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Camden Gardens railway heritage park ‘looks like a construction site’

Gallery owner's sculpture park plan overlooked

21 February, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

A new-look Camden Gardens

TO some it is a much-needed spruce-up of an unloved park.

Others say it is a badly missed opportunity to radically change an open space in Camden Town.

But whatever your views are of recent changes to Camden Gardens – a much-maligned piece of land beneath railway bridges that sits between Kentish Town Road and Camden Street – a recent design competition has certainly set tongues wagging.

The new sleepers and information stand in Camden Gardens

Run by business interest group Camden Town Unlimited, the contest saw five ideas for an overhaul put forward by architects, designers and artists.

Mutt Studios was crowned the winners with an idea to draw on the land’s industrial railway heritage which has seen sleepers and corrugated iron planters installed.

Overlooked was Michael Ptootch, the hairdresser and gallery owner, who had come up with a plan for a sculpture park and art trail, as featured in the New Journal last year.

“We felt it could be a beautiful art park – and instead it looks like a construction site, which it was anyway,” he said. “I also cannot see how these designs will discourage anti-social behaviour that has previously blighted this site, or attract anyone to it.”

He added: “I don’t believe the design chosen met anything in that brief. “Parts of that park are used as a toilet and by drug users, and I can’t see how this will stop that. My plans, for a sculpture park, were fully costed.”

He added he had won the support from a host of residents including Royal Academy artist Cornelia Parker, former council leader Sarah Hayward and senior civil servant Sir Andrew Cahn.

Michael Ptootch in the Gardens last year and, below, his proposal for a sculpture park

Funding for the project, which cost more than £20,000, came from central government as part of a scheme to improve small parks across the UK.

The competition is part of a scheme that Camden Town Unlimited hope will eventually see a new £50m walkway called the Camden High Line carved out of disused railway viaducts that cross the park.

Camden Town Unlimited chief executive Simon Pitkeathley praised the range of ideas that came forward.

“People might find fault with it and criticise it but I am proud of how we have done this and the amount of community engagement we have had,” he said. “We hope the High Line will be built and this will become an entry and exit point. There are references to the railway infrastructure and an information panel.”

Simon Pitkeathley

“The gardens have a lot of use and a lot of it is not great, so we hope this will help make it used more as a place. We hope the new planters and benches will bring people in.”

He added the decision to choose Mutt’s design was taken in conjunction with Camden Council and residents groups.

He added: “After much discussion we went for the boldest one. We went for the one we felt would have the biggest impact. Studio Mutt are an interesting practice. We had 50 responses to our consultation, it was a really lovely example of community engagement.”

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