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Jasmin Aziz
17 May 2021

A Landscape Design with the Environment in Mind

Our site at 29-31 New Church Rd incorporates communal green spaces and has been designed with sustainability in mind. Ahead of World Environment Day on 5 June, we interviewed our Landscape Architect, Mike Martin, Director of Turkington Martin, to get a sneak preview into what we can look forward to when we open to the public in 2022.

Tell us about your role on the BNJC project.
As the Landscape Architect for the BNJC development, my role is to work closely with the building architects to plan a design that makes the best use of the space we have. My team and I are responsible for the external environment and the areas where the building meets the ground. We think about what should be paved, what’s planted where and my aim is to make sure that visitors to BNJC enjoy being in the space.

How does the collaboration work with the building architects?
We have regular meetings and workshops with the architects and project team to plan the building and landscape works through sketchings and computer-generated imagery (CGIs). Our main challenge is designing an outdoor space that strikes the right balance between a planted environment, but also allows enough space for people to enjoy the external communal areas, particularly with the outdoor seating for the Cafe. We also discuss technical requirements and character details with the architects, such as deciding where doorways are. Accessibility is also a key priority for us. We want BNJC to provide spaces that are accessible to all.

How will the design of our landscape help us be environmentally friendly when we open?
In our planning and design of the landscape, we are mindful of our impact on the environment. We have taken care to plant lots of pollinators to attract bees and butterflies to help the local environment, and in the gardens for the mews houses, we plan to plant fruit trees to help with pollination too. We are also planning biodiverse roof planting to contribute to the ecology of the site. We recently had a workshop with Chef Yanir about how our planting can contribute to food growing. We’re excited to plant a small herb garden alongside the courtyard, with different herbs that will be used in the restaurant kitchens. This herb patch will be right outside the nursery, so we’re hoping it will provide a learning element for the children too.

In our design we have also tried to reduce the amount of pavement, in favour of having porous pavement which can act as a form of irrigation to channel collected rainwater to watering our plants and keeping our soil healthy. For the materials we use, we make sure to use low carbon footprint materials when we can. We are also aware of the circular economy and make sure to look at the lifecycle of our materials and try to reuse waste when needed.
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A computer generated image (CGI) of BNJC's communal courtyard area.
"We plant with health and wellbeing in mind and to make the green space at BNJC an uplifting environment."
How do you select the plants for our site?
When we plan what to plant, we first consider aspect (planting location). For shady areas we want to plant what you would naturally find in woodlands, like ferns. But for the sunnier side of the site we have planned to celebrate colourful plants from the Mediterranian. For the Mews Houses we have taken care to plan gardens with plants that have a residential feel, like climbers. Aside from light, we also plan plants that will help with direction around the site and also think about colours and what will naturally complement the building aesthetic.

The way we have designed the planted framework responds to the seasons, with different plants popping up throughout the year, including spring flowers and autumn colours. We plant with health and wellbeing in mind and to make the green space at BNJC an uplifting environment.

Do any of the plants have Jewish connections?
We will be planting olive and fig trees to connect to the Seven Species, the ‘Shiv'at HaMinim’, of the Jewish faith. As we are near the coast we would like to integrate a number of Mediterranean plants to connect to Israel, but because of the English weather this may prove tricky. We will plant these species in the sunnier spots and elsewhere we will try to evoke the character and feel of these plants.

How has Covid-19 affected the design of our outside space?
What Covid-19 has done is show us how important open space is and how lucky people are to have access to gardens and communal green spaces for their health and wellbeing. In terms of design, planning for social distancing has been much more difficult to do. Our pre-pandemic goal of landscape design was to create a communal space for socialising, connecting and meeting. But now we’re thinking about providing opportunities to come together safely. I’m staying optimistic that we can achieve this and people will continue to be able to meet together.
"BNJC will be a space for everyone to feel welcome, people from all faiths and no faiths. It will be a relaxing space with a community function and I hope our landscape will help people feel comfortable and welcome from the moment they enter."
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Our fantastic Landscape Architect team from Turkington Martin; Camilla Piccolo, Mike Martin & Joe Todd.
What features will make BNJC an enjoyable community space?
I think the central courtyard will be a really lovely place for residents and visitors. There will be a delightful view of the gardens when sitting on the garden terrace, designed to be enjoyed by all generations, from those visiting for a coffee to children popping in after school. Our landscape design has been planned to consider the experience visitors will have when they walk into our site, and we hope it will make a real impact. There’s almost a ‘Secret garden’ element when you walk in, with the vegetation and colourful flowers, the existing trees, the Cafe, plus the fantastic elevation to the synagogue.

What do you think makes our BNJC community site special?
A key characteristic of the green space on site is the existing trees. We’ve been working hard with consultants to protect the existing trees that are important to Brighton and feature on the boundaries along New Church Road. BNJC will be a space for everyone to feel welcome, people from all faiths and no faiths. It will be a relaxing space with a community function and I hope our landscape will help people feel comfortable and welcome from the moment they enter.