Tom Stuart-Smith's Jellicoe Gardens in King's Cross
Tom Stuart-Smith's new public creation – Jellicoe Gardens – is now open, completing a series of Islamic-themed gardens, all across the King's Cross area of London.
Now open – anyone can visit the latest creation by award-winning landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith, produced in association with Townshend Landscape Architects in King's Cross, London.
Jellicoe Gardens – opened Monday 15 November 2021 – are inspired by the great garden of Bagh-e Fin, in Kashan, Iran with sunlight, shade, shadows and water coming together to create a place of calm, comfort and quiet reflection.
And while the Persian influence is obvious in its grand pavilion designed by Bell Phillips Architects, English-style planting in the many terraced beds around it places this dramatic centrepiece within an informal meadow-like setting full of colour and texture.
Tom Stuart-Smith explains. "It’s been a great privilege to see this garden made and help raise awareness of the importance of Persian culture and the islamic garden in our own place-making traditions. From medieval monastic gardens, through early cruciform garden plans, through to Lutyens and Louis Khan at the Salk institute.
"It would be possible to find all the trees that we have used in the garden growing in Persian Gardens. Obviously the herbaceous planting is another matter and here we drew on the idea of the Bustan or fragrant orchard – the idea that the trees in the garden could be underplanted with scented flowers."
Tom gave Gardens Illustrated a little more background. "It’s such an interesting project, For a start we had two clients, both with a lot of experience of making public spaces. One, The Aga Khan Development Network wanting something very specific, while the other, Argent, wanting something more general. So there was an inbuilt tension between a desire to get a message across – the character of the Islamic garden on the one hand and a desire to create a first rate, robust public space on the other."
Positioned as part of the King’s Cross Estate, Jellicoe Gardens sits neatly between the Aga Khan Centre and Luma and Fenman house and is therefore open to the public. The Aga Khan centre is already home to six gardens inspired by the Islamic world, now Jellicoe Gardens completes the group, being a new dramatic, but tranquil oasis for visitors and local residents.
"My approach was to emphasise the universal nature of the early Islamic garden and to find a prototype that seemed to have familiar elements to all," Tom continues. "I based the plan on the Fin garden because this is perhaps the greatest of all surviving Persian gardens and it also has a typology that could be adapted to the space even if the scale was very different."
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The garden's most striking feature is, of course, its central pavilion, who's roof pattern is inspired by the designs of traditional Islamic Girih tiling, allowing the light to shine through and cast shadows in the paving below. "Perhaps the greatest area of discussion in the development of the design was the pavilion," says Tom. "Of course pavilions are present in Persian Gardens and are used for playing music, reciting poetry and social gathering but they would always have a roof that was solid. I did not want to have a solid roof because it would cut out the precious sunlight."
And special mention to the large axial water feature positioned at the pavilion’s front edge which sends water bubbling outwards to feed rills and pools all along the garden’s length.
The gardens are a tribute to Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, a renowned architect, town planner, and garden designer.
As a Camden resident and a founding member of the Landscape Institute, Sir Geoffrey was involved in the 1960s campaign to save St Pancras Station and his works includes the extensive gardens at Shute House, Donhead St Mary, Wiltshire famous for its focus on water. It's this feature that played a major influence on the new garden that bears his name, with the central flow linking the gardens many elements.
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Robert Evans, CEO of King’s Cross, comments: “Jellicoe Gardens is a beautiful, special place – a true oasis at the heart of King’s Cross, where local residents, workers and visitors, can come to pause and reflect. Gardens like this are more important than ever and Jellicoe Gardens both complements and contrasts with other, busier spaces within the Estate such as Granary Square, Cubitt Square and Coal Drops Yard.
“High quality, thoughtful landscape design has played a pivotal role in the transformation of King’s Cross and so it is fitting that these new gardens present an opportunity to pay tribute to an important local figure in landscape and garden design, Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe.”
Hanif Kara, representing the Aga Khan Development Network comments: “Through these green spaces – six in the Aga Khan Centre, two in nearby Victoria Hall, the fountains in Lewis Cubitt Square, and now Jellicoe Gardens – visitors to King’s Cross can gain new insights about the diversity of Islamic landscape design originating from different geographic regions and see their contributions to garden design around the world. We thank Tom Stuart-Smith for bringing this unique garden so brilliantly to life and King’s Cross Central for sharing in our vision.”
Daniel Griffiths is a veteran journalist who has worked on some of the biggest home and entertainment brands in the world. He is a serial house-renovator and home improvement expert, taking on everything from interior design and DIY to landscape gardening and garden design.
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