The Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, completed in Spring 2010, was planted in an area of Hackney that lacked public green space. Just off the busy Dalston Lane, this secret garden is hidden behind hoarding next to the Hackney Peace Carnival mural. Visitors enter through a wooden doorway into a peaceful haven. The garden, built on a disused railway line derelict for over 30 years, is part of Making Space in Dalston. This Design for London-funded project aims to improve public space in the area, now managed by a steering group of local community organisations. Making Space in Dalston involves temporary as well as permanent interventions all aiming at long term improvements to the safety and accessibility around Dalston. The garden won a Hackney Design Award in 2010 and Making Space for Dalston won the Landscape Institute's President's Award at the end of 2011.
The Eastern Curve Garden is one of muf’s temporary enhancements to the Dalston area; a feral wasteland unveiled and intensified to create an amenity for education and escape. Built with the help of local residents, teenagers, mums, students and architects alike, reclaimed materials were used to create a community garden that would serve multiple functions. Whether it’s workshops for the kids to keep them busy during school holidays, or daily gorilla gardening for the do-it-yourself enthusiasts. muf successfully opened up a small piece of disused land fostering unhealthy gang culture to the wider community that quickly reclaimed it and put it to positive use. This project is a remarkable effort at grassroots community building through architecture and planning.
The aim of Making Space in Dalston was to raise awareness of the urban environment and add meaning to places within the public realm through artistic interventions. By cleverly programming and providing the ability for cultural activity to happen formally or informally, muf informed the process of physical change. A collaborative approach was instrumental in the success of the project. Consultations with local residents and cultural bodies were consistently held. A first call for ideas from the cultural clusters of Hackney helped to generate a number of site-specific proposals that aimed to value the existing, nurture the possible and define what’s missing.
A large wooden pavilion is now the focal point for community events and regularly houses music, dance, cooking and gardening activities, as well as being a relaxing meeting place.
Most of the garden furniture has been constructed on site from reclaimed wood and recycled pallets from the nearby Ridley Road Market.
Structural planting includes silver birch and alder trees, hazel, wild cherry, and a native hedgerow. Fruit, vegetables and herbs, chosen for their ornamental value as well as taste, are grown in a series of large raised beds and are used in the garden's new on-site café. The garden is tended by the Eastern Curve Gardeners, adult and child volunteers who meet regularly. No chemicals are used, all garden material is composted on site and rainwater is collected in recycled whiskey barrels.
Additional projects include a large greenhouse for garden and environmental education; the Pineapple House. There’s a green roof, a community-built clay oven for cooking with garden produce, bee-friendly planting and wildflower meadow planting developed as part of the 'East London River of Flowers'.