Sculpture garden plan for railway arch park ruined by street drinkers
Hairdresser Michael Ptootch unveils proposals to transform Camden Gardens
25 April, 2019 — By Dan Carrier
Hairdresser Michael Ptootch
A PARK with an unenviable reputation for nuisance behaviour and low-level crime could become home to a series of outlandish art works if an eye-catching proposal drawn up by a Kentish Town art gallery owner and hairdresser wins a design competition.
The future of Camden Gardens, sandwiched between Camden Street and Kentish Town Road, is up for discussion following a competition run by business group Camden Town Unlimited. It is looking for ideas of how the public space under the railway arches could be better used.
Michael Ptootch, of Flaxon Ptootch, who has been a long-time campaigner for the park to be used for art projects, submitted detailed designs to the competition judges last week.
A railway carriage cafe
The triangle patch of land, which has a railway viaduct cutting across it, has been used at Christmas to sell trees, but also has been plagued with graffiti and street drinking.
The arches and park will, it is hoped, become the start of the Camden High Line project – a £50m bid to turn an unused railway line running from Camden Town to King’s Cross into an elevated green space, modelled on a similar project in New York.
Mr Ptootch said: “I came up with the idea back in 2015, when the council ran a consultation for ideas as to what could be done to improve it. This is a historic public space and I want to make it into a creative epicentre for Camden Town – an open, invigorating, welcoming place for public art.”
In his proposals, designs show one arch being used to park a restored railway carriage or double-decker bus, which would be a café and office space. Another arch would be left open while a third would have a marquee fitted inside. This would be used for meetings, shows and exhibitions.
The events marquee in the proposals
Mr Ptootch added: “We envisage a series of sculptures, some permanent, other temporary like the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. My ultimate dream would be to get a Henry Moore here.”
Camden Town Unlimited chief executive Simon Pitkeathley said the space needed improvement. His group hoped that by running the competition – which has a prize budget of £22,000 for the winning entry to use – a number of ideas would be put forward.
He added: “If you spend time there now, you’ll know it is a great place for street drinking, taking drugs and sleeping rough. We would like to make it more usable for everyone in Camden. It could do with a rethink. There is a lot of potential – the arches could become a commercial space, for example. We are looking for interesting designers to help think what it could become. We are open to all ideas – wacky or otherwise. This park could be a really valuable part of the High Line project.”