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Assemble’s Turner Prize-winning Granby winter garden opens

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Assemble and Granby 4 Streets Community Land Trust have converted two derelict houses into a new shared space

The derelict terraced houses at number 37 and 39 Cairns Street have been transformed into a new shared space which is accessible to local residents and the wider neighbourhood. Located in the Granby neighbourhood of Liverpool, the winter garden houses a communal indoor garden, a meeting and events space, and accommodation for artist residencies. The idea is that the space will allow the Granby 4 Streets Community Land Trust (CLT) to continually encourage creative practice in the area.

Granby Winter Garden has been created as part of an ongoing collaboration between Assemble and Granby 4 Streets CLT which have restored houses on Cairns Street, bringing them into community ownership and creating Granby Workshop to facilitate experimental architectural ceramics. The proposal was inspired by community-led efforts to rebuild Granby. A resourceful and creative group of residents started to bring the neighbourhood back to life by clearing, planting, painting and campaigning. They subsequently formed the Granby Four Streets CLT, which who would secure 10 empty houses and bring them back to life – the Winter Garden being the first. 

Granby winter garden ©assemble 2019 11

In 2015, Assemble was awarded the Turner Prize for the Granby Four Streets network of neighbouring projects, created in collaboration with the Granby 4 Streets CLT. After receiving the prize, Assemble and the CLT worked with fundraiser Maria Brewster to apply for Arts Council Funding providing the main capital for the project build. 

Assemble’s design strategy for the winter garden was to transform a home’s typical private space into a focus for neighbourhood activity and secret indoor garden on a residential street. The floors had collapsed in the existing houses, creating a triple-height interior and leaving the masonry construction exposed. The architect worked with engineer Structure Workshop to preserve the fabric of the buildings, inserting two painted blue steel rings to reference Victorian palm houses and brace the existing walls.

From the street, not much has been altered. Behind the front door sits the triple-height room with glazed pitch roof, planted with a seasonal garden. At the centre of the space is room for full-height trees to grow, while at the rear sits a potting and propagation space to serve the garden.

The winter garden’s first artist in residence is Nina Edge, who has created a six-foot crystal chandelier that hangs from the highest point of the space’s glass roof. 

Granby winter garden ©assemble 2019 35

Architect’s view

The winter garden project developed through an ongoing collaboration between Assemble and the CLT, delivering an incremental community-led masterplan of the area that is both strategic and opportunistic. From the outset we agreed that a good neighbourhood needs more than just housing – we were actively looking for opportunities to support the creative and community activity in the area and promote sustainable local enterprise.

The attention garnered through the Turner Prize nomination provided the catalyst to push the winter garden into reality. Working very closely with the CLT and fundraiser Maria Brewster, we quickly developed the concept – a community centre, public garden and residency space to provide a home for the public work of the CLT – but crucially it was designed as a space that could generate regular income to cover its running costs.

Working with a limited budget, we wanted to capitalise on the ‘drama’ of the houses in their found state to create a spectacular space behind the façade of the modest, existing terrace. The design is a careful preservation of the rough existing fabric; beautiful but robust public garden and community space. We hope it will be a place that brings about wonder and delight but feels open and welcoming, an alternative to the drab spaces that can characterise low budget community projects.

Anthony Engi Meacock, Assemble

Granby winter garden model ©assemble 3

Client’s view

Working with Assemble has been an astonishing experience. They listened to us and turned our ideas into affordable reality. The attention to detail and the beautiful items made to go into our 11 homes and the Winter Garden has shown us just how important it is to work in collaboration.

The winter garden provides a flexible space for our diverse community to meet and work and rest and play; and to continue the gardening that started on our 4 Streets and is now a general part of the fabric of the Granby 4 Streets CLT. The streets are our garden and when it rains, we can make tea in the winter garden and be at peace with what we have achieved – helped by the hard work and artistry of Assemble and our neighbourhood. 

Waking up and then opening the shutters on to a green and light space – the tops of the trees within touching distance – tea and toast made in the kitchen and a seat among the ferns and bamboo make one’s breakfast complete. The bed and breakfast is just one part of how we will make income. Our artists in residence will add to this and work with the community to continue to produce art that belongs to all who live here. We have already had a mobile cinema show and run several workshops, including making lanterns for the City of Light celebration on Sefton Park Lake.

To have so much that is beautiful in a street of small terraced houses is a pleasure beyond words. To be heard, after many years of shouting into the void, and to see our words become places of value for all who live here is an experience worth living for. Everybody involved in our projects has worked really hard and our many little lights have created a great shining beacon.

Hazel Tilley, Granby Four Streets Community Land Trust

Assemble wg winter garden axo

Project data

Start on site December 2016
Completion date March 2019
Gross internal floor area 120m²
Gross (internal + external) floor area 150m²
Construction cost £300,000
Construction cost per m² £2,500
Architect Assemble
Client Granby 4 Streets Community Land Trust
Structural engineer Structure Workshop
M&E consultant Max Fordham
Quantity surveyor Modero
Lead garden design and planting Andrea Ku, community gardener
Access consultant Burdus Access
Building control Liverpool City Council
Fundraising and arts adviser Maria Brewster
Main contractor Merco Developments
Architectural ceramics Granby Workshop
Art commission Nina Edge
Horticultural consultants Mima Taylor, Steven Perkins and Venus Nursery
Horticultural research Nina Edge and Andrea Ku

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