The Estuary Garden is a contemporary garden sat within the grounds of a grade 2 listed historic garden in Conwy, North Wales. The existing Georgian country house was built in the late 18th century overlooking Conwy Bay. Little of the early 20th century gardens survived although the key spatial arrangements and level changes remain. These include the main lawn in front of the house with its 20th century semi circular viewing platform commanding extensive views over the river conwy and beyond. Immediately below this viewing platform a mid 20th century rock and gravel garden was created on a small leveled terrace area, cut out of the steep slopes rising up from the river to the main house. Having fallen into disrepair it is this space that became the contemporary Estuary Garden.

The space in which the Estuary garden sits is very controlled. It has a back which slopes up to historic buttress stone walls retaining the upper lawn. It has two sides which were, and remain as, access points in and out of the space and it has a front looking over the main event, the river conwy.

The river conwy is subjected to the rhythm of the tides. At high tide it is full of water, at low tide it can have none. The original rockery space and viewing platform were designed to address this unique natural performance. Low tide reveals mesmerising sand pattern, rivulets and pools along the full width of the river bottom. The Estuary Garden takes all its design cues from this moment at low tide re-presenting those shapes and patterns within its design. It is a man made fluid composition in dialogue with its natural low tide counterpart.

It is also, practically, a garden to be in and move through. The east west historic connections are retained by a sinuous stone path floating over water. A timber deck is the primary resting place to be entertained by the dual performances of the river to the south and new plant displays on the north west slopes.

The client supported the project as an artistic venture. The garden also had the full support of the historic gardens trust who embraced a modern intervention with this listed garden.

The precision of the overall composition controls all of the materials used. They include corten steel, which can be rolled and shaped to achieve the shapes required without being compromised by thick coping details or excessive joints. All the corten steel elements were made off site with constant monitoring and fine tuning. In some cases, for example the in-water planters, 1:1 paper templates were made by the designer.

Stone was used for walls and paths. The substantial new retaining walls were engineered in reinforced block and stone clad with sinuous stone copings. The interplay of steel bulging through stone walls was an intentional experiment. Paths use stone sawn all sides, oversailed and chalk lined to their fluid shapes before cutting. The same process was applied to the timber decks.

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