The Alder Centre was originally established in 1989 and provides bereavement counselling for anyone who has lost a child. BBUK worked with a team led by architects AHMM to win a competition for the new centre with its theme ‘The Secret Garden’, inspired by Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book. In terms of funding, while the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital provided space, all other costs over the years have had to be raised by the centre. BBUK took part in a sponsored cycle ride from London to Liverpool with AHMM to raise money for the Centre’s gardens.
The building is contained within a walled garden that gives privacy, security and a close connection to nature, which was a primary consideration for the centre. With ‘The Secret Garden’ as an inspiration and with privacy a key concern, the garden has been conceived as a series of spaces with varying degrees of enclosure of differing size and character that create a series of external rooms. Some of these are very intimate and connect directly with the therapy rooms while others are larger and of a more communal and open nature.
Sustainability was considered in the landscaping around the building, which has minimised hard surfaces and maximised water permeability. There are also plans within the future master plan to connect a wider sustainable drainage system for improved water run-off management.
In the garden’s northwest section, views are tightly controlled by garden walls and the extended fins of brickwork reaching out into the landscape. Hedges, trellis screens with climbers, and a variety of plants of differing heights are also used to give the flexibility to open or close views as desired, while also ensuring that individual spaces feel soothing, welcoming, and never forbidding.
The central communal area is more open, allowing for more expansive views, including a long vista right across the site through the building’s public reception rooms. This space leads to a ‘grow garden’, a small children’s play area and intimate, contemplative enclosed seating areas away from the main building.
While privacy is vital, it is also important that there is an outward connection to the rest of the landscape and community. The planting is set out to overspill the garden walls and give a clue to the lush nature of the space within.
Landscape Architect: BBUK
Other designers involved in the design of landscape: AHMM Architect
Project location: Liverpool
Design year: 2019
Year Built: 2020-21
Photographer: Rob Parrish