Mobile Arboretum

Location: Bow Churchyard Cheapside, Middlesex Street in Aldgate
Date: 2022
Status: Commission | Temporary
Client: Cheapside Business Alliance, Aldgate Connect Business Improvement District

Following the success of the City benches project over the past four years, the London Festival of Architecture (LFA), the Cheapside Business Alliance (CBA) and the Aldgate Connect BID commissioned a urban forest installation design by Wayward to be installed to coincide with the London Festival of Architecture in June 2022 and remain in place until 31 August 2022.






The Design


Mobile Arboretum by Wayward

Mobile Arboretum © Luke O’Donovan

The interventions were installed at two locations within the City of London’s footprint: one in Bow Churchyard Cheapside and the other on Middlesex Street in Aldgate. The brief was to respond to themes of urban greening, rewilding, sustainability and play and to use the history of the selected sites to create something playful and immersive, while also acting as a space to inhabit in various different ways.

Wayward’s design for the Mobile Arboretums focused on the market history of the two locations – medieval produce and poultry in the case of Cheapside and fabrics from Petticoat Lane in Aldgate – using this as the framework for a new arboreal legacy. The installations emphasised each site’s history as hubs for trade by housing saplings and other young plants in market barrows and carts.

Mobile Arboretum © Luke O’Donovan

In their attempts to tell the stories of Aldgate and Cheapside, the arboretums were designed to match the geography and usage of each site. The Mobile Arboretum in Cheapside, houses saplings of large deciduous trees, such as oak. This creates a shady forest floor design that connects with the ancient Plane tree in the centre of St-Mary-Le-Bow Churchyard. The Aldgate Mobile Arboretum, however, offers a more Mediterranean experience, with drought-tolerant plants the dominant feature. This connects the planters with the international food markets that define Middlesex Street. Throughout the summer the plants were cared for by the Ambassadors of Cheapside and Aldgate.

As well as highlighting each site’s unique history, Wayward also designed the Mobile Arboretum with one eye on the future. The choice to use saplings in each planter rather than more mature plants symbolises forward movement and hope as the necessity to continue regreening our urban spaces becomes ever more pressing. 

Mobile Arboretum © Luke O’Donovan

Wayward, is a London-based landscape, art and architecture collective of designers, artists and urban growers. Wayward are an organisation who have long prioritised local narratives, centring much of its work around the history of an area as a means of community engagement. In 2010, Wayward were involved in the London Festival of Architecture as they hosted the Union Street Urban Orchard. The project reclaimed derelict land in Bankside, making use of over a hundred volunteers to transform the site into a space for exchange between local residents and visitors. 

On top of this, Wayward was also involved in the Algae Meadow, a collaboration between them and Seyi Adelekun for LFA 2021 that explored how biodiversity can be cared for and enhanced in urban environments. 

Activation

On 1 June Wayward hosted three drawing and writing workshops, Tall Tale Trees, at the Aldgate Mobile Arboretum. These sessions explored participants’ relationships to the trees of London using automatic writing techniques, emotive and auditory drawing process and using natural materials to create the words on the page.

 



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