The Phoenix Road Performing Gardens by NOOMA Studio
The design for the Phoenix Road Performing gardens was created using different space making elements; road and pavement painting brought colour and invited a new approach for navigating the space using minimal intervention. NOOMA Studio worked with Head Gardener, Sue Amos, at Global Generation’s Story Garden to create the ecological and sensory gardens that would be housed inside the barrel planters, bringing greenery into the street.
NOOMA Studio delivered three timber pavilion structures as part of the design for Phoenix Road. Positioned at various intervals, they divided the road into three acts: the speaker, the performer and the storyteller.
Addressing the busiest corner of Phoenix Road, the speaker’s podium acted as Somers Town’s own speaker’s corner, a platform for residents and visitors walking through with something to say.
‘Phoenix Road Performing Gardens’ also featured a performing stage on the central point of the road, offering an opportunity for passers-by to practice, play or observe a theatrical moment.
The storyteller celebrates oral tradition with a playful structure, which offered entertainment for children and parents over the weekend with storytelling and music workshops from Tyan Kids and Kindle Corner Kids.
The installation was opened on Friday 24 June with a performance from the Arfoud Brothers & Sisters with speeches from Councillor Edmund Frondigoun, Rosa Rogina (Director, London Festival of Architecture), Ramsey Yassa (NOOMA Studio), Diana Foster (Somers Town Museum), Javier Calderon (Somers Town Gallery) and Youssef Boutayeb (Regents High, Music Teacher).
Across Saturday and Sunday events featured performances by school children from Regent High School, and local groups including The Place, a local contemporary dance school, which established spontaneous spaces on Phoenix Road and provided a platform for the local community to perform, meet, and exchange. The Somers Town Museum organised a community meal on Saturday 25 June and provided smoothie-making bikes as a form of entertainment for the local community. Other local organisations also took part in the festival in more improvised ways, such as Somers Gallery which provided recycled materials for children to build and decorate their own houses.
Phoenix Road reopened to traffic on Monday 27 June, but the main elements of ‘Phoenix Road Performing Gardens’ were left on the pavement, and re-used during the Somers Town Festival on 9-10 July 2022.
The plants were rehoused in the gardens of the local community (including the Story garden, St Pancras Community association and private gardens) and each structure has found a new home in a local school, as per Camden and NOOMA Studio’s desire to provide benefits to the local community beyond the festival.
As an area of planned regeneration in the coming years with initiatives including the Greening Phoenix Road project (funded through HS2 mitigation funds), this temporary public realm intervention has provided a test bed for new ideas which look at alternative scenarios for the area. This June, Camden saw a vibrant, green, and vehicle-free space created on Phoenix Road and were able experience Somers Town in a new way and explore different ways in which the road could be used by the local and wider community.