Sunday, 24 February 2013

AirSpace Yarden - Clearing, Bird Spotting and Planning

The next stage of the preparation process for the AirSpace Yarden continued yesterday, as the yard's main space was cleared in readiness for the design and building work to begin.

A pile of old bricks had to be moved from one area of the yard and neatly stacked in the driveway, the dead plants from a previous yard project, unable to withstand this year's harsh winter had to be thrown out, and those that had survived, or at least showed signs of life, were pruned, re-potted and put aside for future replanting.

In truth it was a mundane day's manual work with not much creativity needed, but still there was a sense of satisfaction at the end, to see a tidied space full of possibilities. And at the end of the day it was comforting to be joined by an inquisitive blackbird casting a curious eye over our activities and a greedy eye towards the abundance of wormlife we had unearthed.

As the light faded, we decamped to our local hostelry and, over a pint and a glass of wine, leafed through our burgeoning collection of urban gardening books, making some early decisions on what techniques we can use to build the space and what plants we need to introduce  in order to create the perfect space for the wide variety of bird and insect life that co-inhabits the yard. Anna got to work on the choice of plant and planting design schemes, while Andy set about some early designs for some communal seating, a pergola for the stage area and some bespoke bird feeding solutions. Early thoughts on planting centred around the need to choose varieties that not only provide bird and insect life with food and nesting spaces, but, because we won't have the time to be constantly tending the space, varieties that can live and thrive with minimal attention. So we looked towards hardy perennials that produce berries and pollen and early favourites were the rowan tree, holly bushes, crab apple trees and pyrocanthas.

After a cold hard day's work, it was great to sink into a comfy seat in a warm pub, with a pint or three, and set about the task of re-imagining this space, and look forward to some building and planting next week.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

The AirSpace Yarden - work begins

Stage 1 of the Yarden developments at AirSpace Gallery is to transform a small narrow space squeezed between an on-site electricity substation and a neighbouring showroom building occupied by Norman Birch Scooters. The space has been overgrown for years, completely inaccessible, certainly for the six or so years AirSpace has been in residence at 4 Broad Street.

It is impossible to ignore the regularity of brownfield sites in Stoke-on-Trent, which following demolition, have been left to go to seed - with the result being the emergence of ad-hoc wild urban meadowland spaces. These spaces are unintentional in an urban planning sense, but beautiful nonetheless, and we at AirSpace think that this natural process could be incorporated into future urban planning visions.

So, we identified our small, overgrown unused strip of land as suitable for an interpretation of this idea. The space actually had plenty going for it. There are two existing buddleia trees - a ubiquitous presence in the brownfield sites - but famous for their butterfly-attracting qualities. We stripped away the lower limbs of the two trees, but left their crowns to flourish and provide ample resting space for the yard's birdlife. Initial excavations also unearthed a couple of existing ferns and an elder (Sambucus).

Once the space was cleared, we introduced a rescued Castor Oil Plant (Ricinus communis) and laid a brick herringbone path to take visitors the length of the space, winding through the two buddleias. 

Stage 2 and completion of this section will see the addition of a small pond, with the hope of attracting dragonflies and other insect life and hopefully a couple of frogs and some wildflower planting in readiness for the Spring.

The AirSpace Yarden

Spring is in the air at AirSpace, as work starts in earnest on Conjunction 12's final project. As part of Conjunction 12, AirSpace Gallery commissioned a project to develop an outdoor space to become a multi-functional creative urban space that will showcase yard & small space solutions & host outdoor art exhibitions, workshops & events.

The Yarden project was launched in August 2012, with an open event,  with the planning, design and consultation stage taking place during Conjunction 12; Over that time, and actually after a while of putting out feed for the local bird life, we noticed the ever expanding amount of birds using the Gallery's yard. Over 15 different types of bird had been spotted in our yard, from the humble pigeon to a host of others including goldfinches, tunnocks, blue tits, blackbirds and robins. Beguiled by our feathered visitors, the conclusion was that the AirSpace Yard could be transformed into an urban bird haven. The design and planting will be carried out with this in mind, using species of plants known to attract not only birds, but other species of wildlife that make up a complementary eco-system. 
 A key principle behind the Yarden  is the use of an array of found & reclaimed materials and DIY solutions, using methods that can be taught to others in workshops, which can easily be replicated within the yards and small spaces of the City.
Yarden is an exercise in urban place-making - the transformation of a hidden, underused urban space into an accessible communal place which the public can use for a variety of purposes, from a simple beautiful retreat space to arts events, performances and workshops. Once finished, the Yarden will be available to ALL during Gallery opening hours, and made accessible via a bespoke Yarden side-door. And afterwards, the legacy  is hoped to be a communal creative space  to host creative workshops, meetings, outdoor exhibitions and events.
The Yarden is due to open in May, coinciding with an exhibition by 2012 Threadneedle nominee, Sarah Key. Watch out for further developments and details of the Yarden opening event and Sarah Key's exhibition.