Peterhouse College, Cambridge

Peterhouse College Garden, Cambridge

I am so proud to have been appointed to work on Cambridge’s oldest college: Peterhouse with a new college garden design. My hope is that the garden will set a new benchmark of how college courtyards should be: accessible, sustainable with emphasis on providing a safe space that instils a sense of mental well-being.  The thread of sustainability will run through the entire garden design process including construction techniques, water storage and low maintenance planting thereby setting a precedent for the long-term sustainability of college gardens. Pioneering techniques such as rainwater harvesting and natural filtration will make the scheme environmentally sustainable, future proofing it against further climatic instability.

Three gardens within Peterhouse College Garden Design

The space is divided into three individual gardens, each with its own character and linked by various routes. The  college garden design incorporates a number of small meeting places providing seating and tables to be enhanced by outdoor wifi. The dominant feature of the courtyard garden is the water feature. It was inspired by Hobson’s Conduit which was the brainchild of Andrew Perne and runs along the front of the College garden bringing fresh water into Cambridge since 1574. As well as providing a calming focus to the court, it will purify the captured rainwater and irrigate the planting. The pergola creates a cloister-like feel, reminiscent of a traditional college garden design and defines the threshold between the formality of the Cosin Courtyard Garden to a more organic, woodland glade – a space that aims to provide a contrast to inner city living. This garden is an informal space where plants blend with paths, and bulbs, grasses, random trees and solitaire shrubs all help to create its special and intimate character. The third garden is an orchard between the backs of the Fitzwilliam Street houses and the south side of Cosin Court and is the most open of the gardens, with a number of fruit trees and flowering cherries and an informal walk through a wildflower meadow.

Lush vegetation, trees and shrubs, play an important role in mental health and wellbeing and will be a significant feature of the college garden design, providing residents with a peaceful garden at the centre of their accommodation. The planting throughout the whole scheme is designed to be highly attractive to wildlife. Being so close to Coe Fen and the Botanic Gardens, we hope that fauna will be drawn to Cosin Court whether by the fen-inspired reed beds and rainwater-fed water feature or by the habitat-friendly nature of the planting.