Partnering with a Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medalist: Darren Hawkes’ Expertise in Transforming Our Eco Cabin Project
Masterfully Crafting Nature: Darren Hawkes Joins Koto at The Point Eco Cabins Project
We are thrilled to announce the collaboration with Darren Hawkes for our Koto at The Point project. As a distinguished Gold Medal recipient at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Darren brings a wealth of innovative designs to our project. His connection to Cornwall, a region celebrated for its natural beauty, made him an ideal candidate as we formulated the concept for our eco cabins.
Our project posed a unique challenge as we sought to transform a former grass airstrip into a distinctive site. To unlock its full potential, we required precise definition and a thoughtful approach to planting. The site’s proximity to the sea, offering captivating coastal views to the North, and its exposure to prevailing south-westerly winds played a defining role in our landscape. Darren’s deep understanding of the Cornish climate and his expertise in selecting hardy flora capable of thriving in the face of these winds are invaluable assets to our project.
Additionally, Darren has worked closely with the County ecologist throughout the project’s development to craft a comprehensive plan that meets stringent BNG (biodiversity net gain) criteria. This conscientious approach underscores our commitment to combining architectural excellence with environmental responsibility.
Discover Darren Hawkes’ Green Vision: Read Our Exclusive Interview
Q: Where do you start, presented with a blank sheet, 4-acre field and a budget?
The lure of this project and what piqued my interest was the client’s determination to create an outstanding landscape, one truly integrated to their wider site but more importantly one that had a wildness about it, a sense of character that would be bewitching in all seasons. The first idea was the snaking wall that weaves its way through the plot but long before we put pen to paper Theo (the architect) and I spent a day banging pegs in the ground and moving them around the site to test the feeling of each location. It was crucial we found the very best arrangement that wasn’t driven by the need to reach a certain number, when we got to a certain point we said, “That’s enough!” Then the real design work started.
Q: Tell us about the vision of the site, in a few words how would you describe the landscaping and planting?
I wanted to create something really authentic, Cornish through and through that was beautiful but in a rough, durable way. The planting is a mix of meadow areas with trees that bleed into more recognisable garden areas closer to each cabin.
Q: You designed 400 meters of Cornish stone walling which now defines the landscape, tell us more about this wall please?
I was inspired by the work of Richard Long and Antony Gormley – the idea that a line in the landscape can make us dream of a wider universe. The wall works in very practical ways to divide the space, but it does so much more than that too. It brings an energy to the space that we couldn’t have gained from anything else.
Q: What were the key structural considerations with this site?
We’ve worked hard to make as few changes to the topography as possible but the one thing we have brought in are a series of bunds, mounds that provide screening between each plot. It was the best way to ensure no views were obscured but each home feels private and defined.
Q: How difficult was it to choose the trees and shrubs for the site? What were the challenges?
North Cornwall is a really difficult area to grow trees and we were clear from the start that we would need to embrace stunted, windswept shapes but the clients loved that as much as we did. We had the luxury to test certain species on site for a year in advance and as The Point already has some well-established wooded areas, we have mimicked much of the tree selection with what’s already growing lower down the site. The Point has a large and very knowledgeable team of greenkeepers and grounds people which will be a huge benefit on the first few years of establishment.
Q: How do you see the site develop over time?
The idea is that, with time, the site becomes more naturalised and should appear less designed. A lot of thought has gone in to creating habitat for wildlife and improving biodiversity so I’m really hoping that once fully planted the site will be a haven for all sorts of insects which in turn will bring in birds, bats and small mammals. That’s the exciting bit when nature takes over!
Q: This is amazing, what inspired you to become a garden designer?
I was building gardens for other designers and always curious about how they made their design decisions. After a few years of constantly asking questions I had the chance to design a small London garden. After that I was hooked.
Q: Rain is an essential part of your work, do you ever get fed up with rainy days? This July was wetter than ever?
If you love plants, rain in the Summer is a God send – just not for 6 weeks on end!
Q: Top 3 tips for gardening on the North Coast of Cornwall?
Grow what you see working locally. Work at creating shelter, even the smallest amount will help protect from wind. The soil tends to be very thin, free draining and stony, so add manure or garden compost annually to help retain moisture and add body to the soil.
Thank you, Darren, we are so excited to see your vision coming together. The next few months will be very busy.