Gillespies: Warrior Square gardens in Southend have newly reopened following a new design by Gillespies. Situated in the heart of its shops and public amenities – the regeneration of this key public space is a cornerstone in the town’s revival. The space now offers a vibrant green space in what had previously been a neglected late-Victorian square, which had become a haven for anti-social behavior. From the outset, Gillespies responded to the structure of the historical layout, recomposing the familiar elements of an English Garden Square, with lawn, planting beds, seating, lighting, a focal point and boundaries, but for contemporary use. The new layout is carefully structured around some of the finest trees in Southend, with perimeter walks and views celebrating this dominant line of original lime trees as well as majestic Pine and Cedar trees.
In keeping with the square’s late-Victorian origins, Gillespies also sought to capture the essence of Southend’s seaside spectacle and promenade – so the edge of the Gardens offers areas for street performers and gathering whilst at its heart there is a simple and flexible open lawn. A clear threshold around the garden has been retained, replacing the old overgrown borders with a multi-functional frame around the Gardens, marking the extent of the green space. This offers a new expansive entrance square, an elevated limewalk along the northern edge of the Gardens with long feature benches and a floral walk to the south. The bespoke detailing of the bench ends was created though shot peening and laser etching to create a distinctive natural reference and park motif to the Lime trees overhead.
In order to promote external events and extend the use of the Gardens in to the evening, a series of ducts and power points have been located beneath the timber decking to provide discrete flexibility to support community uses. Inbuilt power and projection provision has also been hidden within the street furniture to enable outdoor events such as markets along the Limewalk and community events either on the central lawn or on the entrance square. As a public garden is was essential that access, safety and comfort for all was established and the final design includes features such as localised dropped kerbs to facilitate wheeled links from the limewalk. The timber benches are warm to the touch with regular armrests, and many other DDA-compliant design features have been incorporated.
The simple open lawn surrounded by active edges for al fresco dining, seating and strolling once again places Warrior Square Gardens at the centre of town life. In the spirit of Southend’s heyday, residents and tourists to the town now have an invitation to walk in the middle of a traditional English floral border, stroll along the Gardens’ limewalk beneath a canopy of majestic Lime trees and picnic on the lawn. The new design recreates this key public space as a destination in its own right.
Landscape architect: Gillespies
Client: Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, Renaissance Southend.
Location: Southend-on-Sea, Essex, UK
Gillespies design team leader: Steve Wardell, Managing Partner, Gillespies
Gillespies design team members: Jon Akers Coyle, Claire Fernley, Valter Vieira
Type of Project: Urban Square; Urban Park
Size (area): 100m x 30m
Photographer: Colin Philp
Structural Engineers: JMP
Architects of Café building: Magma
M&E consultant: Royal Haskoning
Quantity surveyor: Northcroft
Lighting consultant: Pinniger and Partners
Planting design: Growth Industry
Planning supervisor: Urban Practitioners
Main contractor: Jackson Civil Engineering Ltd
Total cost: £1.5 million