Arkwood and local artist Matt Ponting were commissioned in late 2022 to design and create the COVID Memorial Garden in Plaistow Park/Newham in east London. It was created to remember those who lost their lives during the coronavirus pandemic, and to honour frontline workers and volunteers who supported vulnerable residents throughout.

Client and Contract Period

Newham Council

December 2022 – April 2023 (concept, detail design & implementation stages)

Project Objectives

The brief for the COVID Memorial Garden was to create an accessible and permanent place of reflection for the people of Newham. The design process included design workshops with residents from Plaistow Community Neighbourhood, who provided valuable input into the design concepts.

The Memorial Garden was devised as a sensory space where visitors can explore sight, sound and touch through the course of the seasons. It includes a curved walkway that encircles three hand-carved timber totems specifically designed for the space. The garden features different planting areas, bespoke seating and an interpretation board denoting the purpose and meaning of the space and the artworks and planting within.

Issues Challenges and Outcomes

One of our most important goals was for local residents to input their ideas into creating a space that all members of the community would be able to access and connect with in a meaningful way. Our conversations with them inspired the themes for the timber totems: Support, Community and Regrowth. Matt Ponting turned the themes into designs which provided the basis for sculptor Ian Freemantle’s carving and engraving works.

Despite the time constraints, we put a lot of emphasis on developing bespoke furniture for the garden to give it a unique character. The planting reflects the idea of the garden being a place for new beginnings and regrowth through the seasons while also increasing biodiversity. Sustainable and recycled materials were chosen for the construction of the garden where possible, and the installation carried out by PVR Contracting in late March and early April. The opening took place in April 2023.

  • Garden/memorial design
  • Co-design with community artist
  • Engagement
  • Planting design including rain garden
  • Bespoke furniture design
  • Technical package and supervision during implementation