The landscape and architecture studio’s redevelopment project has created a new 1.5km-long linked park system in the British seaside city
London-based landscape and architecture studio Untitled Practice (UP) has completed the redevelopment of Valley Gardens, a new 1.5km-long linked park system in central Brighton. Extending from the Grade II*-listed St Peter’s Church south through to the Royal Pavilion, Valley Gardens joins up a sequence of public park spaces, creating new integrated hard and soft public realm.
The park system was completed just before the UK went into its second Covid- 19 lockdown, providing a timely new outdoor public amenity for the city.
The project encompasses a new setting and square for St Peter’s Church, new lawns, perennial gardens, wildflower meadows, and extensive tree planting, as well as the National Elm Collection. The new urban landscape was completed in close coordination with highways modifications to better manage traffic and enable cycling.
The project aims to resolve the site’s previous myriad issues ranging from a complex highway layout with inconsistent pedestrian crossing points to poor air quality.
UP’s approach to the project as a ‘linked park system’ was inspired by American landscape architect Frederik Law Olmsted’s ‘Emerald Necklace’ in Boston. Conceived as a series of landscape strata that progress from grey to green, highways to parks, hard to soft, roads to paths, lawns, gardens and trees, the scheme provides almost 2.62ha of public realm for Brighton.
The introduction of wider footpaths throughout were coordinated with pedestrian crossings to improve accessibility to the parks for pedestrians and cyclists, opening up the green spaces. The network of new paths bisects the long blocks connecting east and west neighbourhoods, and a new dedicated cycle lane runs continuously through the parks.
The linked parks are characterised by the structure of existing and new trees, 140 of which have been carefully chosen specifically for the coastal location and disease resistance. A 650m-long perennial garden called the ‘river of flowers’ flows along the east side of Valley Gardens, screening the inner park area from vehicular traffic whilst supporting improved biodiversity.
The surrounding urban landscape, which frames the green areas, is finished in a homogenous resin-bound gravel, which references Brighton’s pebbled beach, and is both flexible and permeable over the extensive root protection areas (RPAs) of mature trees across the whole site.
In 2014, Brighton became one of the world’s first UNESCO Urban Biosphere Reserves – a learning lab for sustainable development in cities. ‘Valley Gardens shows how green infrastructure can make our cities more resilient to climate change, providing public realm spaces that are more accessible and usable, especially in a post-Covid world with renewed appreciation of outdoors,’ comment Murray Smith and Fenella Griffin, founders of Untitled Practice.
Photographs by Edward Bishop