This is the £426k art' project that will transfom Station Square in Milton Keynes

It explores the 'hidden communication network between trees, fungus and insects'

Thursday, 8th July 2021, 12:13 pm
Updated Thursday, 8th July 2021, 12:14 pm

Architects and an artist have given the first glimpse of a new £426,000 temporary art project that will transform Station Square the gateway to MK.

Called The Modernist Glade, the public art installation focuses on the relationships between fungus and trees as a theme.

It will include a grid of 48 trees, market stalls, event spaces, a mushroom pavilion, a seating area made from recycled logs, wild flower lawns, and even a bee hive built using 3D printing technologies.

Artists' impression of the new Station Square project

One of the lawns will house a cinema screen, which will show a programme of films for the public to watch,

Hayatsu Architects and artist Tue Greenfort were commissioned by MK Council and Milton Keynes Development Partnership to design the project, which will be stay place until 2023, when the Square will be permanently developed,

It has been funded with a £291,000 donation from West Midlands Trains, £100,000 of Section 106 developer contributions for public art and £35,000 from MKDP.

"The project will inform future thinking in terms of how people use the space and enjoy the interventions," said a spokesman for the designers.

Artists' impression of the new Station Square project

He added: "It has been inspired by the original drawings by Helmut Jacob, which envisioned the founding modernist design principles of Milton Keynes in the 1960s and its radical ecological concept ‘The Forest City’ (in which the tree became an important symbol of MK)...and new research which explores the hidden communication network between trees, fungus and insects (the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungus known as mycelium).

"Interestingly, scientists have recently discovered that, as part of a complex organic communications system, trees play a greater role in our environment than we first realised. A symbiotic relationship exists between trees and fungus, through a sprawling subterranean network called mycelium."

The Modernist Glade takes this fungus/tree relationship as a theme for a "spatial response" to Station Square and what lies beneath its paved surface.

A mushroom pavilion designed by Hayatsu Architects will provide a growing space for oyster mushrooms, alongside a learning lab where the public can learn about mycelium.

Artists' impression of the new Station Square project

"Hayatsu’s timber architecture is an ecological response to the organising principles of the Modernist agenda, echoing the previously pastoral setting of the square... Through the grid, the tree is tied to the rational spacing of Modernism, which is brought into an ecological context through the relational elements of co-existing species like fungus and insects," said the spokesman.

The Square will also be home to a new micro mobility hub, providing a home for scooters. This timber structure will complement two existing bike shelters which will be used for street markets and pop-up food stalls, while utilising their large roofs for water harvesting to help to maintain the trees.

The Modernist Glade has been developed as part of a wider urban renewal project for Station Square, in the context of plans for its improvement and development. The project aims to generate discussion and learning around the fascinating field of biomimicry, cohabitation and multi-species dependency," said the spokesman.

He added: "Station Square will become a place where visitors are invited to rest, enjoy food and a film, but also engage in communal learning activities made by locals for locals with a global perspective."

The Modernist Glade will arrive in Station Square in August. It’s intended to make Station Square, directly outside the Central Milton Keynes rail station a more welcoming and vibrant place for people as soon as they arrive by train.

It is the start of a longer term aim to provide a permanent enhancement to the city’s gateway.

Hayatsu and Tue Greenfort were appointed following a council-run competition last year.

Deputy MK Council leader and Cabinet member for economic development, Cllr Robin Bradburn said: “This exciting project will make Milton Keynes an even more welcoming place for people as soon as they arrive. We have bold ambitions to ensure Central MK continues to grow and remains an attractive place for people to visit and a prime place to do business.”