Valley Gardens,

Brighton

Client: Brighton & Hove City Council
Stakeholders: Department of Transport; Coast 2 Capital LEP
Team (Parks): Civic Engineers, civils; Tim O’Hare Associates, soils; Nigel Dunnett, specialist planting; OCMIS, water features; Studio Dekka, lighting; Landpro, costing; Project Centre, CDMC
Programme: 2011-18
Stages: 1-6
Contract: NEC3
Value: £3.5M (£8.5M o/a)

Valley Gardens is the 1.5km public open space which the A23 London Road passes through, from The Level, past St Peter’s Church and the Brighton Pavilion, to the Old Steine and Brighton Pier. Currently a traffic-dominated series of traffic island gyratories and contraflows, this long-neglected space has the potential to form a handsome urban linked park system at the heart of the city.

Untitled Practice was initially appointed with Urban Movement to develop a strategy to rationalise and re-distribute traffic, whilst releasing more effective public realm. The preferred approach relocates all general traffic down the east side of Valley Gardens along Grand Parade, paralleled by a dedicated park-side cycle lane, with public transport (buses and taxis), and service access only, along the more commercially active west of the North Laines. These moves reduce the number of north/south pedestrian road crossings from 29 to six, and reduce the percentage of traffic-designated hard landscape by approximately 50%, for increased green space uses. East/west pedestrian routes are simplified, with diagonal desire lines across the park between streets on either side, improving connectivity across this part of the city between local destinations. The landscape architecture of the park responds to these new loci in the public realm.

The diagonal park pathways ‘tack’ from side to side through the space creating a new route for pedestrians through the middle of the park, emphasising the floor of the valley. Over time the sense of both valley and gardens has become lost. Valley Gardens was originally the boggy site of the seasonal Wellesbourne Stream, accounting for its lack of building development. This winterbourne course was ultimately absorbed into Brighton’s great Victorian sewer system, however we felt the reading and understanding of the site, at the centre of Brighton’s UNESCO Urban Biosphere Reserve (one of just 5 designated globally to date), would be improved by its re-introduction, in some form. We explored the watershed by walking the South Downs, and found the sources of chalk streams at Fulking and Poynting to inform the inclusion of surface water features in the scheme and improve the sense of place in the Gardens.