Giving everyone in Whitechapel a garden

A team of students at Swanlea School created the perfect garden for urban balconies

In 2016, the Green Plan It Challenge in London saw 14 teams go up against each other to win the prize for the best garden design. Students could either choose to create a garden design for their own school or one for their local community.
The winning team came from Swanlea School in Whitechapel, London who decided to create a model that would allow many residents in Whitechapel to have a garden of their own, despite living in tall tower blocks with no access to green space.
At the London launch event on 30th September, the team was paired with their mentor, landscape designer Lily Bakratsa. Using Lily’s expertise and a tour around the stunning gardens of Capel Manor College, the team began to discuss ideas for their Green Plan It design.
The team found that they struggled initially to truly identify with what a garden can do for someone, with one student commenting “how are we supposed to design a garden when we all live in flats and don’t have any?
The team’s teacher, Mr Nairn, wrote this quote onto a piece of paper and stuck it on the wall to allow the students to consider this further. This quote became the driving force behind their intentions for the competition and the team set about designing an innovative garden that could exist in the city environment.
The team began by surveying 70 residents living in a typical Whitechapel block of flats with the following questions: 

  • Do you have a balcony?
  • What do you use your balcony for?
  • Do you want a garden?
  • What are problems with having a garden?
  • What vegetables do you use in everyday cooking?
  • What colour theme would best suite your garden?
  • How much storage space do you require? 

100% of respondents said they would like a garden however most were using their balcony for storage (60%) or hanging clothes (68%). When asked what the problems with having a garden on their balcony were, the top responses were the limited amount of space (70%) and the cost of purchasing equipment and plants (62%).
Based on the responses they received, the team worked up a design for a generic balcony garden that would meet the residents’ requirements. To make their idea more accessible to residents who may not have enough money to turn their balcony into a garden, they also thought of ways to create the garden from recycled and upcycled materials such as drain pipes, pallets and food tins.
To bring their vision to life, the students created a scale model of their design using the school laser cutting equipment and presented their model, along with a comprehensive written report, to the Green Plan It Challenge judges on 9th December at Capel Manor College.
Since being awarded the title of overall winner, Mr Nairn and the team of students are now working with the RHS to showcase their design at the upcoming RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2017.

Read other inspiring stories

About Green Plan It

Find out more about the Green Plan It Challenge here.

We've won awards!

Winner of the Drum Marketing Awards 2017
Winner of the ERA 2017 awards
Winner of the Third Sector 2017 awards