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Northala Fields – Park Design and the Value of Landscape Architecture

As we have a site near Marlow in Buckinghamshire we are regularly traveling out from central London along the A40.  It is a journey which is often a tedious and regularly slow. However there are a few things which help to divert the attention.  The most pleasurable of which are the towering hills of Northala Park which are visible when coming through Northolt and dominate the locality.   The park was created from the waste material of the demolition of the old Wembley Stadium by Artist Peter Fink and Architect Igor Marko who together are part of an intriguing and inspiring multidisciplinary practice Form Associates.   So, having passed this site hundreds of times I finally decided to pull off the motorway and take some time to enjoy what is perhaps London’s greatest new park. The mounds themselves have a really levelling almost childlike attraction and it’s hard to not head straight for the summit, something which seems to appeal to most of the park’s visitors as even on the coldest days there are always people on top of the mounds.   The scale and shape of the mounds seems to strike a real subconscious cord and despite being obviously manmade they seem familiar and natural, perhaps because similar mounds have been part of our shared culture for thousands of years. The parallels with prehistoric sites such as Silbury Hill are obvious and maybe the ease with which we accept these forms is partly because they represent one of the simplest and fundamental acts of human construction.  To me building a mound is such a simple, base and universal response to the landscape that we can all identify with it.

In writing this post what became apparent was how difficult it was to find out who had designed the site.  The Wikipedia article makes no reference to Fink and Marko and this exposes a serious point.  The parks and landscape gardens of England are world famous and set in trend the creation of similar spaces the world over so why is it that contemporary landscape professionals seem to practice in such relative obscurity.  The public are well versed in knowing who Norman Foster and Richard Rogers are and many gardeners and plantsmen are well loved house hold names yet designing landscape on a larger scale seems to fail to attract so much attention. Surely this is wrong and the success of Northala Fields is an example of why this discipline should be more widely celebrated and hopefully emulated.

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