new skills and leaving a positive impact on the Farm. The team leader said, “what ever you are doing, keep doing it. I’ve never seen them so happy”.

We engaged with HSBC, RICS and John Lewis’ corporate teams to make cob and clear the site. Their involvement helped fund the project and progress work. For many, this was the first time they had each worked as a team with different departments of and hierarchies within an organisation.

Local Muslim groups worked with representatives from the local church and the project even had a visit from the then Archbishop of Canterbury. The day left a lasting impression.

The Technical

Approximately two tonnes of sharp sand, ¾-1 tonne of London clay and a lot of recycled straw were used.

We conducted numerous tests to determine materials found on the farm for use as renders – hair from llama, horse, alpaca, and manure from horse, cow and chicken. Use of these materials on the bench was scrapped because of fears that some city farms were being closed due to outbreaks of e-Coli.

We opted linseed thinned with turpentine to cover the cob benches. Our initial choice of citronella as a thinner, was also scrapped because this this acts as an insect / bugs deterrent

The structure was part funded by SITA and completed over four months.

The bench was in a bad state of repair because cement had been used to cover the rammed earth tires foundation. The cement trapped moisture and water into the structure, causing the surfaces to crack. By replacing concrete with cob, moisture from ground and the rammed tires was able to evaporate into the atmosphere.

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