STUDIO / DESIGNER
Steve Simpson Design
Diarmuid Gavin & Steve Simpson
Creative Practice & Collaboration
Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council
Client: Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council
Designers Diarmuid Gavin + Steve Simpson
Lead Contractor: Diarmuid Gavin
Design Team: Diarmuid Gavin, Steve Simpson Bernie Kinsella, Dave Thomas, Barry McCann
Landscape Contractor: Brendan & John Convrey, Convrey Sports Turf Ltd
Plant Supplies: Trees and Shrubs – Gardenworld Nurseries, Kilcoole Herbaceous Perennials – Kilmurray Nursery, Gorey, Native Wildflower Meadow – Connected To Nature
Engineering: BMC Engineering, Bellaghy, Topframe Engineering, Magherafelt
Design Challenge and Design Ideas
Back in November 2022 garden designer, Diarmuid Gavin, asked to me to create a poster that would help illustrate /give to a flavour to an idea he was presenting for a new pavillion garden in Northern Ireland.
What transpired was an exciting and wonderfully creative collaboration which resulted in a visit by the newly crowned King and Queen who officially opened the garden.
This entry is focused on the structure of the pavillion and gates and not the garden planting.
The main collaborators are
Diarmuid Gavin – Garden Design
Barry McCann BMC Engineering – Metal Work
Steve Simpson (myself) – Illustration and Graphic Design
Our site was a disused bowling green at Hazelbank Park, just off the Shore Road on the north-western shoreline of Belfast Lough.
Inspired by temporary ceremonial arches made from wooden frames, canvas and papermache which had been erected throughout cities in Ireland to welcome distinguished visitors in the past he imagined a more permanent structure, a tiered park pavilion.
Having collaborated previously on set of ornamented jubilee garden gates Diarmuid felt this was another project which would benefit from both our skill sets. We began an exchange of ideas.
The concept for a garden to celebrate the coronation was conceived in November 2022 but it ultimately required delivery in time for the Coronation on the 6th May 2023.
Diarmuid’s brief from the council was essentially for concept, design, build, install and completion in less than 6 months.
We exchanged rough sketches focusing on a domed structure that would sit centrally above a tiered wedding cake style ornate pavilion.
The initial challenge was to get the proportions right so it read appropriately in terms of scale, balance and heights to the site as well as was fit for the purpose envisaged. This concluded with a design for a 16-metre high, three-floor metalwork pavilion topped by a crown.
At design stage, BMC Engineering were engaged to actually build out the metalwork for the decorative elements, panels, crests and crown.
The resulting pavilion is of classical architecture basis but being topped with a crown and a glitter ball while has certain contemporary twists and eccentric elements.
I’ve worked with Diarmuid several times before and feel we have a similar outlook on what design can be. We are both passionate about creating new and exciting work but always with a sense of fun.
It was the second time working with Barry. We previously collaborated on Diarmuid’s QUEEN’S PLATINUM JUBILEE gates at Antrim Castle last year. My biggest challenge was to not put too much detail into the designs and Barry’s was probably interpretiting my squiggles with metal.
As a team we bring very different skills to the table and creating a project like this can only be done with a myriad of skills and by people working at the very top of their field.
How the brief was fulfilled
The gates, pavilion and garden are whimsical in nature has been inspired by the best of traditional gardening craft and design. It’s a beautiful and eccentric creation with hints of cottage gardens, Edward Scissorshands, Willie Wonka and Morecambe and Wise.
Situated in a public park beside the coast its central feature is a 3 story pavilion topped by a crown.
The pavilion is set on a half acre carpet of planting, dominated by a colourful meadow, swathes of Roses, Spring and Summer flowering perennials, ferns, bulbs, evergreen topiary all set against a background of magnificent topiary trees.
We didn’t know for sure we would have a Royal opening but just the fact it might happen gives you the added impetus to push a project just that little bit further. There was a large dedicated team working day and night on pulling this project together.
From a distance the pavlion might look like any other victorian folley but as you approach you realise it’s much more than that.
The garden also contains a surprise inspired by the Guinness Clock, featured at the 1951 Festival of Britain.
First you hearthe music of ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ as soap bubbles float across the garden, box balls set amid the florals begin to bob up and down in carefully choreographed movements.
Soon they are joined by conical shaped trees that dance. The action moves from ground level up the tiered floors of the pavilion structure, and culminates in the rotation of our custom made 2 metre wide gold mirror ball which is set beneath the Royal Crown.
The magic of the garden is reflected in the details of the metalwork. Little birds are dotted throughout the design. as are the UK’s national flowers all with a touch of William Morris filigree.
The attention to detail, execution and playfulness with the colour choice has delivered a stunning piece of work. This successful collaboration has delivered a well thought out and articulated showcase of craft and skillfullness."