Volunteers and architecture students from University of East London led by local architect, Sarah Bland of Studio Wic have created a pavilion on Hackney City Farm nestled in the wood alongside Haggerston Park.
Woodland Place is a space to reflect in nature, as well as join others in learning and play activities – increasing belonging and healthy living
Woodland Place was built in October 2018. The project was supported by Postcode Local Trust, a grant-giving charity funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
To find out how to apply for funding or play and support more charities go to www.postcodelocaltrust.org.uk.
Setting up the Project
The idea of a new outdoor space promoting nature and outdoor learning is part of the Farm ethos. The essence of Woodland Place was firstly about getting local people involved in a project that would both benefit the community and the farm. Week-end groups and sessions were organised to brainstorm ideas, and share facts and information.
The brainstorm gave birth to six different ideas: a foraging trail to learn how to grow your own fruit and veg, bread making from growing the wheat to baking your own bread, Farmyard Folly to discover about the animals of the farm, an Historic trail through a series of clues dotted throughout the farm, a sound trail of the cacophony of sounds at the farm and a Wooden platform & canopy to be used for events- like yoga, poetry and stick whittling. In February 2018, a questionnaire depicting these ideas was circulated to people volunteering or coming to the farm to identify what they felt would benefit the Farm’s outdoor space. Voting strongly identified the wooden platform and canopy as community favourite.
It was Sarah, the project architect who suggested the idea of a platform with a canopy for The Woodland. Her first idea was conical shape like a grain silo or yurt which gave birth to the concept of a wooden platform with a unique roof. But what size and where exactly? The first dimensions were 4.8m x 3.8m. The central section of the raised ground in The Woodland was an ideal location, nestled between the trees, next to the field and also giving a great view of the animals.
The second key idea was linked to sustainability. We would use recycled timbers and re-purposed tetra-paks. The design for the platform was a hexagonal shape. But what makes the building unusual is the roof created from re-purposed tetra-paks, the alternative milk or juice cartons with an aluminium interior. Our research indicated that the aluminium lined roof tiles – ‘tetra-tiles’ may last for 5 years.
We asked local cafés to save tetra-paks and recruited volunteers to cycle around and collect them. People got really excited about the idea of giving tetra-paks a second life for Woodland Place.
For more information on our design go to:
Preparing of Tetra-Paks
With the original dimensions, we needed 1700 tiles to cover the roof. The processes involved in re-purposing the tetra-paks: collecting, washing, drying, cutting, folding and flattening were time consuming.
Tetra-pak re-purposing was a real magnet to bring volunteers in: bankers, farmers, corporations and environmental projects were fascinated by the project. We held workshops with more than 100 volunteers. Social media helped us recruit help:
Later, the size of the build was reduced to not overcrowd the Woodland resulting of a preparation of 1200 tiles – to the relief of folding volunteers.
Interviews and community workshops
Young volunteers interviewed people from the local community about the importance of outdoor spaces for learning and well-being. Older people who used to know the farm for years gave their vision on the outdoor playing and the importance of the farm to them and their families.
Dan interviewed Vi, a local resident for over five decades “Vi told me just how important green areas are, not just for her, but for the grandchildren as well.”
Hear a conversation between Eloise (volunteer from France) with Felipe & Patricia who started volunteering at Hackney City Farm last summer for the tetra-pak folding for Woodland Place roof and they never left! They are now volunteering at Get Loose, the Farm’s sustainable products shop. They both come from Portugal but they’re from different backgrounds. Patricia grew up in Lisbon and worked as a summer camp facilitator and used to do a lot of outdoor activities in parks with kids. Felipe grew up on a tiny island being outside in nature – it was the only way of life he knew! – until he moved to the city. They both understand the importance of outdoor spaces and activities, especially in a city. Being outside is good for health – both physically and mentally – because you are most of the time active and likely to socialize more.
When they arrived in London, they started volunteering to meet new people and also learn new things and get soft skills. This conversation gives a glimpse of some of the riches European people bring to London, and in particular the Farm’s projects.
For Filipe and Patricia, most of all, volunteering at the farm gives them more than friends, it gives them a real sense of belonging, to be part of a community.
Beginning of October, volunteers and architecture students from University of East London over two weeks worked together to realise the design. During the build, a foundation was laid, and different sections- platform and canopy were built. We worked with sustainable and cost-effective materials, learning about budgeting and dealing with hands-on site and design issues.
The canopy roof was assembled in two sections. Check film links to see team in action!
This stage was blessed with both good spirit and weather! The build was done safely and within the time frame. Then, balustrades, painting and finishing touches were done by Hackney City Farm volunteers when students had left.
“It somehow looks as though it’s always been there” comment from volunteer on how the build sits in the landscape.
Sarah checks dug foundation holes for main supports to platform and canopy roof.
Base frame for platform is constructed by volunteers and students.Curious, young Freya the goat checks out what’s going on.
Ground frame is set onto foundation posts.
Tony, carpenter and Giorgios, architecture student working on upper frame of canopy section.
Lifting top roof section to main structure.
Adjusting roof frame in place.The tetra tile roof with inside showing the outside design of tetra paks used.
Clover and Larry come to check out the newly raised Woodland Place.
The opening of Woodland Place was on the sunny Saturday afternoon of 27th October. Social media brought new people to the farm, and the sparkling roof drew extra attention to the event attracting some 90 people. Event visitors started walking on the platform, enjoying a great view point for getting to know the animals close up. There were interactive activities (planned by event volunteers) inviting people to say what they’d like to see in Woodland Place in the future, and two workshops. Tetra pak re-use, including making wind energy toys, led by Stephen (Fire the Inventor) as well as planting flowers. Frizzante and Rude health treats were enjoyed by all. Thanks!
A workshop in November, “Cups of Plant” led by Manning Hsu, made us think about what is rubbish and an eco friendly way to reuse. Used paper cups lying in the streets – considered as rubbish – were given another life as plant pots. The workshop invited people to adopt these cups of plant, and encourage others to give them a second life. The cups have messages from participants to us all: “look after me” or “make sure I don’t become rubbish again”. Manning and other volunteers registered 80+ participants aged 2 to about 70!
“Make a bird in the Woodland”
31st May 2019, the Woodland Place also hosted a creative workshop called where more than 90 people passed through! During the workshop, people were offered to decorate birds – either flat paper or 3D metallic ones – and craft them the way they wanted. Once decorated, the paper birds were fixed on transparent material trees, designed by volunteer, Eloise, on the Woodland Place frame. The metallic birds were fixed – with the help of Stephen Guy – on the renewable energy bicycle sculpture where perches powered by the wind helped the birds dip and flutter. https://youtu.be/_bp_LOvB9kc
In 2017, volunteers, supported by players of the Postcode Lottery and led by Stephen Guy created a wind powered bike sculpture. In the spirit of the farm’s ethos, this sculpture, a few meters away from the Woodland pavilion, draws attention to alternative power sources. Local supporter, Clive added a mechanism to light tiny bulbs.
Woodland Place has been imagined, prepared, designed, built and active thanks to the participation of a hundred and forty-five volunteers. And this is just the beginning!
Woodland Place is available for your ideas, events and workshops. We need more volunteers to promote it, propose ideas, get involved contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or drop by and share your suggestions.
We thank players of Postcode Lottery, La Bouche, Frizzante, Tin Cafe, E5 Bakehouse, Climpsons, Bread Station and Footnote and all the wonderful volunteers at tile making workshops. A big thank you also to Rude Health for wonderful snacks, cereals and dairy free milks to keep our volunteers healthy!