Octavia’s Orchard at the Southbank Centre


I was out with friends enjoying the sunshine by the Southbank centre and came across Octavia’s Orchard, a clever installation designed to introduce some greenery to the area and soften the urban landscape.   Please excuse the quality of the photos as they were taken on my iPhone.   The project, is designed by What if: projects in collaboration with the National Trust for the Southbank Centre’s Festival of Neighbourhood.  It was inspired by Octavia Hill, a social reformer and one of the founders of the National Trust who, a century earlier, was concerned with the wellbeing of urban dwellers and campaigned for open spaces in London.  She believed that “tenants and urban workers should have access to open spaces…Places to sit in, places to play in, places to stroll in and places to spend a day in.”

The designers have cleverly repurposed 30 galvanised steel street bins, commonly used on housing estates and filled them with 3m high fruit trees and meadow flowers to create a contemporary, orchard.  Design workshop, Jail, has built modern benches from galvanised steel and green oak, which link with some of the bins, so you can sit and enjoy the scenery.  It’s amazing how such a simple idea can transform an ugly concrete walkway.

It’s not only the planting which attracts the attention, the bins have quotes from Octavia Hill, printed on the outside, like this one:”Beauty is for all: beauty is the single glimpse of green, in sunlight however dimmed, in clouds however darkened, in faces however worn.”  raising awareness of the social reformer and her ideas. They also have the words  “Adopt me” printed on them as London housing estates can apply to adopt them when the festival ends.  Four housing estates will be chosen and will be twinned with National Trust properties so they can receive training from their gardeners.

Octavia’s Orchard, which is part of the Festival of Neighbourhood, is on the Festival Terrace on Royal Festival Hall’s Level 2 Terrace until 8th September.


More information on the Festival of Neighbourhood can be found at: http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/festivals-series/festival-of-neighbourhood

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