Award-winning landscape contractors Bowles & Wyer Contracts are managing the complex build of the Linklaters Garden for Maggie’s at the RHS Chelsea showground this month, including the arrival of 67-tons of flat-packed concrete components.
The garden, which has been designed by Darren Hawkes for global law firm Linklaters and cancer charity Maggie’s, includes over 50 individually designed, pre-cast concrete pieces that will make up the garden’s key components. The pieces have come from a single 67-ton cuboid of basalt concrete, broken apart to form paving, benches, stairs, a garden building and a water feature that can be reassembled, like a jigsaw, to form a single mass.
The inclusion of the components, assembled from a single cube of concrete, is designed to symbolise how life can be put back together again when it has been blown apart following a diagnosis of cancer.
Dan Riddleston, director at Bowles & Wyer Contracts, who is leading the build, took much of the concrete construction process off-site, prior to arriving at the RHS Chelsea showground. It was cast in Wales, by precast concrete specialists, and is being transported, by five articulated lorries, before being carefully reassembled on site.
The concrete will be treated with bespoke finishes throughout the garden with crushed concrete at ground level complimenting highly polished and acid-etched features for the concrete building, benches and water feature.
Dan Riddleston said: “This is precision work that is really testing our engineering skills. Each piece needs to fit together impeccably with millimetre accuracy in order for the garden components to come together. The vast scale of the pieces and the task of building the garden on the Rock Bank – a notoriously complex site in the Chelsea Showground – is giving us a challenge that we are really relishing. Our job is to make sure that Darren’s design is executed beautifully and that everything flows seamlessly. I can’t wait to see the final result.”
The garden is inspired by the progressive vision of the Maggie’s charity’s founder, the late Maggie Keswick-Jencks, who understood the need for people with cancer to have access to an outdoor space away from clinical hospital environments. It will be enclosed in a 3-metre high perimeter hedge creating a ‘secret’ sanctuary of a garden that offers a restorative and tranquil space. The delicate, feminine planting will juxtapose with the harsh brutality of the concrete elements and bring a layer of scent and serenity to the garden.
Darren Hawkes said: “I had the idea of using a single mass of concrete, a cuboid, and imagining that if that cuboid exploded its components could be used as garden structures. This seemed like a perfect metaphor for a life blown apart by a cancer diagnosis, with the right support one’s life can be pieced together again but is rarely the same. I wanted to create pre-cast concrete pieces with a roughness to their edges that looked as if they had been smashed or blown apart. It’s been an incredibly complex production process and one that has required rigorous attention to detail. I love the drama between the rough, broken edges of the concrete and the highly-polished terrazzo finish that enhances the aggregate. It turns what is quite a municipal material into something of beauty and quality.”
Beyond the Show, plants and other elements of the Chelsea garden will be used to create a garden for the new Maggie’s Centre currently under construction at London’s Bartholomew’s Hospital providing a lasting legacy for the charity when the Centre opens later this year.