LILA 2023 Winner in Public Landscapes

Bridgefoot Street Park is a story about public space, community participation, circular economy, and ecological measures, and, above all, it is a project that well reflects our growing care for social and environmental issues of urban open space in the 21st century.

DFLA carefully embedded particular design approaches that have been occurring in the landscape architecture community in the past decade into a successful whole. The ‘beautiful messiness’ of the design language of the concrete surfaces reminds us of Catherine Mosbach’s approach to shape-finding. They suggest free use and are a platform for the community to get together and play. The ‘curiosity’ of the hill composed of demolition debris reminds us of Governor’s Island in NYC.

But it is not only the debris that forms the play of topography; other elements found on site were catalogued and were given a second life, a new meaning and a new purpose in a creative way. This is one of the most important challenges for landscape architects, namely recycling, upcycling and reducing the shipment of material to its minimum.

Bridgefoot Street Park is an extremely well designed hectare of urban land. The jury also praises the universal value of Bridgefoot Street Park; cities of various latitudes will hopefully learn from this approach and will have a benchmark for a reference.

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Addressing a ‘Grand Challenge’ – EU’s Largest Waste Stream

Bridgefoot Street Park is a unique spatial composition, which uses construction and demolition waste, in the form of secondary raw materials, to create Ireland’s first such permanent public space. The new one-hectare park in Dublin’s city centre, addresses global ‘grand challenges’ in a synthesized and beautiful way, laying the foundation for aesthetic and even legislative change in Ireland. The landscape architects, DFLA, worked with a truly diverse range of people from the surrounding community, sharing models, engaging with community gardeners, commissioning bird boxes from early school leaver trainees and facilitating the installation of a sculpture fabricated by members of a prison after-care service aimed at rehabilitating offenders.

Secondary Raw Materials, Embodied Energy & Biodiversity

Secondary raw materials were employed to make novel landscape finishes, new topography and sub-bases, including paving, retaining elements, loose aggregate and aggregate for in-situ concrete. Small quantities of calp stone and brick seconds (waste from the manufacturing process) were also used as paving. Recycled glass and brick seconds were used for in-situ concrete. A sample garden was constructed, using secondary raw materials, so that prospective contractors would understand the process to which they would commit if contracted to build the park. The sample garden was invaluable to our understanding of the design and construction process and it assisted the project commissioners, Dublin City Council, to assess the aesthetic outcome. Many tonnes of what would have been waste was creatively redirected away from landfill, the embodied energy now permanently within the new park. Much of the waste was selected for reuse by DFLA from waste depots in Dublin city. The significant technical constraints of procuring a park using waste, within the government’s Public Works Contract, were considered in detail and planned-for years in advance. The legislative framework is constantly changing, and our work at Bridgefoot Street Park has demonstrably contributed to the way administrators in Ireland understand the circular economy.

Horticultural & Ecological Values

The emergent ecology of the park is determined by the substrates invented by DFLA but it is also tied to maintenance techniques. Secondary raw materials were crushed and mixed with subsoils and topsoils to create four different percentage mixes, to test the way in which vegetation would naturally colonize the substrates. Dublin City Council are currently working with DFLA and specialist contractors to understand how to nurture the processes by which the colonising vegetation maintains a diversity and contributes spatially to the character and aesthetic of the space, which is open to the public 24 hours a day.

Social Impact & Engagement

The project involved the rezoning of land for much needed public open space in a neighbourhood that includes a complex demographic but suffers from unemployment, substance abuse and other social problems. DFLA creatively engaged with residents, business, politicians, gardeners and community development workers to help deliver the park. The response is overwhelmingly positive from users of the park as well as commentators on-line. There is a very low incidence of vandalism. This is due in part to an unseen network of park champions who effectively protect the park through local family and social networks. Dublin City Council have little or no negative feedback regarding the aesthetic and character of the park with its ‘wilder’ appearance of naturally colonising vegetation.

Other Impacts

The design process was embedded in doctoral research by Dermot Foley, founder of DFLA, as a case study to illustrate how landscape architecture practice could impact on waste reduction, carbon emissions and a changing aesthetic appreciation of the world around us. This research, hence the project as it unfolded, was disseminated during symposia in Barcelona, Ghent, London and on-line. The design process has been explicated in several recent publications. The park has spun-off two Irish Research Council research-masters on the use of secondary raw material and was Regional Finalist in the UK Civic Trust Awards, competing against many building projects of significantly higher construction budgets. As a low-cost project it demonstrates how beautiful, biodiverse public space can be made more accessible to stressed communities, making it, de-facto, a healing landscape. In terms of its regional impact, in the context of a fledgling landscape architecture profession, Bridgefoot Street Park takes landscape architecture to a new level of innovation in Ireland.

Project Data

Landscape Architecture: DFLA

Location: Bridgefoot Street, Dublin 8, Ireland

Design year: 2016 – 2022

Year Completed: 2022

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