The Seeds of Change

Two of America’s most respected landscape artists are heading to Everton this summer. But not to the hallowed turf of Goodison. They’re headed to a windblown park at the top of the town…

When was the last time you visited Everton Brow? This breezy, elevated park enjoys one of the best views in the city, its rooftops, towers and spires sloping inexorably towards the waterfront. At sunset, it’s just beautiful.

But Everton Brow is more than just a vantage point: a place to pull up in the car for a quick survey of the scene. It is one of the city’s precious green lungs - a space for locals and city users to come and unwind, recharge and reconnect with the natural world.

Trouble is, not many of us have been doing that lately. But things are about to change.

This year, as part of the Liverpool Biennial, Landscape Architect James Corner, and environmental artist Fritz Haeg (pictured) are set to decamp to this lofty spot above the city, to make us look again at the beauty in our midst.

Elevated parks are something Corner knows about only too well, having re-greened and re-animated an elevated stretch of the westside rail route that soars above Manhattan island. Turning a rusting no-go zone into an aerial, botanical wonderland earned Corner kudos around the world.

Now he’s in the city, with the help of Haeg, to help us look again at Everton Brow - and, hopefully, start a dialogue between us and the world around us. The world under our feet.

Over here on a whistlestop tour to survey the park, and start planting, Fritz Haeg admits: Everton Brow is one of his trickiest commissions.

“It’s a strange place,” Haeg amits, “It’s not like your regular city park, with high density growth at the perimeter, prime real estate around it, and a real sense of purpose. In fact, I’d say it was the exact opposite of that!”

The site’s dimensions are curious and challenging. Rising from a hollowed out core, a grassy bank cordons in a featureless bowl. A drive loops the outer edge, allowing motorists to simply skirt its perimeter, drink in the view from the safety of their car seat, and leave: never once having had the feel of grass underfoot. A drive thu-park, you could say. Fritz plans on changing all that.

“The history of this park is so fraught,” says the man who, with his Edible Estates project, introduced the idea of people growing vegetables in their front gardens, à la The Good Life, to make the process visible, communal and sociable. And it’s these qualities he hopes to transplant here, at the top of the city.

“The site was once a vibrant community of narrow little streets, and these neighbourhoods have been uprooted, dispersed and violently wiped from the map. The park, which we’re renaming Everton People’s Park, is a chance for people to reconnect again.”

But Haeg comes with no agenda. No lofty plans to parachute in some allotments and disappear again. His approach is far more nuanced: he simply wants to start a dialogue, and harvest ideas which may or may not bear fruit.

“My process is all about experiments and expeditions,” he says, “it’s about going into unknown territory, with local communities, and asking, ‘what are the possible future land uses for this space?”

Working with Corner, Haeg plans a root and branch approach to turning over this neglected, but beatutifully situated corner of the city. And the pair have form - breathing new life into plots from Budapest to Otterspool (Corner helped create the original Garden Festival site in Liverpool).

To this end, Haeg will be trialling a range of different approaches, with the help of Liverpool’s National Wildflower Centre, the urban food producing collective Squash Nutrition, and National Museums Liverpool.

“We’ll be conducting an archaeological dig, planting wildflowers, seeing what happens when we let the grasses are left to grown untamed, and mowing natural pathways through it.

But this project, Haeg is keen to point out, isn’t about civic gardening - it’s much more personal than that. It’s about asking ‘what is a native landscape? And what makes a green space loved by those who use it?”

In a city with as many layers as Liverpool, it won’t be hard to scratch beneath the loamy soil of Everton and find, not just dormant seeds and tangled roots, but stories, memories…catalysts for change.

“I want to create a critical mass of people coming together, and celebrating what’s already in their midst. Sometimes, it takes a stranger to cut through the complex history of a place and see what potential there is for the next chapter to begin,” he says.

This autumn, a geodesic tent and huddle of structures rising from a platform in the bowl will be James and Fritz’s makeshift basecamp. From here, with residents, they will begin to explore, again, the city beneath our feet. Reclaim it. Reanimate it. And, with a good wind behind them, make this airy spot much more than just a great view. Make it fertile territory once again.

Liverpool Biennial

Date created: June 13, 2012

i’m liverpool

10 thoughts on “The Seeds of Change

  1. c. holmes on said:

    I am always glad when “old Liverpool!” gets some recognition after all the demolition of so many landmarks, but wondered if we have not got our own landscapes architects? if not - fine- but would like to use this opportunity if possible as i was wondering only yesterday how i could approach this question. I work in the town early morning as the road cleaners are faithfully sprucing “Liverpool1″
    always looks nice, when after work had a walk through bold st and up towards the old Lewiss’ the difference is amazing . the Lyceum just stank like a men s toilet not touched for how long, really bad and the walk past central station and Renshaw st could not be opposite.I am sure visitors do not stop at the posh new shops so wondered what they must think. Yes good news for everton but i guess someone need to think outside the goalpost

  2. nicky mcgiveron on said:

    i personally would like to be able to visit the park and feel safe. I am not saying there is anything bad about this area i am just not used to it.

    • Frankie Owusu on said:

      Sorry what’s not to feel safe about in this beautiful open space - which part of the city are you from. If you don’t feel safe then come with a friend. The more people that visit the better. Look around you at the people you see ….. how different do they look to the people where you live or are they invisible…..maybe they come out of their houses and straight into their cars.
      The views from this park are amazing don’t let your unfounded fear stop you. As a child I grew up in this area and it has many happy memories for me, I still visit on my own. Stop and ENJOY life is too short.

    • clare on said:

      I grew up here in the 80s and 90s. I played in the park as a child and still return often as my parents still live in a neighbouring estate. I’ve never felt threatened in the park and my mother thinks nothing of walking to town through the park on her own. I do think it’s just a case of feeling uneasy in places you aren’t used to and I also think council estate get a lot of bad press - mainly undeserved.

      • itsliverpool on said:

        good comment, and good to hear you still visit. But what can be done to get none residents to the area to experience the park first hand rather than to judge the park by perceptions?

  3. Chris Lines on said:

    Wow Fritz! Quite a project and it should help put Everton Park back on the map as a top park at the top of the City. We love our Parks in Liverpool, with more than a 100 green spaces around the City providing a place for around 2,000 cultural, community and sporting events every year (see https://www.google.com/calendar/embed?src=park.rangers%40liverpool.gov.uk&ctz=Europe/London). As importantly, they are key spaces for our health and wellbeing, providing active recreation, peaceful relaxation and a breath of fresh air. They are part of our heritage but part of our future too.

  4. pedro on said:

    Great to see Liverpool attracting architects/designers of this calibre. James Corner’s work on Highline now world famous. Hats off to Biennial, brilliant idea.

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