collaboration with

Linsey McIntosh & Macfarlane + Assocs, with V&A Dundee

V&A Dundee’s Community Garden was an innovative co-design project to create a world class, contemporary public space to link the city, waterfront development and museum. The project involved communities, showcasing how design can transform physical, mental and social wellbeing.

As one of first physical manifestations of V&A Dundee, the garden was to highlight the innovation of the design museum, foster community, and reflect the city’s aspirations. The design was to attract residents and visitors, and hint at the museum’s contents. The 100m² site is located within Slessor Gardens at the heart of Dundee’s regenerating waterfront. It sits in front of new V&A Dundee, designed by Kengo Kuma. The build cost was £35,000.

The project was led by kennedytwaddle, in partnership with co-design specialist Linsey McIntosh. Landscape designers, Macfarlane + Associates, provided support. The design team worked collaboratively with around twenty people seeking to improve their health and well-being. Design was used as an engagement tool through a series of creative workshops.

The co-design process involved site visits to allow the community team to explore influences and constraints. During outings to City Road Allotments they collated research, using toolkits including sketchbooks and cameras. Key themes were formed and carried forward, and a session at the University of Dundee Botanic Garden explored suitable plants. The co-design team worked collaboratively to distill ideas, prototyped using sketching, collage and model-making. After visiting a makerspace, ideas were collated and realised. Presented through CAD visuals and a model, everyone could identify contributed elements. This process empowered the community team, giving a sense of ownership and pride.

Influences were drawn from the order of the Botanic Gardens versus the creative chaos of the allotments. This is reflected through the materiality of rusting corten against polished steel and larch. Features include a sunken ‘hearth’ for people to socialise or partake in workshops, and a stage to facilitate performances. A ‘message board’ encourages sharing of gardening tips and the exhibition of work, while acting as a ‘living’ mesh screen from the road. The double pitched roof, informed by potting sheds, provides shelter. Organically ordered varying height planters allow for access for the gardening volunteers. Many locally sourced plants ensure annual bloom, while attracting wildlife. The root inspired ‘water catcher’ collects rainwater in a water butt to maximise sustainability, and light poles signal the entrances.

V&A Dundee’s Community Garden opened in September 2017, providing an inspiring outdoor space reflecting the power of design in growing a community-focused city.

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