Russell Grove - Lambeth Star

This scheme is part of Neighbourhood Enhancement Programme (NEP). NEP was divided in 8 areas, which were assigned to different officers for consultation, design, and implementation. My areas were Stockwell NEP and Oval NEP. Russell Grove comes under Vassal NEP, and I had no involvement in the selection of this site or the consultations with the residents in this area. However, Russell Grove is quite near to Van Gogh Walk and the residents were inspired by the design and quality of that scheme. So they requested the lead officer to seek my input for a design for their area. The information that I received was that they have a small park where they have a broken swing, and they want to replace it with a new play feature for children; no benches or play equipment like swings or seasaws.

Old Swing in Russell Grove

When I was in primary school, my father was a professor in Sindh Agriculture University, Tandojam. At that time he was also in charge of the horticultural gardens of the university. In those gardens, there was a raised star pattern inscribed in a circle and a square, with flower beds in the gaps where they used to grow roses. As a child, I used to love running on the paths that formed this pattern, especially running in different geometric sequences to cover each path without running twice on any. So I suggested that they can create a star shape similar to that one in Russell Grove, and offered to help with the design if needed. This was all verbal description, I didn't draw it up at that stage.

The geometric star pattern in the horticultural gardens

Then one day I saw the star design done by an external consultant for this scheme, and to say the least, I was very disappointed that it didn't even look like a proper star. But it was not my project and nobody asked my opinion about it, so I didn't say much.

The star designed by the consultants

Before the construction was completed, the officer leading on this scheme left the Council, and I was asked to check the progress on site. What I found on site was not only poor construction quality, but the setting out was done so badly that it looked more like a Scottish poodle than a star, even by the standards of the consultants' design.

Scottish poodle

I had a site meeting with the contractors and they agreed that the construction and setting out was unacceptable and it will need to be done again, at their cost.

At that stage, I couldn't stand the idea of letting them build what was on their drawings, as it represented no star in my view. So I said that I will do a fresh design similar to what they have, but at least with a geometrically accurate star, and that I will set it out for them as I had no faith in them being able to do that.

Concrete base for the new star

Once the construction began, I had to do site supervision as well to get the results I wanted, for example I would ask them to redo mitre joints to an acceptable standard.

A bad mitre joint, that was redone later

Once the workers understood that I'm not accepting bad workmanship, they automatically started to put some thought into working out better joints and demonstrate much better work quality.

Better, symmetrical joints

Finishing the star outline

Inner paving completed

Working on the tail of the star - it's a shooting star

Now it needs to be planted up in the beds at the centre and edges of the star and its tail. I'll upload some photos when it's done, and hopefully a satellite image will be available soon too if google updates their imagery. It isn't what I had in mind at the very beginning, but it's better than the star poodle.

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