As part of a weeklong celebration of al fresco living, the erstwhile industrial powerhouse of Manchester, England, recently hosted an intriguing urban garden project “designed for today’s on-demand culture that happily streams instead of buying and accesses instead of owning.” Essentially, the pilot project, dubbed Plot, is a private outdoor sanctuary plopped down in the middle of a famously gritty city that can be booked by anyone with a smartphone and the overwhelming desire to get out.
Unlike Tokyo’s members-only veggie patches built atop train stations, Plot doesn’t revolve primarily around horticultural pursuits — it’s a bit tricky to classify Plot as a proper allotment where garden-less Mancunians can retreat to when they have the itch to flex their greenthumbs. magneticNorth, the digital design agency behind the project, envisions Plot as a multifunctional outdoor space that serves as more of a small private park — a backyard for the backyard-less, if you will — than a dedicated space to grow and tend to edible plants.
A press release issued by magneticNorth elaborates:
People living in urban areas, specifically those without their own outdoor space, often only desire the use of a garden in the warmer summer months. In addition parks and other public spaces can get over-crowded during the summer plus people’s busy lives mean they have little time to maintain a garden space of their own. All of this highlights the opportunity for an exciting new solution to this problem which is set to become even more acute with predictions that city centre living is set to rise significantly over the next ten years. The team at magneticNorth believe that the answer lies in the idea of the ‘on-demand’ garden — small private outdoor spaces that are open to all, are flexible in the way they are used and are bookable by the hour.The introduction of this new concept means that city residents and workers can still have use of a private garden to read, eat, exercise, come together with friends and hold their meet ups, book clubs and any other group get together within.
Lou Cordwell, CEO of magneticNorth, goes on to explain: “Plot explores the idea of turning outdoor space into a service and, like on-demand TV or music, gives people the chance to use a garden at a time that works for them. When the sun is shining it’s human nature to want to be outside and sometimes you want to enjoy that time in a private space on your terms.”
Coinciding with Manchester’s Dig the City festivities, Plot’s inaugural eight-day run was held in a roof garden atop Barton Arcade, a historic Victorian shopping and entertainment complex in the city center. Requests to access/enjoy/escape to the WiFi-equipped rooftop garden for two-hour slots were submitted by interested parties through the Plot website; usage of the Plot space was completely free during Dig the City which also included an array of show gardens and botanical installations, a dog show, talks and workshops from leading British gardening and outdoor living personalities, a range of interactive activities for kids, and a raucous garden dance party in St. Ann’s Square.
Following Plot’s pilot launch, the question remains if such a concept — an on-demand outdoor space for private use that’s unencumbered by the waiting lists, fees, and politics often associated with community garden spaces — will catch on in other urban areas outside of Manchester.
Urbanites without a garden or outdoor space to call your own: are you keen on the idea?
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