Gloucester Cathedral Green – and New Leaf landscape design

The Society enjoyed a fascinating and well-attended talk on Thursday 24th January by Andrew King of New Leaf Studio on landscape design for urban spaces.

Plan showing concentric circles, ellipse, spiral. (click to enlarge)

He gave an in-depth account of the design process behind Gloucester Cathedral Green—the new public space in front of the cathedral that has transformed the cathedral’s setting and now offers a welcoming green oasis in the centre of the city where previously were just acres of tarmac and serried ranks of parked cars

Andrew explained the evolution of the final design based of a series of concentric circles intersecting with an ellipse and a spiral (see plan). These formal geometries are disrupted by a diagonal path to the south porch providing a direct pedestrian route to the cathedral from College Court.

Cathedral Green from south west showing 1085 Domesday Book stone. (click to enlarge)

The spiral is described by a beautifully detailed limestone wall incorporating benches and prominent stone blocks inscribed with accounts of milestones in the cathedral’s long and tumultuous history. This wall encloses a bed of herbaceous drift planting and culminates in the centre with a circular stone platform designed to feature an ever-changing display of artworks—like the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.

Tactile paving for the visually impaired has been beautifully and unobtrusively incorporated in the design—so different from the crude concrete ‘tram lines’ that disfigure the floor of the new ‘Transport Hub’ bus station nearby.

Andrew described the complex considerations and consultations that informed the evolution of the final design and the various difficulties encountered during its implementation. He also talked in less detail about two schemes in Bristol—Champion Square at Cabot Circus and Brunswick Cemetery.

Cathedral Green close-up with benches and encircling wall. (click to enlarge)

The talk was a real eye-opener—and the result at Gloucester is a triumph. If finally offers a fitting setting for this architectural jewel in Gloucester’s crown.

Whether you heard the talk or not, do make a point of going to see Gloucester Cathedral Green. This is an outstanding scheme, imaginative, elegant, practical, well thought-out and beautifully executed—particularly if you remember what went before. It makes one further despair about the shabby shambles of Stroud’s broken, disfigured, ruined streetscape.

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