The City of London Corporation has launched an innovative design contest calling on practices with revenues under £1.5 million to rehabilitate Finsbury Circus Gardens and Pavilion
The contest invites rising star architects and landscape architects to draw up ‘exceptional’ £2.8 million proposals to restore and rethink the Grade II-listed 2.2ha green space, which formerly hosted a bowling green but has now been used as a Crossrail construction site for more than a decade.
Participating architects must have an annual turnover of at least £550,000 but no larger than £1.5 million. Five shortlisted teams will receive £1,000 each to draw up initial design concepts for the prominent site close to Moorgate Station and Liverpool Street Station and the overall winner will work with the City of London to deliver the scheme.
Oliver Sells, chair of the City of London Corporation’s Open Spaces and City Gardens Committee, said: ’This is an exciting project to reinstate the oldest and largest public open space in the City of London. Since opening in the 17th century it has gone through many changes but it has been at the forefront of public garden design and many of those who have worked there have gone on to great things.
’We treasure and need our open spaces more than ever in today’s world as oases of peace, quiet and greenery, and I am determined that London shall have the very best we can offer. This is a chance, after a decade of occupation by Crossrail, to re-create a public garden worthy of this amazing and historic space. We are holding a public competition as we want to encourage new entrants, small firms and all in the garden design world to have a chance to make their mark. Good luck to all involved.’
Finsbury Circus opened as London’s first public park in 1606 and was laid out in its present form during the early 19th century according to plans drawn up by George Dance the Younger. The 2.2ha elliptical garden is the largest, oldest and most prestigious open green space within the City of London but for the past 10 years it has been used as a construction shaft for London’s delayed Crossrail project.
The latest £2.8 million project focuses on how the 2,200m² circus and its gardens and former pavilion could be restored to create a new ’creative and sustainable’ multifunctional public space with a pavilion close to the City’s emerging Culture Mile district.
Around two-thirds of the site is currently in use for Crossrail construction work and historic features of the garden, such as a drinking fountain, have been temporarily removed and placed in storage. The rehabilitation will see hard and soft landscaping features restored along with the fountain and other historic elements.
A new single-storey 150m² pavilion will also be created to be let to a third-party operator for future A3 restaurant or café use. A small structure for gardening staff featuring a storage yard will also be delivered.
The Culture Mile initiative, launched in 2017, will transform the north-west corner of the City of London between Moorgate and Farringdon into a cultural hub over the next 10 to 15 years. The district will include three major building projects: the transformation of Beech Street; the new Museum of London designed by Stanton Williams and Asif Khan; and the proposed £200-£250 million Centre for Music by Diller Scofidio and Renfro.
An ideas contest for a series of Culture Mile ‘Summer Speculations’ was held three years ago. Last year Karsten Huneck & Bernd Truempler won a competition for a temporary £40-60,000 wayfinding installation for Culture Mile’s north-south route connecting the Millennium Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Museum of London and the Barbican Centre.
In January, Studio Egret West and Hawkins\Brown won a pair of competitions to regenerate the City of London Corporation’s Grade II*-listed Smithfield wholesale market complex and surrounding public realm within the Culture Mile area.
The latest Finsbury Circus Gardens and Pavilion invites architects and landscape architects to submit joint bids to restore the landmark green space which has hosted a lawn bowls club since 1925 and is due to be handed back to the City of London soon following the completion of Crossrail construction work on the site.
Anonymous phase one applications should include a general architectural and landscape approach to the site, a description of how the team would approach the challenge if appointed, and details of relevant built experience demonstrating the team’s suitability.
Five shortlisted teams will each receive £1,000 to draw up initial design concepts – including a layout plan, building plan and CGI – during the contest’s second round. Submissions will be judged 60 per cent on the proposed concept and team experience, 20 per cent on resource allocation, and 20 per cent on price.
The lead architect of each participating team must have an annual turnover of at least £550,000 but no larger than £1.5 million. There is no upper turnover limit for the landscape architect and all participants must hold at least £3 million-worth of professional indemnity insurance.
Employer’s liability insurance of £5 million and public liability insurance of £5 million will also be required.
The deadline for applications is 5pm on 6 July.
How to apply
View the contract notice for more information
City of London Corporation
Tel: +44 2076063030
Oliver Sells, chair of the City of London Corporation’s Open Spaces and City Gardens Committee
Why are your holding a design contest for architects and landscape architects to rehabilitee Finsbury Circus?
This is an exciting project to reinstate the oldest and largest public open space in the City of London. Since opening in the 17th century it has gone through many changes but it has been at the forefront of public garden design and many of those who have worked there have gone on to great things.
We treasure and need our open spaces more than ever in today’s world as oases of peace, quiet and greenery, and I am determined that London shall have the very best we can offer. This is a chance to re-create a public garden worthy of this amazing and historic space. We are holding a public competition as we want to encourage new entrants, and all in the garden design world to have a chance to make their mark.
The City Corporation wants to support local firms where it can and expects the highest quality of design solutions for this prestigious Landscaping and Architectural Competition. There is a long and rich history of such competitions in the City of London and I see this as an opportunity to engage with practices that we do not have previous experience of, with the hopes of achieving the best design for this project.
I shall follow the process myself with great interest, gardens and open spaces are dear to my heart: I have had recent and happy experience of overseeing the inner Temple Gardens for over a decade and my wife and I have recently constructed a herbal labyrinth at home.
What is your vision for this new multifunctional public space and pavilion?
The City Corporation is required to keep it as an open space for the recreation and enjoyment of the public. It protects and conserves 11,000 acres of green space in London and south east England – including Epping Forest and Hampstead Heath - and over 200 smaller ones in the Square Mile.
Given the proposed pavilion’s unique location in the City’s premier garden, sustainability is an important part of the brief. We want to embed sustainability into the scope from the outset and look forward to exploring innovative ways to achieve this.
This project will design and construct a new garden and pavilion. Finsbury Circus is a Grade II-listed garden and the oldest and one of the most prestigious public parks in the City. Works will include the reinstatement of historic features, such as the drinking fountain, that had been temporarily removed from site.
The City has commenced a project to deliver the landscaping and building works, with the launch of this architecture competition where a winning partnership of landscape architect and architect will be chosen to redesign the historic site. Work will begin on the new gardens and pavilion for Londoners to enjoy as soon as possible.
What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?
Over 90 per cent of businesses in the City are SME’s and we believe that in this instance a smaller practice will bring the innovation, enthusiasm and passion that will deliver a scheme that reflects the very special nature of this commission. We are excited to bring this key public space back in to use and hope that this scheme could be a jewel in the crown of a smaller practice.
We place equal importance on the design of the gardens and the buildings and want to see a holistic design solution. We are excited to receive the applications and look at how architects have thought creatively about the historic space, and will announce the shortlist later in the year. We are keen to have as many UK and local applicants as possible, our aim is to foster home-grown talent
Are there any other recent public space rehabilitation projects you have been impressed by?
London has an admirable recent history of commissioning great pavilion buildings in important locations: Nex’s Cadogan Café and Bell Phillips’ Southwark Park pavilion spring to mind. Both schemes respond to their historic settings and integrate well with the landscape. We’re looking for a similarly creative response for Finsbury Circus.